Thursday, April 27, 2017

am i relevant?

a few weeks ago i ran into a high school friend's mother at meijer. we had a delightful chat. she updated me on her family and i updated her on my mom. she talked about missing the responsibility of working, of having too much time on her hands and the burden of finding things to do to keep busy. it made me think.

over the last few years, my almost 87 year old mom has mentioned occasionally that she wishes she had a job. i know she misses being around people and having meaningful work. i gave her the idea of knitting baby hats to donate to local hospitals. she took on that task with gusto and delivered large numbers of hats several different times. this made me think.

a friend messaged me recently about seeking meaningful tasks for her mom to perform in assisted living. her mom was still healthy enough to want to do for others. this gave me pause.

i've seen so many mothers lose a part of themselves when their kids leave the nest. they search for ways for their lives to still have meaning. we are a sisterhood of women looking for ways to give our lives meaning.

these and so many other stories and experiences have me thinking about relevance. how do we continue to be relevant in today's society as we age? describes relevance as being connected with the matter at hand. for the purpose of this blog post, i'm expanding that definition to include: important, significant, engaged, beneficial and productive.

as young women, we are relevant in a variety of ways. we have careers. our opinions matter. our partners count on us. we nurture children. we change our communities, our world. all of that relevance is heady stuff. like a drug, we become addicted to the satisfaction of being needed, making a difference and being relevant.

i think that as we age, the need to prove something to the world decreases. we've raised happy, productive children who are contributing to society. we've reached our career goals. we are financially secure. we've achieved many of our goals and dreams. and, so, we start to ask ourselves what's next? what is the value of my life? am i important? what is my relevance? we are missing the drug that kept us happy and satisfied when we were younger. or, maybe, we aren't as frantically busy so we have more time to dwell on these things. smile

there also new physical, mental and confidence issues to deal with as we age. people say age is only a number and i agree that there is truth in that. but fighting back and holing on to all those faculties is a real battle that affects our abilities to remain relevant.

a few years ago i blogged about earning and maintaining respect from young(er) co-workers. you can read it here. there is a "hanging on" facet in the workplace as we age and close the gap to retirement. it's a balancing act to keep up with new trends and technologies while promoting (defending?) the expertise you've accumulated in a long career.

one thing that strikes me daily about social media is the way it helps to support, bolster and encourage the need for women to be relevant. a woman can become interested in hostas, research hostas, photograph hostas, blog about hostas and quickly be considered an expert. she's made herself relevant to the dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who frequent her blog, instagram and facebook feeds. she's found her new drug (thanks, Huey Lewis) and thrives on the benefits of being relevant.

a couple of years ago, an acquaintance said to me, "oh you have your art. you're creative. you can do so many things. i have nothing." although i felt empathy for her, i thought, "what are you waiting for? find YOUR thing and do it." we each only get one life to live. for gosh sake, go for it. live it.

in case i'm coming off as a know-it-all who has it all together, um, there is literally no truth in that. at all. i struggle with a great many things. a lesson i've learned the hard way lately is that sometimes i have to just get out of my own stubborn way. i think we get stuck in certain thought patterns, sometimes negative ones, sometimes self-defeating ones. we think that because we've chosen a certain path that we have to follow that path in a straight, linear fashion. we feel stuck, maybe defeated. i had to challenge myself to set myself aside, to get past my negativity and CHOOSE to travel on my path in different ways. i'm still headed in the same direction but i'm skipping, dancing, hopping and laughing along the way. okay, some days i'm limping, stumbling, crying and beating myself up. what's important is that i DECIDED to stop hanging my head down and dragging my feet. it's made a big difference. big.

so, today i ask myself: am i relevant? i want to be relevant. now and at 70 and at 80 i want to feel important, significant, engaged, beneficial and productive. oh, what a wonderful world it is that i get to CHOOSE how i will continue to try to be relevant. i've said it before -- choice is a powerful thing.

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