Do I Matter to You?

The woman I referenced in last weeks post, the one that asked where my blog was, told me this week that it would be okay with her if I wanted to write about her. My first reaction was, “Be careful what you ask for.” My second was curiosity. Why did she want me to write about her?

Turns out she wanted to know if she mattered to me. If she was important to me. Interesting. Was she worthy to be written about?

In fact she is a very interesting woman and I care a lot about her. She decorates for Halloween, makes a stand to not decorate for Christmas then caves and does it, struggles with family obligations, loves to travel and works professionally with women.  She asks important life questions like, “Is this all there is?” She actually reminds me of myself at her age. (God did I just say that? Am I that old?) She agreed. She sees herself in me 20 years from now. (I am that old.)

As she and I talked about her invitation, and where it came from in her, I knew I had to take her up on her offer. It so perfectly unveiled our ever present want/need to know we matter to an other. That we are special. Valued. Important.

It was easy to give her what she wanted. I told her how much I liked her and how I look forward to our time together. But even more than that, I told her it takes a brave woman to ask those questions and risk the answers. For that I admired her.images

So let’s think about this for a moment. How do we know if we matter to others? Sometimes we ask. Often we don’t. We prefer to wait for clues, signals and then make up a story based on the others words or behaviors. Sometimes that story is in our favor and sometimes it is not.

To ask, “Do I matter to you?”, is vulnerable-making and as a species we avoid our vulnerability at all costs. The number one reason we don’t want to feel our feelings is because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. I get it. I don’t like to either. And, like my young friend, I try to do it anyway. It is worth the risk. The pain can be great but so can the connection that comes from a spoken, “You matter to me.” I think it is worth it.

Would you be willing to ask your important others what they feel toward you this week? To tell your important others what they mean to you? (Yea it goes both ways.) Report back. I would love to hear your stories.
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20 Seconds of Courage

We watched We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansson.  It is the semi true story of how a dad reconnects with himself and his children, especially his son, by buying a zoo after his wife dies. All the heart wrenching scenes of a grief stricken dad trying to do right by his children.

 

It was an okay movie. I felt a bit duped when we read in wikipedia that the real life wife died after they bought the zoo. I guess anguished dad stories sell more movie tickets.

 

Anyway, my point?

 

Mid way through the movie Matt Damon’s character tells his children the story of how he met their mom. He recalled how frightened he was to approach her in the local cafe. As he stood outside the cafe, deciding to act or leave, he heard his older brother telling him as a child, “All you need is 20 seconds of courage.” He went in and met his future wife.

 

20 seconds of courage. I loved that concept. It made sense to me. I could use that in my life.

 

Saturday night Tom and I went to our when we have something to celebrate restaurant. Our last celebration was when I sold my house. I took him out for lobster and champagne. This time we were celebrating his raise. He took me out. They didn’t have lobster, so we had really great fish and champagne.

 

Toward the end of the evening, the table in the corner of the room, surrounded by windows overlooking downtown Pittsburgh, began to fill with a group of women. Each one came in separately clearly excited to greet her already seated friends. I’d say they were in their forties, some dressed conservatively, others provocatively, all looking their best and beautiful. They hugged each other saying, “You look great!”

 

I couldn’t stop watching them. “You can’t take your eyes off them can you?” Tom noticed. I admitted I could not. He asked me if I had noticed the couple sitting there before them, 2 people lost in a 6 person table. I had not. “So what is so interesting to you about these women?” he asked. I wasn’t sure, but I was guessing they had a great story.

 

I watched a little longer hoping not to get caught eavesdropping or staring. Tom suggested I go over and introduce myself. He guessed my interest saying they might have a great story I could blog about. I looked him straight in the eye, the kind of straight in the eye that implied his idea was crazy.

I explained to my partner of 5 years, husband for 9 months, that I am basically a shy person. I couldn’t interrupt this table of friends to get my curiosity quenched. It was a ludicrous idea.

 

Then I heard it…loud and clear,

all you need is 20 seconds of courage.”

 

I made up my mind and walked over to their table. They looked up expecting to see the waiter and instead they saw me. I explained I am a local blogger and admitted I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I went on to say my husband encouraged me to come over because I imagined they had a great story of how they met, how often they gathered and what it meant to them to gather like this. They all smiled at me and to one another.

 

Their story. They met at Slippery Rock University their freshman year all teaching majors. Two remained in the education school and the others switched majors, but they remained friends throughout their college years and their lives. They explained they now live all over the country and haven’t seen each other in 25 years. This was their reunion. I teared up.

 

They asked me what I did. I explained I am a psychotherapist specializing in women’s issues. They invited me to sit down. “We need to talk to you,” they all laughed. (One of two responses occur when I tell someone I am a therapist. Either every one shuts up or no one shuts up.)

 

I took their pictures with several of their cameras and invited them to email me the long version of their story so I could share it with all of you. They took my card and said they would.

 

I feel better for meeting them. I feel sweet about life and friendship and courage.

 

All it took was 20 seconds of courage.

Smarty Pants

My sister-friend Heidi and I were checking in with each other this morning. “How is your New Year so far?” we took turns asking, two days into 2012.

 

“I’m failing miserably,” I confessed. “I wrote my 10 self centered resolutions in It’s All About Me last week. Since then, unfortunately, I have been more efficient than ever. I am caring about everything to the point of mild paranoia and I am talking to fill all silences. It’s like when I say I am going on a diet and then I eat more than I usually do.” Continue reading