When You Feel Like You Don’t Matter

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Sometimes I contemplate quitting my job.

Not my job as a wife or a mom.  The other one.

It’s not that I am exceptionally good in my roles at home.  Just yesterday I let my kids watch too much t.v. and allowed them to jump on the furniture and fed them rolled up deli meat and apples for dinner.

And that was a good day.

So, yeah, I fail and get frustrated on a daily basis, but I never really consider quitting those jobs because I know I’m the only one who can do them.  I know the role I play at home is important.  So, although I may take a leave of absence from time to time – a mental health holiday, if you will – I always plan to get back to that work.

The thing about being the only wife to Joey and the only mama to Lucy and Oliver is this –
I don’t have any competition.  My space is clearly defined.  There are no other toes to step on in my home.  I get a boost from being told regularly – I love you more than chocolate cake.

My other job is different, because I am one of many.
When you are one of many, you wonder if you matter.

I am not the only writer.

Duh.

You may have heard of people like John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and Dr. Suess.

J.K. Rowling has over 5 million followers on Twitter.  I don’t even have 500.  If I’m not careful I can let that statistic tell me that what I’m doing is unimportant.  Maybe you can too.

Somewhere along the way we started letting social media tell us who matters and who doesn’t.  We shifted our focus to acquiring more followers and growing our platforms and in doing so we exchanged depth for breadth.  Suddenly what should have been a friendly community turned into fierce competition.  That feels icky to me.

The world is not lacking for writers.  I feel small in their shadows.

But I’ve learned that small isn’t all bad.
It means that I am a part of something bigger.
Once upon a time that felt intimidating, but now it feels inspiring.

Other writers are not really my competition.  They are my companions.

Most writing is done alone.  There’s not really room for any other fingers on my keyboard.  For that reason, being a writer can feel lonely.  To have companions is to be in the company of others, to experience community.  I like that.

The latin root com means together.
Company.
Companions.
Community.

And on the flip side
Comparison.
Competition.

It’s the dangerous line we dance around regardless of our job.  Do we see the beauty and opportunity of living and working and creating together with others, or do we get territorial?

Being in the company of others can be characterized by
generosity
and sharing
and selflessness
and encouragement

or it can be characterized by
greed
and paranoia
and selfishness
and jealousy.

We get to choose.

We can see each other as threats to our own little pieces of art or as threads being woven together into a bigger tapestry.  It’s a question I have started to ask myself every time I observe the art of others – especially other writers.

Do I see them as a threat or a thread?

If they are a threat I will build a wall of protection around myself.  I will turn away from them.  I will adopt a posture of defense.  I will miss all they hold out in their hands as an offering to me.

If they are a thread I will interlace my fingers with theirs and treasure the color and texture of their contribution to this greater work we are accomplishing together.  I will choose to be influenced and inspired, rather than intimidated.  I will dive deep into the people and places and things that attract me instead of skimming over the surface.  And then, God willing, one day I will become the influence and inspiration for another little thread poking its timid head into this great big sea of art.

You are in fact a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.
You are the sum of your influences.
{Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist}

I am learning to love the ups and downs, the ins and outs, of a life that is woven into and alongside the lives of others.
It feels secure.
It feels strong.
It feels beautiful.

Whether you are
a thread in a giant tapestry
or a flower in a sprawling field
or a pixel on a big screen
you matter.

So when you contemplate quitting – don’t.
We need you.  You matter.
See companions, not competition.
Be inspired, not intimidated.
Choose depth over breadth.

Keep saying the things that may have already been said and doing the things that have already been done, in the ways that only you can say and do them, because this whole thing just might come unraveled without you.

Elizabeth Maxon on FacebookElizabeth Maxon on Instagram
Elizabeth Maxon
Elizabeth Maxon is wife to Joey and homeschooling/working mama to Lucy & Oliver.  She lives on the edge of the woods in her hometown of Clemson – which also happens to be her favorite place on earth.   She can routinely be found avoiding housework by reading books, writing stories, tending to her garden, and gathering friends and family.  She is the author of Onederland: A Mother’s Story of Finding Hope in Hard Places and begin - a crash course in spiritual disciplines.  Find her @elizabethmaxon or elizabethmaxon.com
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