Monday, February 23, 2009

Obsol-essence: Finding Your True Value

Yes, I know the word is spelled wrong. (It’s obsolescence.) And we all know what it means when something becomes “obsolete.” It loses its value. It has been replaced by something which serves the purpose but is far superior to that which we already have.

My desktop computer, for example, is becoming obsolete very quickly. My car began the process of becoming obsolete the minute I drove it off the car lot. Many television sets across the world are becoming obsolete—now at a later date than had been planned.

Sadly, sometimes other things in our lives lose their value and become obsolete – less valuable. It may be a job or career that you’ve struggled with for years until the point of burn-out. You no longer feel the passion you once did. Or you realize that that job will not take you to the career pinnacle you want to reach. It may be a relationship with a friend, whose path has taken him or her on a very different journey, so there’s little in common anymore. It may be a family relationship that once fueled you, but now leaves you exhausted and sad.

Or it could be an attitude or way of thinking. Or it could be a “dream.”

I started thinking about the value of life this week when one of my co-workers was struck by a car while crossing a busy street on our campus. He suffered serious head and internal injuries, and numerous broken bones. Even now, we don’t know what his outcome will be, but we’re praying for a miracle. He was doing his job--delivering mail-- when he stepped off a curb and his life changed in an instant.

For many years, I had this picture in my head of what my life was supposed to be. You know the one: A successful handsome husband. Kids, above average in looks and intelligence. A successful career as a writer, with numerous awards to my credit. Beautiful home in the suburbs. Country club. World travel.

Somewhere along the way, life threw a curve ball—no, make that a dodge ball . . . and I didn’t dodge it. It knocked me silly, and blew me right off that preconceived path I had chosen for myself. I did achieve some of the things I’d dreamed of (you HAVE seen the pictures of my kids, haven’t you?) Some I enjoyed for a brief moment in time. Other things I never quite achieved.

And interestingly, the more I struggled to create the life I thought I valued, the less I began to value “that”, and the more obsolete that Life Picture became to me. What I had valued was what I thought other people would think of me . . . not what I thought of me. I tried to create a life that I thought others would approve of. One that didn’t ruffle societal norms. One that presented an image that others would value.

But it wasn’t exactly what I needed. The life I have now is not obsolete in any way. It’s very different from what I once thought my life should be like, but it is a life and lifestyle I value. And because I value it, it isn’t obsolete. So what if it wouldn’t work for everyone else . . . it works for ME!

So many of us struggle to fit in. To be perceived a certain way. We think we want what we want because it would be good for us. Or because it would be easier for us to go with the flow, even if we’re flowing in the wrong direction.

For many years, I would pray to God each night: “Lord, please let me wake up happy tomorrow morning.” To the outside world, I seemed to have it all. But on the inside, I was confused, frightened, exhausted, and felt trapped inside the shell of a person I hardly even knew. I couldn’t see the real value of myself anymore. It was completely lost to me for a very long time.

In my delusional efforts to try to re-engineer my life, and re-direct my life, I made some really bone-headed mistakes. And some of them cost me dearly. There’s only so much you can control—and it is far less than you think it is. Finally I said, “I give up. I don’t know what to do. Just take me where I’m supposed to go.”

And then I began to spend more time getting to know me, and learning to like me—then love me. And while I was doing that, the Universe was responding to my frustrated cry to find some relevance and value for my life.

"I didn’t want to live an obsolete life."

Do you know what you really want? Can you possibly know what you really want? If no one else’s opinion of you mattered, what would you do? How would you change your life?

Spend some time today writing down the answers to those questions, or spend time, in the quiet, thinking about them. If no one else was watching you, if no one could debate your life choices, what kind of life would you live?

Life can become obsolete very quickly. Even more quickly than that of a new car being driven off the dealership parking lot. If there is an attitude, a thought, a relationship, a job, etc. not working for you, get rid of it. Find new passion. New purpose. New energy. Create new value in yourself, so you don’t become obsolete to the people who truly need you and love you.

Be Joy-Full Everyone!

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