It’s the question on the tongue of every human heart. For millennia, we have tried to prove we matter with success and status and stuff. But what if we finally decided there was nothing left to prove? What if we decided our worth was no longer in doubt? What if we decided “mattering” didn’t matter anymore? Maybe we’d be free to quit the game of proof and get into the game of life…
I’m writing a book.
Every Friday morning at 9am, I sit down to continue working on it, and every time I sit down I’m hit with the same sinking feeling. It comes in the form of a question: What if these words don’t matter? It’s a crippling thought, a dreadful feeling that keeps me looking back at the sentence I’ve just written, questioning, doubting, sinking deeper and deeper into the rhetorical quicksand.
What if my words don’t matter?
A question that disguises another question: What if I don’t matter?
But last Friday, something different happened. As I began to sink into the quagmire, I heard the still, small whisper of grace: Kelly, you don’t write a book because you think it will matter—you write a book in spite of the fact it probably won’t matter.
You do what you love because the desire has been written on your heart, implanted in your soul, and engraved into your DNA. You do it because you aren’t you unless you do it.
Author Madeleine L’Engle recalls being rejected by yet another publisher on her fortieth birthday:
“I covered the typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation. Then I walked around and around the room, bawling my head off. I was totally, unutterably miserable.
Suddenly I stopped, because I realized what my subconscious mind was doing while I was sobbing: my subconscious mind was busy working out a novel about failure.
I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that’s what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not. It didn’t matter how small or inadequate my talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing…Success is pleasant; of course you want it; but it isn’t what makes you write.”
Our secret insecurity is always focused on outcome, while our heart of hearts is always focused on coming out. Stepping out. Trying out. Striking out. And trying again. Because there is joy in showing up, because there is joy in becoming more who we already are.
No goals, no expectations, just freedom.
Hearts finally moving to the music they’ve been hearing all along. Souls transformed from wallflowers into dancers, falling into the arms of grace and being reminded: there is nothing to prove, our worth is not up for grabs, all that’s left to do is to enjoy who we are and to live it out in the world.
On a Friday morning, as I hear the voice of grace, a different kind of sinking feeling happens—the thought sinks from my head to my heart, and my fingers come alive on the keyboard.
Meanwhile, outside my window, the wind blows fallen leaves like autumn tumbleweed. And I watch as a gray-bearded, retired man from down the block pushes a massive lawnmower up the middle of the street, toward the home of an old-ailing woman whose yard is buried in un-raked leaves. I watch as he runs his mower over the lawn and solves her leaf problem in a matter of minutes.
She’s not home.
She’ll never know who did it.
Will it matter to her? Maybe.
Does that matter to him? Nope.
I watch as he pushes his mower home. He’s not caring for his neighbor because it matters—he’s caring for his neighbor in spite of the fact it probably won’t matter. Because it’s who he is. Because he wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t do it.
Because growing up doesn’t mean becoming more mature—it means becoming more you.
If you were given permission to simply be more you, what would you do? Start speaking up? Standing up? Standing out? Walking out? Reaching out? Pouring out? Sitting in? Giving in? Giving up? Opening up? To what? Dance lessons? Photography school? Medical school? Dropping out of school? Starting a band? Starting a business? Starting a movement?Dominoes?
Listen for the still, small voice nudging you toward something good and challenging and beautiful and scary. Because your purpose isn’t to do something that is more meaningful—you’re purpose is to do something that is more you. And inside of that you will find all the meaning you can handle.
Question: What would you do in the world if you quit trying to prove you matter and instead simply started to live what you love? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
So, I’m writing a book. And one of the questions the book asks is, “What makes it hard to live from our true self? What makes it hard to put our hearts out into the world?” I’m an answer thief: that is, I steal my answers from the wisdom of others. Which is why I’m looking forward to chatting again about these questions during this Sunday’s Google Hangout (November 24 at 2pm CST). You folks are oozing insight, and I think our dialogue will multiply it for all of us. Click here to read more about how to join.
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Next Post: “Why I’m Grateful for Nothing This Thanksgiving”
Disclaimer: This post is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association.