I have a job; I feel relevant. I don’t have a job; I feel irrelevant. My children are healthy and making good choices; I feel relevant and significant in their lives as a good role model. My children are making poor choices again and again, exercising their free will; I feel irrelevant and insignificant asking myself where did I go wrong… and so it goes. Up and down like a rollercoaster, constantly. I think it’s called LIFE.
The dictionary defines the word irrelevant as unrelated to the matter being discussed or considered; not important; not applicable or pertinent; having no meaning or connection with the subject or issue.
Just reading those words makes me feel frumpy and broken and I don’t want to live in these words but sometimes I just feel impertinent and unimportant and like I’m not connected to anything or anyone.
Let’s turn it around.
What does it mean to be relevant? The dictionary defines the word relevant as the state of being closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand; meaningful or purposeful in current society or culture; a connection to the matter being discussed; having practical value or applicability.
I don’t think anyone who lives past age 2 can escape feeling irrelevant at one time or another. However, there is relevance to feeling irrelevant. In a nutshell irrelevancy has the power to allow space for pondering, changing, adaptability and transformation.
I am a mom. I was relevant to my children until they hit 2 years old and they discovered their autonomy by powerfully exercising their use of the word “no”. Oh what fun times we had as a family when the kids would say no to something. It is said in those lovely guide books about raising children that what you see from them at 2 or 3 or 9 years old will manifest itself again in more dangerous and powerful ways when they turn 12, 13 or 19 years old. I am here to attest to the fact that yup, all true.
I became irrelevant in a more powerful way when the kids became teenagers. They no longer needed or wanted to hear from me about anything. They knew everything and if they didn’t they would figure it out on their own. I went through a time of deep despair and depression when every word out of my mouth was ignored, seemed meaningless, disconnected from their perceived reality, not applicable to their situation because “things were different since I was a teenager”. You get the picture?
It’s a tough reality to wrap my head around when, whether with purposeful intent or random circumstance I find myself having to deal with transformation or change of any kind, in this case my children growing up, and asking the ultimate question, “what now”?
Transformation happens when we graduate from college or get married or become parents or change careers or retire. Sometimes transformations are wanted and happily accepted but most transformations take place by being forced on us or we are coerced into the changes that are taking place. At times transformations just happen. By natural design we are creatures of habit and we do not like when things change. Even if we are unhappy with the things we are doing we at least know how to manage our emotions within the unhappiness and tasks rather than throw it all out the window by choice and embrace the attitude of “Yippee!! Come what may”.
I started trying to turn my own mindset around when I got a job outside of the house and could no longer cater to the children’s needs, emotions and quirks full time. In my job I became relevant to the needs of the company and to the needs of strangers. I started to value my ability to learn, my ability to form relationships and to communicate and my ability to own my piece of the tasks at hand. When I started to apply my work mindset toward parenting, my children started to change too. (Shhh, Without their knowledge or permission).
In pondering the life moments when I feel my own irrelevancy, I take the down time to realize the many ways I strive to feel relevant and this list might help you too…
I stay true to who I am deep inside. I believed for so long that if someone would just teach me what they want me to know in order to do the job or task they need done then I could rise to their need and get it done. After all, I had years and years of experience doing just that as a parent. I stayed authentic to who I believed myself to be. If you are struggling with doubt about your own authenticity call me. Let’s get you coached around that because it is the key that unlocks many doors.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” May Sarton
I give. I give my time, my talents, my heart to whatever it is I am doing whether it be volunteering, baking, cooking, gardening, writing, conversing, listening, praying, playing, taking pictures or learning something new. I am “all in” everything I do. I achieve a sense of mastery for each time I practice giving. I become a master at kindness, compassion, empathy, relevance and become more and more authentic in the process.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Charles Dickens
I am action oriented. I absolutely hate sitting still for too long. I feel most productive and relevant if I am physically moving around getting things done or mentally stimulated when learning something new. Being an action oriented person also means facing fears I keep deep inside. My goal is to practice facing my fears and get to the end of my day with a list in my heart of all the things I gratefully accomplished and to feel exhaustively satisfied enough to sleep well.
“The best thing you can do is just do it, just face the fear and get it over with. How do you get the courage? You create your courage by just taking action… ” James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations
I consider my antonyms. It is a natural human defense trait that thoughts will first drift toward negativity before we seek to purposefully rein them in and kick negativity to the curb. Coaching has taught me a tremendous amount about my own inner power of turning things around in my own head. In this case, when I start feeling irrelevant I consider the opposite of my negative thoughts. I think about all the ways in which I am significant, relevant, necessary, valuable, useful, needed and worthwhile. On the chance that I still find irrelevancy within these words I think about and put into action all the ways in which I want to be all of these antonyms and where I can start.
“We each carry with us unique gifts, recognized and unrecognized. We long to harness those gifts in a way that gives life significance and helps us to matter more in the lives of others.” Tom Hayes
I try to keep a child’s mindset or in other words I try to keep a simple sense of curiosity at the forefront of everything I do. Whether I am learning something new to be able to get a task done at work or asking questions to my clients to help open doors on their life’s journey or to my children to help them think about something more deeply, I am always curious on a child’s level as to the how or why that is at the heart of what is happening.
“If we are to use the words ‘childish’ and ‘infantile’ as terms of disapproval, we must make sure that they refer only to those characteristics of childhood which we become better and happier by outgrowing. Who in his sense would not keep, if he could, that tireless curiosity, that intensity of imagination, that facility of suspending disbelief that unspoiled appetite, that readiness to wonder, to pity, and to admire?” C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism
As my children get older I have to face the reality that I too am getting older and I think about what will my relevance be once my children are on their own and no longer living in my home? For one thing I am taking back my own life and constantly seeking to create me. It matters to me that even though I no longer need to be physically relevant to teach my children I can be spiritually relevant as an example of how life goes on for me when they are not around.
No matter what stage of life I am in I am always, in one way or another, in transformation mode. I choose the word transformation over the word change because change can be such an ugly word and puts up red flags in my gut. I prefer transformation because that is a more accurate word to describe the big and small ways in which life re-creates, re-invents and re-generates itself constantly. The objective to winning in transformation is to go with the flow. A great example of this is my grandmother. By God’s grace she will be turning 100 years old this August. The normal thoughts when you hear about someone turning an unbelievable age like 100 is what keeps them going and feeling the pull to live?
We don’t live near each other and so we can’t physically see each other on a regular basis but I know through conversations with her or my mom that she never sits still. She still lives on her own, not in a nursing facility, she still drives a car, she still flies on airplanes to visit family at least 3 times a year, she still cooks and bakes, she still meets with friends on a weekly basis, and she still does her own grocery shopping. Three characteristics that keep her relevant is her optimistic attitude toward life, her faith and her curiosity toward life and transformation. She is about to downsize her living and will be moving to a new area, making new friends and forming new life habits. She is not afraid and knows exactly what she wants and how she wants to live in her new space. She is a shining example of relevance in my humble opinion.
If you are going through life moments where you find yourself questioning your relevance please consider that in each phase of transformation we become a clean page in the story of our own lives and have the incredible opportunity to start a new chapter and choose what goes onto our new pages. I hope these “call to action” questions will help you. Let’s open up a dialog about helping each other feel more relevant in every stage of life.
Call to Action
Where in your life right this moment do you feel irrelevant?
In what ways are you believing you are irrelevant?
What makes you feel relevant?
How can you approach your next transformation with a child’s curiosity?
What can you do with the life skills you have learned so far to help someone else and thereby inject relevance into your life and the life of someone else?
What are some new activities, skills or wisdom you would like to include on the new pages of your next chapter?