When I’m Gone…

Red Cup

Who would miss you if you were gone? If you didn’t show up to work, didn’t send out that newsletter, didn’t make that sales call, didn’t tweet that tweet… who would miss it? How does your answer shape how you’ll live out 2015?

This is yet another prompt from best-selling author, Seth Godin on my Quest 2015. (The Quest has officially ended, but the holidays got me off track. I’m playing catch up.)

I haven’t blogged for awhile, so I’m slightly concerned that the answer might be – “Not too many people.” But when I take a step back, I imagine my life – my little ordinary life – like a tiny pebble being tossed into a big, still pond. You can see the ripples reach all the way to the edges if you’re willing to sit quietly and long enough to watch the water move and make space for this little pebble to do its thing.

The most inner circle – the one that makes the biggest wave – would be my immediate family: my husband and children. If I just stopped showing up for them, stopped doing my work for them as wife and mother – I know that I would definitely be missed. That’s the nice thing about short bouts of illness or absence, you get to see just how much you’re appreciated by those most directly impacted by your presence.

Last year, I took a life-changing trip when I left my family and traveled to Paradise Island in the Bahamas to meet my writing mentor, Jeffrey Davis (and mastermind behind this whole Quest). The goal was to work solidly on my book uninterrupted by the demands of my day-to-day life. No one (including myself!) could understand how I managed to step away from my life for 10 whole days to make this trip happen.

My amazing husband understood that this was me drawing a line in the sand and announcing to the world “I am showing up for the work that means so much to me.” This required that I leave a three-page, single-spaced document for my husband to refer to in my absence. Not because the man can’t father his own children without me – he does this beautifully on a regular basis – but because this was an extended, single-parenting gig that had our four children going in four different directions. I needed him to understand where he needed to be and when. Someone asked my then 11-year old son how his Dad had done in my absence – and he gave him a “C.” I don’t feel that this accurately reflects my husband’s efforts at all, but in some small way that grade made me feel appreciated for the work I do to keep our family and home life humming. It felt good to be missed.

The next ripple in the pond would be my family of origin. We don’t get to see each other as much as any of us would like, but they are the definition of home to me – a place where I feel completely comfortable and accepted as my most authentic self. I know that I will miss them all someday. I hate saying this, but I recognize the futility in believing that the people I love most in the world will live forever. It makes me want to be a better daughter and sister to them while I still can.

I have friends who would miss me. Not in the same way my family might, but I’d like to imagine they might have a moment when they would think of me and smile – remembering some small kindness or, more likely, a ridiculous story that I shared with them once upon a time. 

Moving farther out toward the edges of the pond, my immediate co-workers and others in the field of prenatal education would miss me if I didn’t show up. I love working with these incredibly gifted and passionate women (and men, too!) who feel the same way that I do about pregnancy, birth and parenting. I love geeking out about new information and feeling a sense of acceptance at my endless curiosity for this subject. After so many years doing this work, I have something to share with them in terms of experience and leadership. I love that I continue to learn so much from them.

And I would hope to be missed by my students – past, present and future. That in some small way, the time we spend together in the classroom means something to them – as it always does for me. Maybe the words that I’ve written here provide comfort. Maybe my readers have found a place where they feel safe and understood. All of my families have graced me with the honor of teaching them and their impact on me has been huge – not just as an educator. Every interaction I have with a couple or Momma about to embark on this parenting journey reminds me of the great vulnerability and connection we all share with one another. It fills me up again and again. I know that I would miss them if I lost the opportunity to teach them about the wonders of pregnancy, birth and parenting.

On the very far edges of the pond, I’d like to believe that there are still ripples that go beyond what I can sense.

Maybe it’s the Season, but this prompt made me think of my all-time favorite holiday movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If you’ve never seen it, please do. It will bring all of this into clear focus: Your life matters much more than you think it does. Your very existence in this world makes a difference. The world would be less, far less if you were not in it. This might come across as grandiose, but I believe it to be true – not just for me, but for everyone. Each one of us, a tiny little pebble tossed into a big , still pond with ripples of impact, circles of influence, change-making waves – if we only sit quietly, long enough to witness the beauty of it all.

What about you? If you stopped doing all of the work you do in this world that impacts others around you – would you be missed? Sometimes just asking the question makes you realize just how valuable you truly are, and that’s a wonderful thing indeed.

And just because you know I love a good song, give this a listen won’t you? It’ll make you smile, I promise.

Meet Barb

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