What Does This Book Mean For You?
Thirty-three million people have been told to stay home, not to come to work: “You are not essential. You don’t matter.”
For me, this was not a new message. Early on in my life, I was told that I resembled my personality-disordered aunt, Aunt Rosalie, and to stop being like her if I knew what was good for me. I well understood that she did not matter – and that if I was like her, I would not matter either.
This was a recurring message. I – an overweight, anxious, and slow-learning child – heard it from my image-conscious relatives while growing up. And then again, and again, from the American society that has us bowing to emotional idols in the form of money, celebrity, and sculpted bodies that conferred mattering.
I stood inside of that question – intensely and incessantly. And then, when given the opportunity, I wrote a 340-page book about it. I wrote to the core of the pain of that experience of non-mattering, as it played out in my personal and professional life.
While multiple threads shape the story told in DARE TO MATTER: Lessons in Living a Large Life, none of them on their own would have coaxed me into writing it. Contending with an eating disorder and a complicated nature are part of the story. My love for Judaism is also an important piece of it, but not the reason I wrote this book. My work as a doula and a radio producer and host, along with a non -conventional mothering approach, are some of the most colorful threads, but they are not the cloth itself.
THE story is about mattering.
So, what does it mean to matter? And who gets to decide if you do?
Looking through the prism of the different threads, I do offer a definition at the end of the story. For now, here is the basic concept: Mattering is what we do on the inside. It is not something we can buy, or even borrow. It is something we build, or perhaps rebuild. That we create.
It is not a simple process for humans to know that we matter. If it was, we’d more readily opt in to our lives, instead of distracting ourselves from them. Often our lives feel small, and we harbor under this dangerous illusion that it is the external circumstances that hold our power. That is not entirely true. Our internal, unseen landscape holds far more power than we imagine. As much, and maybe even more, than the external reality.
There are many things that can interfere with our mattering, that can shut it down. Shame, for example, is one such mechanism. While it cannot be seen, shame is highly visible. It is mostly propped up by fear and violates our deepest selves. Unless we confront the shame, our sense of passion and purpose will collapse into a heap of non-mattering. Confronting the shame is the willingness to stage an offensive against the lie that we do not matter and then finding ways to manifest our mattering.
DARE TO MATTER: Lessons in Living a Large Life offers more than my personal story. The book also includes the objective lessons, the takeaways, called Matterings. Matterings are the lessons about “inner space” concepts: hope, holiness and happiness; love, loneliness and loyalty; money, mothering and marriage; pleasure, pain and purpose; faith, feelings and falling; religion, royalty, and recovery; and shame, smallness and spirituality.
Being told that you do not matter is traumatic. Here’s how I define trauma: Traumas are the slow, steady, seemingly unremarkable assaults on something intrinsic to the healthy functioning of a breathing organism. Consistent, enduring messages of non-mattering fit this ill.
Would you agree that if we do not unlearn and undo these destructive messages, they will destroy us? They will undermine every dream we dare, every hope we harbor, and every accomplishment we attain. We will never have enough, be enough, or do enough.
Getting out of bed in the morning (or whenever you like to get out of it), and staying out of it, is not just the act of putting one foot in front of the other. Very often, it means moving the heavy thoughts out of our way so we can stand up and move forward. And too often, that is the first challenging task of the day.
Is it possible to shift the balance of our inner power in a way that we can better access it? As one who is fascinated with the inner spaces that we humans inhabit, I have learned that we most certainly can. And in insisting that our lives be large, we must dare to matter. You cannot wait for the world to tell you that you matter. It might never. And that doesn’t matter. You do.