I don’t know that I have advice, but I hear you. I can sympathize by being driven by the fear of irrelevance! My great fear was that I wouldn't be needed, which is almost the same thing, and that I might be revealed as a fraud. So, I get it.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe at one point you told me one of the most unhealthy needs you have is this driving need to matter? Which seems to fit into the irrelevance category. They go together.
I think it's good to matter. It's good to be needed. But when those needs drive us, and determine the life we live, they seem to be unquenchable drives, resulting in burn out.
The good news is, they make us face the reality that nothing we can do on our own will ever make us matter or be needed enough - which I know, scares you.
I think much of this stems from not knowing who we truly are.
I almost wonder, excuse me as I muse a bit, if that’s kind of the point. Maybe not doing enough is the realization we are supposed to come to. Maybe?
When we come to that realization it seems like we are left with one of three options: (1) keep white knuckling it and do more of what we were doing before that allowed us to experience momentary 'enoughness' (which I believe is our societal norm). (2) Throw in the towel and become a shell of a person. (3) Or realize that maybe, just maybe, the divine, or the universe, or the great energy, or whatever a person believes is directing this whole thing was moving us to this realization in a very subversive way?
Maybe there’s no way we would embrace the second half of life or downward mobility, if we didn’t come to the end of ourselves, especially in our society, that values nothing if it isn’t supporting expansion and upward mobility.
Maybe, like Christ said, to truly live is to die! Maybe along that same paradox, we have to experience some sort of death of what we thought defined our “enoughness”, or what some have called the “created-self” or “social-self” to realize, at our point of weakness, we are actually crossing the threshold into the true journey of life.
I wonder if the true-self that we are supposed to enjoy being is found on the path of downward mobility? Do we not have to experience the shallowness of 'success', to be willing to take this path? Often in dealing with addicts, people say, "they won't change until they hit rock bottom". I wonder if the reverse is true for those of us who are addicted to things like success and accomplishment. We won't really engage in the quest for the true self if we don't hit the top...only to find out that all that work resulted in not being enough. This may not be true globally, but in our society of privilege and plenty, it may be exactly what is happening to us. We have to come to a point of crisis to even recognize the right way to go.
Anyway, on another note, I think you hit on something in the portion of your letter where you discuss exercises you would intentionally do to scare yourself, “in order to make sure that” you “are not giving into fear.” Through this journey, I have done a lot of study on resilience theory, and personally, I love Laurence Gonzales’ Surviving Survival, and he actually talks a lot about this, he talks about the need to continually “recreate yourself”, by doing just what you are talking about. Sometimes it is personally putting your self in small uncomfortable situations that you are not familiar with, other times, it’s up and moving, in order to almost, induce a sort of panic, because your old way of being no longer works, thus your old mental maps begin to be deconstructed, and you begin to make new ones, that actually betters who you are as a person (i.e. France or Farm Town). I say all that, to simply confirm what you are saying, and encourage you to keep on that road!
But know this:
We are enough.
I have more to say, but I have to run...I'll write soon!