You've just been told that you don't matter...much. Now I've got even more bad news. I'm going to ask you to make a list. Ready? Make a list, on paper if you want, of the people in your life who's own lives would be terribly sad if you were to disappear tonight. These should be people who would miss you for more than, say, a week. They should also be people who you care deeply about so that we can exclude stalkers and the like. It's important to be honest. Managers, for example, may be tempted to think (some I've known would even insist) that their employees would be on the list. They wouldn't. I don't care who you are, there is someone who could do your job just as well. I can think of a few examples of people for whom this is not true, but the fact that we can name just about all of them- everyone in the history of mankind who has had such a huge impact that the world is different because they were in it- I think proves my point. (Years ago, while I was working in a lumberyard, I helped a guy load his truck with enough vinyl siding to side his garage. It took a long time and we were having a pretty good conversation. Eventually, he brought up a pyramid scheme he was involved in. He told me how much money I could make. All I had to do was sign up a bunch of people to work under me and I could sit back and watch the money roll in. He could tell I was skeptical so he named the people in the state of Minnesota who had made millions with this company. I told him that if he knew, off the top of his head, the names of everyone in the whole state who had made a lot of money, then that wasn't a very good sign.I could have added, but didn't, that, based on the condition of his truck and the fact that he was unable or unwilling to pay someone else to side his garage, it didn't look like he was making much money.) Anyhoo. You've got your list. And it's short. First of all, if you have at least one person on your list, congratulations! I recommend, if not now, then very soon, that you tell them you love them and thank them for loving you, too. (Maybe not literally, since it's possible you don't even call your feelings regarding some of these people "love". Your kids, yes, but certain friends? Who knows. It doesn't matter. Tell them you appreciate them. Or admire them. Say something nice to them, anyway). Now, though I didn't say as much, you may be thinking that I belittled you, or your work, when I wrote that anyone could do it. The fact is that you are doing it and I hope you are doing it well and continue to do so, if that's what you like. While you are doing it, it does matter that you do it well, probably. But, if you disappeared tonight, after a minute, a week, probably no more than a month, things would be humming along again. Moving along at the speed of business, as though you never existed. Some people, upon learning that this is how I feel, have been outraged, of course, and then have accused me of being depressed or, at least, very depressing. Isn't it depressing to think that you don't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things, that the world will go humming along after you are gone? It is not. It is liberating.
If you are such a small part of such a huge machine, then your troubles, which are only a part of you, are so small as to be almost meaningless. Do you really want all of your decisions to be huge, life and death, deals? No? Well, good news. They aren't. So now you don't have to act like they are. I have found it helps to view my life, not through my own eyes, but from above. That way I don't take myself so seriously. If someone cuts you off in traffic, and you're viewing your life, through your eyes, with your ego, then you get all riled up. Your heart races, your palms sweat. Maybe you swear and yell and kick and scream. Or worse. And for what? What changes? The event still happens and the person still goes on his/her way and you on yours. Except now, not only did you get cut off, but you've had your heart race and your palms sweat. You've been all riled up. You'll be crabby when you get home. Of all those bad things, only one, the least severe by the way, was done by someone else. Everything else you've done to yourself. When we're using our egos we feel like it's important to have our grievences aired. You cut me off. And, I matter. I'm a big deal. If you had cut someone else off, that wouldn't matter but now I'm mad and that's not fair because I didn't do anything wrong. Now I must tell you that I'm mad because what's the point of being mad if I'm not going to tell the person I'm mad at about it? But really, of course, the whole excercise is ridiculous. And that becomes perfectly clear if you watch the scene from above. You are not mad that the car cut someone off, you are mad because it cut you off. Which means that the event isn't the maddening thing. If you were watching from above, you would see one car cut in front of another and think, "whoa, that was close. Well, shit happens." See, it doesn't matter. If you can't get past feeling like everything that you do, and that everything done to you, matters, then you will surely be unhappy. Follow the road rage incident to its logical conclusion: You get cut off in traffic which makes you mad because you demand to be treated better than that which you prove by treating yourself poorly. Sorry, you lose. You want to win? Get over it. Be good to yourself and the people on your list and don't worry about anyone, or anything, else.
Now this brings up a few complications. When I write, "don't worry about anyone else", I mean it. It's entirely possible that there are a few people in your family, for example, who are not on your list. Maybe you don't love your mother. Some have it coming, that is no secret. No problem. You've got your list. That's good enough for you. But you still have to be good to your mother don't you? Shouldn't you be concerned with her opinion? No. Get over the fact that you are supposed to love her. If you don't, you don't. You don't have to make a big deal out of telling her, in fact it's probably better if you don't. Just don't worry about whether you are pleasing her. Just get on with your life and with pleasing yourself and those on your list. (Liberating yourself from your family will be a future post. I think you'll agree that it's worth at least $17 all by itself.I will say this: after reading the post you will agree with me that the liberation process is very much like space flight, as I understand it.)
Okay. So you don't matter...much. In the big picture you are nothing. But in the small picture, your list, your are more important than you ever realized. The people on your list need you like they need no one else. The President of the United States can't do as much for those people as you can. How do you like that? And so in the "...much" part of not mattering you will find your universe. You are the sun around which all those worlds revolve. And, I hope you agree that that is not depressing at all.