Mattering matters. Feeling that you matter to someone, within a community, and as part of this world. It's fundamental to health and wellbeing. I did a podcast episode on this topic a little while back, if you choose to listen in. And I thought I'd write a journal piece too, as it's something that feels important to express from my heart, as a few vulnerable yet honest reflections, through this year.
Some of us don't even question if we matter, and yet, it's felt very lost amongst so many, during this pandemic. I've felt this way myself, at times. Wondering if my life and others who live with compromised immune systems, our elderly, those more vulnerable for many reasons - are somewhat disposable compared to others. A very real question that I have never considered before this year, whether my life is as important as someone else's. The very stark reality that in fact to many, not all our lives are seen as equal.
I don't feel this so strongly now, as time has passed, and I have become so firm and compassionate in my own ways of being, and very discerning with all I take in, and who I engage with. I don't choose to go down rabbit holes that are not supportive to me, or let myself read words that feel hurtful and lacking in compassion at times, in the way I understand this to be. But it is a feeling that I had and felt very strongly, especially at the beginning of this pandemic.
I remember when we first heard the news of how things were unfolding overseas in Europe and horrific stories of hospital beds filling, deaths, and not enough space and resources to care for all. They were facing a reality of having to make decisions about who they would help and save. And I had a very visceral feeling, that I will never forget, it just overwhelmed me - the reality that, I probably wouldn't be on that list. Nor would so many others. And it was a feeling I had to sit with, process and work through, and have continued to, through this whole year. Through supporting so many others, with all our own circumstances and situations.
I know it's how many have felt, and this sense of loneliness and even alone-ness, in our world - those with health conditions, disability, compromised immune systems, our elderly, our vulnerable in many ways. I also know deeply, the loneliness that's been felt through restrictions and our lockdown here, supporting so many in my private practice work, support sessions I've held, free support groups I've facilitated, and shifts I still do as a crisis counsellor - knowing just how much mental health has increased and many lives lost. It's felt devastating to me, all the layers this pandemic has unraveled within our communities, and just how very complex it's all been, is, and feels.
I remember a conversation I overheard that will never leave me. I was at my local cafe one morning, standing outside in the freezing cold waiting for my take away coffee with many others. All of us in masks, and chatting from a distance. And as I spoke to one of my neighbours, who is in his 80's now and doing so well, I hope he lives to be well over 100! - I overheard a man talking to his friend, both with loud voices, and he said - 'It's just so selfish for the rest of us - they should lock up the elderly and people who are at risk, and let the rest of us just get on with our healthy lives', and his friend agreed and said in return - 'and the old ones are going to die anyway, so they shouldn't matter'. And I looked at my elderly neighbour and over our masks, and I saw the look in his eyes, and I felt an ache in my heart, for us all, in our own lives and circumstances, that hasn't left me. That day, I just took some deep breaths, turned away, and held it all it all inside, as I have when these feelings have stayed with me, or resurfaced through this year.
I've heard these kinds of conversations so many times since that day. I've overheard them, and read them online. And if I choose to lean in, and try to understand this perspective, I know what the underlying messages and frustrations are. I'm not sure my own views about our strict rules and lockdowns are at all black and white to me, through all that's happened this year. It is very complex, and nothing is simple at all, to me. But I'm not interested or even willing, to give my energy to conflict or arguments. I prefer to have really genuine, open, and compassionate conversations with those I know I can be honest with, and even if we don't agree, there is a love that's a constant thread I trust in, through everything. This year has been horrible for us all. It continues to be overseas, and will be into next year, and my heart goes out to everyone. I can see many views and opinions, whilst also staying very firm and grounded in my own. What was most awful in that particular conversation that day were the words of locking up the vulnerable, and an assumption and generalisation that is voiced so often by some in the wellness industry that I've been part of for over 15 years. That everyone who is more vulnerable with health conditions (including cancer), are this way because of poor lifestyle choices. Everyone who is unwell or immune compromised are this way because of bad and unhealthy choices. It's a huge generalisation, and it creates a lot of shame and judgement, and whilst embracing wellbeing in every single way, is a conversation that's so needed even more so, through these times, it's separate to generalisations that are made. As it's certainly not true for all. And it's not for me, as someone who lives a very mindful, conscious and intentional life, and who practices what I preach, I hope, in all the ways I possibly can.
I have felt very sad, many times, through this year. It's a time that's made me both love my own city more, and ache at the disconnection between each other, too. There is a so much to heal, collectively, and so many layers of complexity, with everything. And as hard as it feels to share, this feeling of 'togetherness', just isn't something I've experienced very much at all. I've felt separate to this. Even though I have personally supported so many people through this pandemic, whilst also having my own challenges on the side, it's been very rare that someone who knows me and my personal life, being a very private person, has asked how I feel about this, how I'm feeling about things personally, and wanting to really know what my own views and thoughts are. I'm grateful to those who have. I'm also grateful that through so much, I am strong and resilient, I have my own ways to support myself and stay calm, nurture my inner world, but none of it has been or felt easy at all.
I've spoken to many with disability and it's interesting that they have been fighting for, and seeking work/ life balance, that many of us have now due to covid, but it's been nothing to do with making things easier for those with disabilities. It's taken a pandemic for these changes to happen that will benefit everyone. Minority groups are always less considered, less cared for, less popular, and less thought of. This is the reality of our world, and I so desire for this to keep changing, moving forward.
I'm left really, with these reflections to share, that despite what we live with, whatever our circumstances, and our age - we need to feel that we matter to one another and to belong in this world. I hold hope for many things, and I honestly look forward and hold hope for the day that none of us might feel indisposable. And that's naive of me, I fear, as I wonder if this will ever happen. For none of us to ever question if our lives matter compared to someone else, through all our collective experiences and circumstances. It's a feeling that's extended way beyond only those who are 'vulnerable', but the loss and grief through so much in our lives. And I hope into next year, despite all the complexities of things that continue to unravel, despite differences of views and opinions that will only grow and deepen with vaccinations, all that's happening and can feel so very overwhelming - that some if not all of the feelings of separateness will fade and dissipate and will be replaced by a true sense of more togetherness, more real connection in truly compassionate ways. More understanding and empathy, and standing literally, in others shoes. More of a feeling that we all matter. And that we never have that visceral feeling, of wondering if we matter to others - is our life as important and as essential as someone else's.
Mattering matters, and it's only us as humans, friends, colleagues, as family, who can extend this feeling and knowing amongst each other. This is something I long for, and hold hope for in so many ways, moving forward. As I keep adding my own small impact, my own small difference, and hopefully all the ways I extend compassion and kindness and understanding to others. If I can contribute to someone and others knowing and feeling that they deeply matter, then it may feel small, but to me, it's everything. And it's certainly a reason, my purpose, of why I do what I do.
Katie Jane is a Holistic Therapist, Life Coach, Health Coach, Nutritionist, Naturopath, Meditation teacher, writer and author. Katie has been working in the wellness industry for over 15 years, in private practice and online, and brings all of these qualifications and skills, along with her own lived experiences through challenges, changes and transitions. Her approach to life and wellbeing is truly holistic and unique for each individual. She supports and coaches clients to make powerful changes, to feel calm through uncertainty and change, to embrace self care as a way of being, and to thrive through life transitions.