I have had a fair bit of time off the last few months. This has been a stark contrast to the 8 months before. I was teaching, counselling, care-giving, parenting and running around like a frantic chicken. I wasn’t sure which way was up. It took a toll on my physical and mental health. It also took a toll on my relationships. I didn’t spend time with people that are close to me. As a result some people in my life were left feeling unimportant, left out and ignored. I felt like I was just putting out fires rather than actually living my life.
I have taken a lot of time to decompress these last few months. I have been able to get to a few household projects that I’ve ignored for years. I have been able to run, read and visit with friends. I deserved this time. More accurately perhaps is that I needed it. Still I often feel guilty and selfish.
I find that in my practice I am often encouraging people to slow down, and take better care of themselves. I tell them that it is okay to be selfish. I often need to take my own advice. I’m not surprised that is takes my clients a while to hear it. I often ignore it too.
On the other hand I also see the danger of being self-absorbed. If we only ever look to our own needs than we will end up living in a heartless, cold world. A world where my needs and wants outweigh the needs and wants of others. It is a place of disconnection and isolation rather than a place of compassion and empathy.
It is an interesting balancing act. How do we find the line between self-care and self-absorbed? How can I be the best I can be without alienating others?
There are tell tale signs when I am giving too much of myself. I feel disconnected. I use my phone to kill time rather than as a tool to help me in my life. I cannot focus and jump from task to task without ever accomplishing anything. I lose patience. I get frustrated. I feel pressured with the “needs” of others. I get resentful of all the things people want or expect from me. I just don’t feel like myself. It isn’t pretty.
When I am more focused on self-care, I have better boundaries. I am more present to those around me. I am gracious with the people in my life. I am compassionate and understanding. I give of myself more openly. I am more grateful. I have perspective.
To me the answer is in connection. I need to feel connected to people, to the world and to nature. Most of all I need to feel connected with myself. That is what slowing down and being selfish does for me. It helps me connect.
Ultimately acting more selfishly, makes me less selfish.