Monday, April 26, 2010

How important is being important?

While I set up my new business, I'm working part time as a lawyer. An old boss was nice enough to hire me to do some basic work. The work I'm doing (drafting board meeting minutes) was pretty much my least favorite part of my old job but people with no way to pay their mortgages and divorce attorneys can't be too choosy, right?

Really, I'm not complaining. I can work pretty much whenever I want to and they pay me well. I have plenty of time to procrastinate work on my business, do yoga, hang with friends and spend time with my kids. I can work from home most of the time but I do have to go to the office now and then. Lately I've been avoiding the office like the plague and today I realized why. When I first started to work part time, they had me in an extra office. It wasn't as big as my old office (and didn't have a window) but it was a nice, private office. They recently hired a new attorney so they moved me to a cubicle. It doesn't really matter - I'm not at the office all that much anyway. But today was my first day in the cube. And it was harder than I thought it would be because it reminded me of how much things have changed.

I'm still struggling with letting go of my old image of myself. I used to be Vice President, Associate Legal Counsel at a decent-sized, national company. I was becoming "known" within my legal specialty. I jumped ship from there to a large, well-known, national law firm where I was a Partner. (Yes, with a Capital P). Big time, hard driving, rockin' the high heels, briefcase, Blackberry, working mom, having it all, Big. Firm. Partner. I made really good money. I had an office, a secretary, an expense account. I was well-respected. And, while the market fell apart, my life fell apart. I got fired. And suddenly I wasn't a lawyer anymore. I filed for divorce. And suddenly I wasn't a wife anymore.

The past year has brought a raging river of change and growth for me. I'm starting a new life and building a new image of myself - for myself. But being back at my old office - the place where I became the person that I used to be (if that makes any sense), is really hard. I love the people there and everyone is wonderful to me. But - (and I know this sounds awful but in the interest of being honest, I'm going to say it anyway) - I miss being important. When I was a lawyer there, everyone needed me. All the time. Big parts of the business couldn't happen without my involvement. What I said and thought mattered. Clearly, I wasn't irreplaceable but I was an integral part of the business. And now I'm not. They're glad I'm there to do the stuff that no one likes to do (and I'm good at it). I'm glad to be working there so I have a little money while I create my new life. But it isn't the same and it never will be.

That's ok - I don't want to be that person anymore. I paid a steep price in terms of mental health and happiness to be important in that way. I would love to be able to say that I'm over being important. Now that I'm doing all kinds of yoga and meditation and becoming all zen-like, shouldn't I be able to tell my ego to take a hike and get over herself? That would be nice. But that isn't the case. I like being important - I like to be needed. So sue me.

Is there a way I can give my ego just a little bit of what she wants without selling out? Can I allow myself to be needed without (again) becoming something I don't want to be just to stay needed? I think so. I think - I hope - that just by being aware of that desire, by accepting it for what it is, I'll be better able to navigate situations that bring it up.

Now that I think about it, the need to be needed comes up a lot. It pops up with my kids, with other relationships, with my work - new and old. Maybe there are times that I should let my kids struggle and come up with solutions on their own but I insert myself in order to keep them connected to the proverbial apron strings. Maybe I give my friends unsolicited advice as a way to get involved in their lives and feel needed. Maybe I take a job that isn't really my thing because . . . well, you know.

I hope that as I move along my path to becoming a healer, I'll work with people who benefit from my services. And maybe they'll come back and become regular clients. I'll be important to them as a service provider they respect and like and come back to and maybe even recommend to their friends. I'll continue to build the online community I've started to build here. It's about connections. Wanting to be connected is human. Trying to get people to need me - especially if it involves changing myself - is unhealthy. But making connections and building a community of people who care about me for who I really am - that's healthy. And a lot more fun.
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