"What matters to you defines your mattering." - John Green
I’m sitting here in my safe little house, writing about my safe little life, where I live autonomously and don’t really have to worry about exposure to the virus, or any kind of persecution, or violence. I’ve been torn about whether to post lately, in light of all that’s going on.
But here goes:
What does “matter” mean?
Recently, I asked someone if I mattered to him. I expected a yes or no. Instead, his reply was, “What does ‘matter’ mean?”. I was unable to answer, although I knew what I meant. I couldn’t rationalize an idea that lives in the heart.
It didn’t feel necessary, fair, or even possible to me, to define a state of being that is both intangible and real. After all, logic isn’t a prerequisite for connection. Horses teach me that every day! Our analytical minds protect us, but they can inhibit us as well, from embracing what we feel and know is true.
Ironically, we may “matter” most not when we are acknowledged, but when we choose to acknowledge someone else. We exist and function in relation to others. Responsibility to ourselves is paramount, of course; but the content and quality of our interactions give meaning to our lives.
Last week, I used a broom to shoo an angry 8-foot black snake away from a young off-the-track filly during her bodywork session. That seemed important. I coddled horses in the ends of their lives. I taught babies at the beginning of theirs. Horses rested their chins on my head. They breathed in my ear. They nickered at me and wrapped me in their necks. They also kicked at me, leaned on me, bit me, stomped on me, and ignored me. At times I felt successful and strong. At times I felt inadequate and weak.
Do you know when I felt like I mattered most? When it wasn’t about me at all.
A dear friend and mentor of mine lost her husband a couple of weeks ago. You can imagine how the implications of this were compounded, during such restrictive times. We couldn't be together, so I went to see her horse. I knew how he was missing her. I thought of her as I touched him. I remembered how she’s been there for me, and for him, and for so many others: consistently, unconditionally, benevolently.
When we finally were able to meet, in the midst of her grief, she asked me about my life. And even then, she remembered every detail. I thought I was there for her…but suddenly I mattered too, in the most tender and humbling way.
I can’t help but treat others better because of how she treated me.
We are living in a time when these concepts must be at the forefront of our consciousness: for ourselves, for other people, for animals, and for the future quality of life on this planet. What does “matter” mean? When and why do we matter to others? When and why do they matter to us? How do we know, and how can we show?
It is important to be able to distill our beliefs, particularly before we impose expectations onto someone else; the better we explain, the clearer our communication, and the healthier our relationships. But we must allow the heart to inform the mind, and listen to its wisdom:
We are enough when we are alone.
We matter when we are together.
We are loved in all ways, always.