Nov 26, 2008

So. I spend a lot of time shocked by my own irrelevance. Swimming in it, if you will, when I am not fighting against it, or at least the awareness of it.
I don’t know what to do about it. That’s life right? People struggle to find meaning and be meaningful and are seldom surprised to find themselves just another tiny itty bitty piece of a big huge pie.

That being said it’s still hard, and we often cope by limiting our scope. Most of us aren’t Obama. We aren’t Nixon. We aren’t Madonna. We aren’t even Brittney Spears. We don’t matter to the masses and even our largest moves don’t make a ripple in the bigger sea. This is a fact to accept if you want to move along with life. Still, we struggle to have import, to affect, to be significant to the small group of people around us who know our name and see our faces. We pretend to matter. Because we need to.

I think about this sometimes and the many ways we matter. Every day. I think about mothers feeding their families back in the day and every night and how the days of mattering to dad because of the pretty or mattering the lil ones because of the comfort and fun are over, so they cooked. Big nutritious elaborate meals in the place of KFC or a TV dinner. A gesture of significance and love even though often as not they all swarm in, gobble it up, toss the most bland forms of praise if any acknowledgement at all, and run along without a second thought.

The other day I made something. Something easily insignificant. A condiment, even. And I couldn’t tell if it was good and someone told me it was fine in that way that made it clear is was not fine in a “that’s good” way but more “that will pass and who cares anyway, why does it matter to you” kind of way. It was subtly heartbreaking, briefly demoralizing. He didn’t mean anything by his dismissal. He didn’t understand why I cared about something others would not care about and was being honest. But still, it was something I did. It was something I made and used my time to create it and for just a second I wanted to treat it like my effort mattered and my gifts meant something, even if they meant something small. Like they were icing on a cake not a throw away prize in a cereal box that already broken anyway, but who really cares.

And the elevated part of me, the part that strains towards enlightenment whispers that I don’t need outside praise to feel good and it doesn’t matter if *I* matter. To others. I mean. My significance is irrelevant and I’d do better finding things that matter to me than trying to matter. That it’s all about what I do, and that the prize is in the process, not the reward. The smarter part of me tells me my insignificance, a reward, proof of a bigger plan. A holistic cell reminds me that it’s my vanity screaming, nothing bigger.

The same voice tells me to abandon seeking meaning in the small things, the tiny gestures, the details, the window dressing. To stop caring about my hair or my weight or how the quiche came out or whether I light up someone’s day with a tiny joke. To stop wondering whether they notice or care about my details. But I can’t help it. How often do we accomplish something significant. How commonly do we do something huge, life changing, impressive on a grand scale. Life’s a slog punctuated by the little things, so I try to put some effort into these little things, because on some level they are just that: life. And I’d like to believe I have a right to want to do them well. And sometimes, just sometimes I want to believe my performance, if not epic, if not impressive, is at least pleasing, it at the very minimal not worthy of dismissal.

So I’m going to try to not feel to guilty that I need these words or praise, that I wish for the feedback: proof that he thinks I’m pretty, or she appreciate my thinking of them, or for just a few moments I occupied their thoughts, glorious, I impressed, I excited. I mattered. Small tokens that fight the constant tide of irrelevance an mediocrity.

But at the same time I’m to try to not feel so bad when I don’t get them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Would you agree that the tide, the slog, the flux, is essentially composed of just those "little things" after all? To be sure, those little things, moving in concert, are a force to be reckoned with; a veritable tsunami when they get going.

And, as to the question of meaning: what is the meaning of these things (including my/your/ourself)? Who else is to answer this question BUT us? It does not look like there's some outside authority to consult in these matters. Who else could handle the job? You bestow the meaning of the things you experience. No?

If we lament the lack of some meaning in certain things, it does not also mean that they are truly meaningless. That acknowledgment alone validates SOME meaning that those things hold for us, whether or not those meanings fulfill our initial intentions or expectations.

Was that meaningless?