This has been a hard thing for me. Seems like I always get it wrong. I tend to think I am important when I am not, and fail to see just how important I am at critical times.
I have a habit of floating in and out of people’s lives. I show up, I go away. I show up again. I have trouble with being a constant. Really this was more of a self worth thing than anything else. I just didn’t see how my presence or absence really mattered to anyone else. If I was there, fine. If I wasn’t, no one really cared.
I don’t mean that in a self pity kind of way, just that I was not critical to the good time, or the event. It was a couple years ago that a friend called me out on it. She told me that it hurt her feelings when I did this. I was totally shocked, first that she noticed and two that it was painful to her. I really never thought about it as being harmful to others.
After some sponsor talk and inventory work, I saw, clearly, how this tendency of mine was self centered...maybe through the back door but self centered nevertheless. Sometimes ego blows us all up, other times it tells us stories that are just as false but because it is removing us from people or situations, it is easy to miss the self centered stream that taints the whole idea.
I didn’t feel important. So therefore, I just did what I did, feeling like no one really minded or cared. That my presence was not that important to the cause. But what I realized after some work on myself was that I didn’t feel that way about others. If I was planning on doing something with other people, and one person elected not to come, my feelings were sometimes hurt even when they provided a good reason. And if this was a course of conduct for this person, habitually evading plans, I really didn’t like that at all. It made me feel unimportant and not really mattering.
It kind of smacked me into a new reality about my own conduct. I didn’t realize that I mattered and so that allowed me to behave in a way that was inconsiderate to others. It was all ego just couched in terms of less than instead of arrogance. The result was the same...some idea of self caused me to think only of my self rather than how my actions impacted others...again.
I had a tendency to think that ego really meant that you were arrogant or high thinking of yourself. I didn’t realize that ego can cause just as many problems in negative thoughts about yourself...it is all still thinking and acting based on self. The directionality really matters very little.
Not as an excuse, but I lived a life before that was really based on barroom social norms. If you showed up, great. If you didn’t, there were tons of other people more than happy to drink with your friends. Your actual presence wasn’t all that important, there is always a way to find someone to drink with you. The end of a bar is a great place to hook up, meet a new best friend for life (or that night) and no one really wonders where you are unless you are absent for a great number of nights in a row. Then they think you got arrested or are in rehab. In short, I grew up with a “love the one your are with” instead of a more authentic “friends for life” kind of feeling. Again, not an excuse just a little backstory.
When my friend told me this some years ago, I really have worked to change it. But last night my daughter called me out on it again. I have been gone a lot and now have an event this weekend up in SLO. So I am to be gone again just one night. I didn’t think it mattered to her. She is usually not even here as her life revolves around her horses and her friends. Whether I am here or not really didn’t seem to be all that important. But it is...and I missed it again.
I am so proud of her for having the courage to tell me that my conduct hurt her and that once again I am offered yet another opportunity to see how my selfishness and self centeredness is showing up in my life. I still feel like I am tangential, a side player, not a main event kind of person. But apparently, I matter to her which was heartening to hear and also hard since I was making decisions based on self (again) that now injured someone else. Totally not my intention but my result.
My daughter and I were able to have a good talk and I was able to share with her my ever present feelings of not really mattering all that much. I can see that it is evidence of the following:
1. An escape route for me to be able to do what I want;
2. Real time evidence that perhaps I might have some work to do on self esteem and worth still...
And today I am willing to own it and call myself out on it. I am not anywhere near perfect...but a work in progress. I need and want to do better. I want to someday be able to hold myself in equanimity seeing my importance to others in my life without it going to my head and over exaggerating my station and place. A delicate balancing act which I am still not getting right...
All I can do when I fuck it up, is listen to the other person’s perspective, take it to heart, pray about how it lands and infiltrates my self concept and then be willing to allow myself to change. I can make amends but better still to do the footwork to change myself daily to watch for my tendency to be resentful, angry, dishonest and selfish. How do these things show up in my life and negatively effect my ability to show the people I care for most that they matter to me.
Mattering is hard work. First with myself and then with others. I always seem to get it wrong. But no matter how often I do, I can always take a step back and look at my behavior, how I am showing up and listen to those who love me and those I love to see how my behavior may impact them.
I never thought that my absence could really be a thing of selfishness but it is and I see it. And I am wiling to change it. Because mattering is the foundation for love and without showing up for the people in our lives, we hurt them and cut short opportunities for love to flourish. And without love, we miss the great lesson in this life: to love and be loved requires presence.