What if I have no gifts to bring? I am a terrible gift giver. The worst. I hate shopping for others because I don’t know what they need. I also hate giving stuff that will just sit around their house and clutter their lives. Does anyone really need more stuff?
I am currently reading Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism and seeing myself in it’s pages. Throughout my life, I have been more of an observer than a doer. Just admitting that gives me a twinge of disappointment. I know I cannot be successful or fulfilled in life by being passive. Still, there is tremendous value in watching and learning from others through their actions, choices, and beliefs. Often, I am accused of being emotionally unavailable because I choose not to engage in conversations, or don’t feel the need to participate in discussions. I usually feel I have nothing of value to bring to the table, or there isn’t anything valuable on the table already.
I love to listen to podcasts and read books. I truly feel I am engaging in conversations every time I find a great book or listen to a wonderful interview. McKeown’s book validates my philosophy that not everything matters. In fact, very little matters. McKeown writes about “learning to discern what is absolutely essential, and eliminating everything else, in order to make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.” It is so comforting to know that what I can sometimes view as a weakness in myself, can be a great strength. Having a strength means having something to give.
Over the last couple of years, I have learned what anxiety is and what it feels like to have panic attacks. I was first in denial about these episodes, and thought I was somehow being dramatic, or overly emotional about my circumstances. I was overthinking my life, and therefore panicking about it. Now I realize that anxiety, depression, and panic are physical responses to emotional problems. In a way, yes I was overthinking my life, but in a good way. It forced me to recognize how important it is to listen and respond to your physical responses to stress, overwhelm, and fear. These have been “wake up” signals from my body. The signal was saying “Your actions are not aligned with your beliefs.”
Essentialism asks the question, “What does this mean, and why does this matter?” One thing that attracted me to the teaching profession was the potential to matter. I need my work, my time, and my effort to matter. Education may be one of the only things that truly matters to me, aside from love, connection, and freedom. I know what I do each day with my students matters to them. I am, however, a little disoriented in the meaning my position has for me and my family at this critical time in our lives. My son will be finishing his junior year of high school, and my daughter will be beginning high school. How have I served them? Am I a resource for them? Do they know their worth and potential? What have they learned from me? What will I continue to teach them in the years to come, while they are beginning their independent lives?
I want to make a meaningful contribution with the time I have, especially to those that matter most in my life. Anyone who knows me knows I am busy. With two businesses to run, a full time teaching position, two teenagers, a home, and several other aspects of the American dream to maintain, I have officially placed myself exactly where most of us believe is “The way to fulfillment.” Filling my life with busy is not meaningful, nor is it making a contribution in the way that I would like. I will continue to be a powerful observer, see what is not being seen, and listen to what isn’t being heard. I will be disciplined in my pursuit of participation in ways that are authentic and healthy in order to give what is only mine to give.