I never felt like I knew how to be useful as a child. My skills were limited. The youngest of five, my siblings had little use for me and more often than not I was a burden not an aid. They were useful! They taught me things. My sister taught me how to fix my hair, my brother gave me rides in his Messerschmitt. My parents were useful. My mother cooked, cleaned, baked cakes for the sick and the elderly. My father, worked to put food on the table and when he was not working outside of the home he was working on the car, or the garden, or the house. My family members were all very busy people! I, on the other hand did not see my usefulness.
One day, my sister sat down at the piano and started playing O Holy Night while I stood by her side to turn the pages. Sing! she said. I loved the song so I began to sing. I worked very hard to get the notes just right. We had to practice a bit, but we got better and better. We laughed together and enjoyed what we had created. I realized, I felt useful! It was not a usefulness that was like baking cookies for the elderly or changing the oil in the car, but it filled my heart with joy and lifted my spirits. I was being useful to my sister.
I have been taking a series of Spiritual Direction classes with Caroline Myss via her CMED Institute over the past year. In her most recent class she talked about this idea of being useful and I began to think about how my perspective in this regard has impacted my life.
BE USEFUL – IT’S ESSENTIAL TO YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
Being useful is essential to our self-esteem. Mine suffered because I could not see my use. It was the underlying cause of my depression. I see that now. It made my heart-sick and my soul pine for something more.
In later years, working and motherhood gave me a sense of usefulness. Being a good mother mattered deeply to me. It gave me a sense of purpose in life. It made drudgery doable. And with work, one can always find something useful to do. When my job as a mother began to wind down, the restlessness reappeared. I felt a void. An emptiness. A longing for something more. I needed to be useful. Now, however, it would have to be something different.
One of the problems I faced with seeing myself as useful was that in spite of the fact that my parents both led very “useful” lives, they seemed to still carry a restlessness with them to their grave. Neither one felt as though they had done enough, had been useful enough. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted not “to die with my music still in me”.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]”Don’t die with your music still inside of you.”Wayne Dyer #quote[/tweetthis]
It is important to be useful. It’s equally important to take a step back when deciding how to be useful and look at what comes naturally to us. What do we do best? What do we enjoy doing? Checking out customers in a retail store is useful. I can do that. I have done that. But, it rarely makes my heart sing. It makes my feet hurt. Standing on a ladder forty feet in the air painting someone’s house is useful. I have done that as well. Trust me, it didn’t make my heart sing for long. There was a sense of empowerment from defeating my fear and accomplishing a task, but been there, done that happened real fast.
My first job as a writer made my heart sing. I was hired to blog for a website for women over fifty – when the internet was barely up and running. The Universe had called me out of motherhood retirement, and I’ve never looked back. I still question my usefulness, particularly when my words fall flat. I know now, however, that it is necessary to re-focus my attention when that happens. When I feel useless or despondent, I know it’s because I need to do something that makes me feel useful and keep on doing so until my heart sings.
[tweetthis]What makes your heart sing?[/tweetthis]