When I was in school, I remember being told, “Matter is the building block of life.” Over and over, I heard, “Everything around you is made of matter.”
As I grasped that concept, I realized that yes, matter truly is all around us. It is the miniscule atoms that create our houses, our couches, our pets, our own beings. You can’t argue that it is everywhere.
But there’s another type of matter. The kind that means “to be of importance.” It’s much more ethereal and harder to pinpoint, but is importance everywhere? We all have matter within us, but do we feel that we matter?
As I was drinking my coffee on this second snow day in a row, I picked up my roommate’s college magazine that arrived in the mail yesterday. Flipping through the pages, I found an article about intimacy and relationships. The author wrote, “Common to all of the intimate relationships in my life is the one central and abiding fact: that I have the distinct feeling that I matter to the other person” (Kerry Cronin).
Which got me thinking about my own relationships and the relationships I’ve seen through my friends. The ones that leave me feeling fulfilled and happy are the ones where I know, without a doubt, that I matter to the other person. They care about me not for what I can offer them, not for what I can do for them, but because they simply love me for me. On the other side of the spectrum, reflecting on friendships that I’ve let fade throughout the years through this lens gives me more clarity as well. I’ve tried to think about why I didn’t enjoy time with those people, what happened to change between us, and struggled to pinpoint it. This author nailed it in one single sentence. I felt like they didn’t care about me, and our relationship was more about what I was for them – an open ear, a sympathetic audience, a body so they weren’t alone.
And then I take this in a different direction. Thinking about myself or friends who were in romantic relationships. When those relationships teetered out eventually, we thought it was for different reasons – lack of communication, busyness, different circumstances, whatever excuse we decided to throw on it. While these may have been true, there was one deeper reason: the other person didn’t care about their partner as a person. Instead, they were a means to some end. An end to loneliness. To pass the time. To fulfill some idiotic social standard of being in a relationship.
Then I think about times when I might have been the one to forget to show someone that they matter to me. Treating others as a means to an end because I had my own agenda. Wanting to get home earlier, and so I don’t ask a coworker about their life; instead, forgoing that to make my request of them and get out of there. Being distracted and thinking about my ever-growing to-do list as I check out at the grocery store and blankly watching the cashier as they bag my groceries, instead of engaging them as a person. Zoning out as I talk to a relative on the phone, instead of giving them my entire attention.
I want those in my life to care about me. We all do. That’s the easy side – knowing that we crave and deserve that. My focus for this week? To make sure those around me truly know that I care about them. Easier said than done, to be sure, but as I tell my kiddos, “If life were easy, it’d be boring.”
Time to go spread some love.