“What is the matter with you?”
I remember hearing that question when I was about 10 years old. Our family had flown to England to visit relatives and we were in the sitting room eating cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing. My very favourite.
My mom said, “What is the matter with you, can’t you eat that cake properly?” I was puzzled – how do you eat cake properly? I put another piece in my mouth, closed my lips together and savoured the taste. Again I heard the question, “What is the matter with you? If you don’t eat that cake properly, I will send you to eat it in the kitchen!”
That’s fine with me, I thought, I’ll eat anywhere you like, just don’t take my cake away. Still, I figured I guess I’d better try to play along.
I gently used my fork to break away another small piece, slowly raised the fork to my lips and was relieved that another piece of this delicious flavour was safe in my mouth. Phew, now I got it. If I ate more carefully I could eat my cake in peace, even lifting the plate up to my mouth to catch every last crumb.
What was the message I took away from this experience? There is something the matter with me and if I do not fix it, I cannot keep eating my chocolate cake.
Guess what? That childhood message was wrong. There is nothing the matter with me. The truth is that I matter – and so do you. I’m fortunate enough to find much evidence of this in my own life. I hope that hearing my examples will help you find some of your own.
I often come home with my hands full, eager to get in the house to set down my things, use the washroom or get started on my next activity. What do I miss when I rush in like that? Jadie, our Golden Retriever. She is two years old and always excited to see anyone who comes home. She is so full of unconditional love that she almost jumps out of her fur when she sees you. Jadie tells me every day, “you matter so much to me.” All I have to do is slow down and notice.
My husband Bob and I recently moved into our 1,300 square foot cottage. At first, we set up my desk in the living room. However, I would be working away and Bob would interrupt me with a question or conversation, breaking my concentration. I suggested we turn one of the bedrooms into an office. Eventually it would be for both of us, but for now we just set up my desk.
I happily went upstairs to the office and quietly closed the door so I could stay focused. Not too long afterwards, Bob opened the door, laptop in hand. He looked around, then headed for the short two-drawer dresser that was set up in the closet.
Still holding his laptop, he cleared the top of the dresser and set his laptop down. He left and returned with a fold-up chair. I was aghast, and retreated to the washroom. When I came back, I looked at my husband, literally in the closet surrounded by my clothes, sitting hunched over the dresser working on his laptop. He had crowded himself into 12 square feet of our spacious cottage.
I started to laugh and I said to him, “You really love me, don’t you?” In that moment, I let go of the anger that had been fuelled by the feeling of inconvenience and sense of entitlement to boundaries. By letting go, I was free to see what my husband was telling me: “You matter.”
Look now at your own life. I believe you will find just as much evidence that you matter. We all matter. The thing is that you need to be open, vulnerable, take risks, notice, let down your guard and be willing to see and experience the proof that is all around you. You matter!