I had this amazing revelation this week. I realized a truth I had never completely believed. I felt feelings I had never known possible. It blew my mind. It’s still blowing my mind. It’s simple and basic yet somehow, I didn’t experience it until now. And I imagine I will go deeper into this belief as I grow older but to truly have my eyes opened for what feels like the first time, man, that’s something special.
So what the heck am I even talking about?
I remember being a child and doing chores and hoping that I did them well enough to gain approval from my parents. I would anxiously wait while my father checked my bedroom for dust or toys that were out of place. I held my breath as I stared at his face, interpreting every muscle movement. Are his eyes happy? Is his brow creased? Does his body movement convey joy or did I do a poor job? And whatever his response was, meant I had increased or decreased my worth with him. I interpreted our relationship to be wholly dependent upon my ability to please him, to behave in a specific manner and to accomplish tasks to his satisfaction.
As a teenager and into my twenties, I was surrounded by “friends” who partied and did drugs. Our lives were solely intertwined for the sake of using. Our connectedness was based on our desire to get high and our actions reflected that. We were kind to those we could get drugs from. We pretended to like people who gave us freebies. If someone’s parents had an unlocked liquor cabinet, well they became our new best friend. The first person to have a car became our favorite acquaintance. My clouded mind and belief system led me to find value in those that had things to offer me and I only felt desirable if I had something to offer others.
As a young woman, I believed that the best and easiest thing I had to offer was my body. Although society is shifting, when I was growing up, it was common to see women get what they wanted by sleeping with men. Not only could I obtain tangible items by letting men use me, I thought maybe I could earn the intangible gifts of love and emotional intimacy. The more I let myself be taken advantage of, the more I affirmed my lack of importance.
Even in the workplace, I found my truth to hold up. A valuable employee is one who performs well, who brings in money, who recruits more customers and who behaves in a specific manner. Once those things stop, the job usually ends. And as a consumer, companies treat those with larger bank accounts with more regard. A fancy car implies a more valuable human. Name brand clothes must mean something. Aesthetics become an asset. Everything and every moment is defined by external factors.
And so my brain and my heart have spent a long time attempting to earn my place in life. Good deeds on top of following the rules were just some ways I could be important. Giving of myself til I had nothing left. Sacrificing all of myself for anyone. Not understanding how to engage with someone simply because they’re a human. Not believing anyone would care for me outside of what I could do for them.
Yet here I am. Five weeks into the most helpless and incapable time of my life and people still show up. Not everyone, but enough. I have never had nothing to offer. I have always been able to strive and provide and help.
I thought maybe people liked me because I am a valuable massage therapist. Or maybe I’m a good friend because I always bring yummy snacks to events. I love lending a hand and am always good at contributing to others. Maybe that’s what has gained me access into people’s lives. Whatever it was, it was always material.
But I haven’t been able to work. I can’t help out. I don’t have anything to offer anyone right now but me. My heart. My words. My compassion. I am offering up what has always been the least valuable parts of me and somehow, I still see people showing up. Somehow, I find myself feeling valuable. It’s crazy to some I know. If you grew up being told you were important just by being born, then this whole post might not resonate with you. But I didn’t.
The most treasured version of me has nothing to do with things and in turn, the most priceless parts of others is singularly connected to them just existing. While I find sadness in reflecting on a life lived with such empty expectations and connections, I am even more overcome with anticipation for a future lived to the fullest with a perspective rooted in truth about the most valuable me.