Sunday, December 30, 2012

Unselfishly Selfish

We have a problem in our culture. We seem to believe that doing what's best for ourselves is somehow selfish. Why should I get enough sleep, eat well, have some solitary quiet time, do something that makes me happy when I could be focusing entirely on putting that energy everywhere else? We have effectively bred a culture that feels it must always be on the go, expending every last bit of energy, but for what? To make more money? To have a bigger nicer house? To have a prestigious career? To make sure everyone else's expectations are met? To appear to have the perfect marriage and family?  To look like we're invincibly happy when we're utterly miserable? We're always busy and yet, somehow, still get nothing done.

I had a conversation with my good friend and trainer about her sister who found out she has stage 4 breast cancer who is doing unbelievably (some may even call it miraculously) well, and we discussed how something like that literally forces you to stop and really look at what's important. When boiled down, it doesn't matter how many hours you've worked, how many committees you're on, or how much "stuff" you're doing. Those things aren't going to sustain you when all else falls away. We all believe she is healing because she stopped and realized that she needed to spend more time taking care of herself- all of those seemingly "easy" things like resting, eating well, and exercising are imperative to improving not only our physical, but our mental health. Additionally, and arguably most importantly, she's spending more time with her family. When our lives seem as though they're falling apart, it's the people we love and who love us in return that matter most. I hope that the question I will ask myself at the end of my life will be, "Did I love to the best of my ability?" And even more, I hope that the answer is an unwavering confident, "Yes."

None of this really sounds selfish when you stop and actually think about it, but why then do we feel pangs of guilt  when we ignore the emails and phone calls from work when we're spending time with our families, or when we decide to take an hour at the gym and say, "I should be accomplishing (fill in the blank) task."? There will always be a million and one expectations and "shoulds" hanging over our heads, but if your rationalization begins with "I should..." stop and ask yourself why. Why should you? Why should you sacrifice your one and only life to the things that matter least? Because you want to and it will contribute to a richer more meaningful life that bring you and those you love joy? Or because the ominous -They- expect it of you? 

Over the years, I've learned that we need to learn to be unselfishly selfish. We need to learn to say 'no' to what isn't a positive contributor to our lives and accept only what brings out the best in us, and in turn, we inevitably will bring out the best in who and what surrounds us. 

It's becoming increasingly important that we learn to slow down, be less busy, and love every.single.precious.moment. We can have a glimpse into immortality when we are entirely present in the the here and now because every moment is of infinite worth. 

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