Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How does one define their usefulness?

My pseudo-manic/depression has me thinking a lot about how I got to where I am today. Not so much the stuff that happened to me but the effect it had on who me is. It's a corollary to the eternal question, "Why am I here?" My question is, "Of what use am I?"

First, we should define "use" and "useful" in the context of this post. If you ask someone what they do, the responses will invariably be their job or career or social status. Things along the line of; "I am a truck driver." "I am an accountant." "I am a super model, and, why are you even talking to me?" "I'm a teacher." "I'm a mother."

All the things that we do in life define us. But they are not the exclusive definition. There are many other things that help define who we are. How we got to this moment in time. And what it is we expect to be doing in the foreseeable future. All of this is affected by your life experience. Your upbringing. Your socioeconomic status. Your religion, race, gender. All of this put together make up who we are.

But this isn't an indication of one's usefulness in life, is it? What is it that we can point to to say this is a useful person. (I am reminded of Sir Topham Hatt telling Thomas the Tank Engine that he was a very useful engine). I have always felt that a very useful person is one who can have a positive effect on others lives. Not necessarily something as spectacular as saving a drowning man. My father was one such man. He lived his life and everywhere he went he had a positive effect on everyone he knew. It might have been a small thing; a few moments listening to a student. Maybe some advice to not play football at West Point and concentrate on the Olympics (Alonzo!)

For most of my life I felt I was less than everyone else. Due to many physical and environmental factors I grew up with an inferiority complex the size of the Superdome. During the 80's I worked hard to bring it down to a small bubble. This then opened up a world to me. I had friends, I was listened to and often sought out for advice. And she I got into all this high-end techie stuff I became someone who spent as much time helping/teaching others as doing my own coding. I gained a reputation as the guy you can go to if you're stuck on something. During the 90's with the explosion of the Internet, I became someone who could do things on a global scale. Granted, I wasn't a household name or quoted in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. But I knew people and they knew me. And they knew I could be counted on to help in whatever they needed (if I my swiss cheese brain forget, that is).

But what of now? Who and what am I? I'm an unemployed, homeless single father who's life should be revolving around his son but is instead being crushingly dominated by pain. Because of this I feel, whether justified or not, that I have no useful purpose in this world. I'm barely a father; more like a lump of clay. I can't even help out with the shopping or cooking or laundry anymore. Family and friends have told me often that I am a real help and that they think of me a useful. But them telling me this doesn't change the black vortex inside my chest. Nor does it quell the constant loop running through my head of me lying on the couch staring at the TV for the rest of my life.

See, until I know that I am useful, nothing else matters. That's why the possibility of doing techie stuff in the near future plus the formation of a plan that I could actually stick to (hell, it'd be a great achievement if I can just start the damned thing) has brought me back from the brink of total despair. Well, at least one step back.

I still need to call a psychotherapist for an appointment. Got three names/numbers on Monday but keep putting off calling. I just don't feel like dealing with anything.

At all.

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