I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, struggling with my sense of self and self-worth. Some contributing factors have been the winding down of a long-term mediation training contract which has informed a big part of my identity for 25 years, along with my difficulty getting clients for my Musical Memories singing-with-dementia-patients service. In both cases, it’s nothing personal at all, and I’ve been assured that I do great work, which is extremely important and valuable…just not valuable enough to pay for. Kind of like when I got laid off from my HR job three years ago.
When I discussed my feelings of inadequacy with friends, I got a lot of sympathy and a huge amount of affirmation that, in fact, I have a great deal of value. And I recalled the night after my 50th birthday party, a large and lovely garden affair where I was surrounded by people who had known me for years, some for all or most of my life. These were people I not only loved, but also admired. And I remember reflecting that night, as I sat alone among all the flowers, gifts, cards and memories from that day, that if all these wonderful people think this highly of me, I must be a valuable and successful human being.
But that reflection and those affirmations felt kind of hollow in my current state. So, I took my angst and internal drama to my spiritual director and dumped it all in her lap. I felt better already! At one point in our conversation she asked, “What do you bring to the world?” I sat there in my pool of sad self-pity with my eyes closed, ready to respond, “Nothing!” But then an involuntary smile blossomed on my lips, as I remembered that a dear friend used to say repeatedly that what I brought to any job, task, situation or event was my “Pat-ness”. And in that moment, I was transported back in time and into the psyche of my little-girl self when I would stand in front of the fireplace singing at the top of my lungs made-up songs that were generally along the lines of “Pat is great! I am wonderful! Pat is the star!” I recalled how I used to scrawl in coloring books and notebooks, “I love myself!” or words to that effect. None of this was done in secret or in response to criticism, and it didn’t bother me at all when my sister called me “conceited”. It’s just how I honestly felt about myself.
So here I am, delighting in that memory, and at least in some moments, actually able to recapture that feeling. But I’m left wondering if in this financially-based, achievement-oriented world, my Pat-ness is enough. And even if it is, do I dare say it out loud?