What is it that gives a person “worth?” I’m old enough, and self aware enough, to know that worth is not measured by money.
Hey, I was a teacher! I’m married to a therapist. Money has never been our goal.
But what is it that lets us move through our days with a sense of self-worth?
At the tender and transitional age of 61, I’m struggling with this question once again.
You see, I used to find my sense of worth from my work. I have always worked, and had a purpose.
When I was only 22, I was a Russian interpreter. I took new immigrants to the doctor. I sat in therapy sessions, helping patient and doctor to understand each other. I helped with surgery, translating what the doctor wanted the patient to do during cataract surgery and cardiac catheterization.
I even helped to interpret at a baby’s birth. I was valued. I felt my worth.
Later, I became a speech pathologist, a job I held for 20 years. I helped families learn how to communicate with their disabled children. I helped those children to find their voices. I was valued. I knew that what I was doing was helpful and important.
And after many years I became a teacher. I taught fifth graders. I was a fun teacher. I was funny. I made learning interesting. No matter what, I will always know that I was very good at my job.
I felt so good about myself in those years. I felt worthy.
Then things changed. I lost my teaching job, and moved into retirement.
And this is where the question of worth has reappeared. When I have my granddaughter in my arms, I know that I am the most important person on earth. Ellie needs me. Ellie loves me. I am NONNI.
But it’s summer.
Ellie is home with her Mom and Dad and new baby brother. They are close by. I see them almost every day. I love them all more than I could ever express.
Now I have no role. I have no job. I have no way to measure my worth in this lovely world.
So, dear blog readers, I guess I’m fishing. (Phishing?)
Now I wonder, is a gray haired lady still useful if she isn’t physically able to manage her garden by herself? Is she still worth keeping if her husband works hard every day while she stays home and cleans things?
Does it count that this house has NEVER been this clean? Or that the closets are completely organized?
What do I do with myself on these long days? How do I define myself?
Is it legal to actually have three months of vacation while everyone else is working?
I swear, in September I will be back to working hard. I’ll have both two year old Ellie and three month old Johnnie. My arms, my heart and my day will all be full.
What about now? Do I earn some kind of Donna Reed points for the incredibly clean kitchen cabinets and the very fluffy towels in the bathroom? I was raised by one of the first feminists. I know that just being a “homemaker” isn’t an actual role in life.
But what else do I do while I’m waiting to go back to Nonni extraordinaire? How do I feel good about so many days where nothing is actually accomplished?
I have to admit. I think I’m nuts. I hate the fact that I do this to myself.
On the other hand, if anyone needs any alphabetized spices, come on over.
11 thoughts on “Worth The Effort?”
Boy could I identify with this post! I’m having a quiet few weeks since many of my clients are on vacation and some of the same feelings are popping up. I’ve decided to allow myself the gift of reveling in the relaxation and slower pace of these days. I’m noticing what’s coming up for me and what I’m drawn to. More writing? More clients? More reading? More time with friends? So, what I’m saying is…how about enjoying the quiet and leaning into it for a change? I think you’ve earned it!
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It’s easy to define ones self my their occupation, but each of us is composed of so many more things. The world is open to you to explore whatever interest you. By writing this you are a writer. Photos make you a photographer. The book on work you had come to a close. Now write the sequel. And it doesn’t have to be in alphabetical order, (though my spices are on a lazy Susan-a-l on top, m-z on the bottom.
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Sheesh, you’re on vacation. Enjoy it!
This is your time to do, or not do whatever you please, without the need to worry about pleasing or impressing anyone else. As a grandma who had to leave her job due to arthritis and who has been caring for two amazing but precocious girls for some time now I absolutely get that idea of pondering your self worth. Remember you have spent your adult life giving to others. Take some time to give to yourself when you have the chance. I relish my days off and the chance to regroup. It makes it much easier to be a better grandma to those two amazing girls.
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As I age, I too, struggle with self worth. Most of my life I was a mother, a homemaker, but the kids don’t seem to need me as much anymore, their lives are busy with their spouses, children and their own grandchildren. I think it’s a natural process but that doesn’t make it any easier. On the days it’s the worst, I try and tell myself that doing things that I enjoy and things that the husband and I can do together is my purpose. Use your time off to rediscover yourself. Find things to do that make you happy.
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Let me know if you find a good answer.
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I’m currently not in education or employed thats worse I think , you’ve worked really hard over the years but I’m only seventeen society hates me.
Oh, no, society adores you! YOU have to find out what you love the most. You’re at a really hard time of life, partly because everyone is probably telling you its the best time. For me, the problem is not enough choices given my age and state of health. In your case, it must be scary to have way way too many possible choices.
Hi 🙂 how about seeing if the CAC needs help once or twice a week? Or I know they were cataloging at the Historical Society – maybe you could help them if it’s still happening?
Very honest and beautiful post. Things may be not as busy now, but having time to rest and time to yourself can be okay too. You are valuable and deserving and you have accomplished so much. I can relate though to some of what you’re saying here – struggling to find your worth and what defines you. But maybe it doesn’t have to be just one thing that gives you a purpose and a place in the world, and maybe that purpose changes over time. Wish you all the best – speak766
Hi, Melodie Beattie in her book “Codependent No More” puts it nicely when she says…”We need to invite emotions into our lives. Then make a commitment to take gentle, loving care of them. Feel our feelings. Trust our feelings and trust ourselves. We are wiser than we think” Kathy above got the nail on the head!