Lately I have been thinking a lot about balance.
Balance and perspective.
And as with most things in life these recurring themes have come at me from varied, unusual and seemingly unconnected sources; Dolly Parton, my mom and two children’s books I recently read titled Zen Shorts and Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth.
I have been grappling with these ideas in relation to the notion of selfishness. What does it mean to be ‘selfish’? Can we say another person is being ‘selfish’ without understanding the motives behind an action? Is it sometimes right and proper to be ‘selfish’ when it is necessary to continue one’s sense of well being?
Here are some scenerios…
I have a friend who used to work out regularly and would sometimes say that he couldn’t do such and such because he had to work out. Sometimes this would interfere with my plans and I would think “how selfish”. I figured he should be available to do as I wanted because he could work out anytime. But you know my perspective on that has changed greatly as I have gotten older. Because really, who was being selfish in that situation?
I have come to understand that taking care of ourselves and attending to the needs of our bodies and spirits is not at all selfish. If our bodies or spirits are lacking in some way, for instance either due to illness or depression, how can we then be available to others?
I read an interview with Dolly Parton this morning in which she spoke about the fact that she is not always happy but that she tries to be happy most of the time. In the article it became clear to me that although she is pushed and pulled every which way, by all kinds of folks, it is her inner strength and truth that allows her to be there for others and carry on. Dolly taking care of Dolly is not selfish, it is necessary to keep the machine running.
It is interesting that I should even have to debate this whole issue because growing up my mom was never big on laying down guilt. She was always intuitive enough to realize that her children had their own lives to live but that we would also continue to come back to home base when needed.
My mom always allowed us to be who we are. No judgements, no guilt. And she trusted that we would (and could) follow our inner Jiminy Cricket down the right path.
She understood that we needed to explore, learn, make mistakes and tend to our desires and needs. Unlike some parents she let us do just that. And through our teen years, when many children act out against their parents, we remained solid and loving towards one another.
Conversely, I have seen what can happen when individuals are not allowed to be ‘selfish’. Those perfect persons who constantly ignore their own needs in order to fulfill everyone else’s wishes usually end up paying the price in some way. They can become physically or mentally ill because they can not keep up the pace.
There must be balance; a balance between taking care of others and taking care of ourselves, a balance between meeting our responsibilities and finding time for ourselves.
It was in reading Zen Shorts and Zen Ties that this all came together for me. In simple terms these books bring the message of inner peace and looking inward. These are messages that my mom has always allowed us to live, although they were not necessarily spoken of.
I am grateful that I can begin to understand what it means to be ‘selfish’ in the very best ways so I can be there for others. I am
grateful that I can begin to understand that those who accuse and judge others are not quite there yet so I can release my desire to slap them silly and have some compassion.
And I am grateful that I have the opportunity to experience all of this, that I can question, that I can grow and that I can still shake my head in wonder.