We sat at a restaurant table, eating burgers and fries. Rather, he ate. I picked.
“It’s nothing personal.” He talked casually, not knowing how much his words seared me. “It has nothing to do with your performance. You’re great. We just can’t afford to keep doing business the way we have been. We’re losing too much money.”
A noble attempt to reassure, but I couldn’t get past his last words:
“We need to let you go.”
My head told me to take it at face value. I should believe his explanation, understand the business side of these decisions and walk away with head high and heart secure. These things happen, all the time.
But deep down, in a wounded area I couldn’t quite identify, I believed this instead:
If I was good enough, they wouldn’t let me go.
It’s been years since that day. But the experience reinforced a long-held belief. As did the writing rejections. The divorce. The children who rebelled. The friend who walked away. In every case, I held my inadequacy responsible.
If I was enough, they wouldn’t have left.
And so I worked, worked, worked to be the best wife, the best friend, the best writer, the best mother.
You do the same. I heard your words when we spoke after the event in Pennsylvania. I saw the doubt in your eyes even as I stood on the stage speaking in Texas. You lose a friend, and blame yourself. You watch a child struggle, and question your mothering. You take in all life’s rough edges and losses and rejections and assume somehow you are to blame for every. last. one.
But sometimes rejection is more about them than you. And your worth is never, ever tied to your work.
“Do you know how much I love you?” I ask my six-year-old the same question we rehearse nearly every night as I tuck him into bed. He’s desperate to know he matters. Maybe one day he’ll finally understand my answers are rock, not fog.
“So much!” He spreads his arms wide, although I’m certain he doesn’t yet believe in a love that will not leave. There’s been too much evidence to the contrary.
“Yes, so much.” I smile. Then ask another, more telling question: “And will I ever, ever stop?”
“NO!” He announces it, proud, like he can’t quite believe something so good can actually be his.
“You got it, buddy. Never.” I rustle his hair, look him in the eye. “Even when you’re having a bad day. Even when you scream and don’t listen. Even when I get frustrated and put you in time out. I love you. Always.”
I lean down and kiss his forehead, knowing he’ll be smiling long after I turn off the light. Even so, I know we’ll need to go through the questions again tomorrow.
I walk away, wondering when—oh, when?—our reassurances will show fruit. It takes such effort when the words don’t seem to stick. The thought is barely finished before I hear a question, this time asked by Someone other than me:
Do you know how much I love you?
How often I forget, how desperately I need to hear it.
So much. I answer Him. So very much.
And will I ever stop?
He pushes me a little bit further, hoping I hear Him better this time, deeper. Understand—finally—His words are rock, not fog. I remember the missteps and mistakes, the wandering and doubting. How I worked so hard to be enough. Defeated, I put my worth up for sale. Still …
No. You never let me go. Never will.
Worth without work. Love without loss. Rock, not fog.
Chances are, we’ll go through this again tomorrow. He’ll again ask the questions. I’ll again remember.
But this time, today, I smile as I shut my boy’s door.
And something deep inside me rests.
Have you ever equated your worth with work and results?