Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Healthy Selfishness


It has only been for the past few months that I've understood on a fairly deep level that I have the right to be who I am.

Sound familiar?

It seems it is mostly women who get caught in this spiral, the belief that we should be all things to all people and even all things to all things.

While I am not caught up in the guilt spiral, I did get caught up in the belief that if I was going to be "good", I was going to be exceptionally good. That meant finding any and all possible hammers in my personal belief system and using them to beat myself up for not being "perfect" enough.

If I was going to be a good Buddhist, as an example, I should put the Dalai Lama to shame. I should be perfectly patient, perfectly serene, never state a preference, never *want* anything, especially anything from anyone else. I should never get angry, sad, frustrated and I should certainly never set a boundary on anyone else's behavior. I should never make a judgment and never turn anyone away.

It doesn't work. I doubt even the Buddha himself was quite so self-sacrificing. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, he did exactly what he wanted to do, exactly the way he wanted to do it.

The first truly selfish thing I ever did was to admit that I could no longer live the way I was in 2004 (journal entry from that time in the previous post). I used the medical system (legitimately) to get out of it. I got out of it to save my life. My life. No one else's. My life was valuable enough to do that.

[.....]

And then believed it was necessary to make penance for the rest of my life for the degree of happiness I found as a result of the freedom it allowed me. I was let out of one prison but began serving a sentence in a new prison.

I'm coming to realize that happiness is the natural state, not the one we only get as an occasional reward for being lowly, self-sacrificing and living small. Happiness is something we cultivate within ourselves, something we adopt as a way of life. It is not dependent on other people or cirumstances. It is healthy selfishness, along with generosity. Generosity without happiness is martyrdom.

It is the recognition that we have the right to be ourselves while not harming others. It's the willingness to admit that we can't be all things to all people. That's not even such a noble goal after all. Happiness (contentment) is a freedom all its own. It is probably the truest freedom there is.

We are here to be happy. We are here to be content. We are here to tell the truth. We are here to choose that. And I do. I take baby steps, learning how to assimilate who I am with what I have to offer.

In case you didn't see it, there was a comment last night from Heartsinsanfrancisco which I think is worth quoting here. It really says it all.

"As Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Our life's songs are meant to be sung, so sing yours today and for all the days when you could not. "


~*

18 comments:

LittlePea said...

"sing yours today" Yeah. That's it for me. Happiness truly is a freedom but I feel it's one we have to choose. Sometimes it's the hardest choice to make.

Carla said...

The comment definitely was worth quoting. And your observations are also present a truth that many of us need to contemplate. Thanks.

Sherry said...

I do believe you've got it! LOL...happiness is a choice, and I agree it is what we are supposed to be most all the time. It is not something we can seek, it is something we are. When we stop seeking we have it. And by the way, that's one of my all time favorite Thoreau quotes! I sadly believe it is very true.

flutter said...

amen.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Agreed. And wonderful quote from San Fran...

Woman in a Window said...

I happen to agree with you whole heartedly!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

If only everyone realized that happiness is the natural state, not the occasional reward for being self-effacing enough. Everything you've said here makes me want to stand and cheer - for all of us who have been a bit slow in realizing these very important truths.

Thank you for a really wise post!

painted maypole said...

so glad to be experiencing your song

Anvilcloud said...

I believe that happiness is a choice although I also believe that it's innately more for some people to make that choice. I'm glad you're able to make that choice.

Border Explorer said...

Profound and important reflections.

I do notice that my husband seems to be much better at not trying to be "all things to all people" than I am. I don't suppose that people pleasing is gender specific, but I do think women are more vulnerable to it.

Cecilieaux said...

This was a good response from your new self to your old self in the last post.

It's odd that we touch on similar themes from different angles today (see http://cecilieaux.blogspot.com/2009/06/right-to-be-sad-and-jobless.html). We're serendipitously in a kind of synch.

Olivia said...

I love where you are on this Sacred Sunday, Chani! I'm going to let this marinate today and write a post of my own inspired by this. xo, O

Leann said...

I am on a path to figure out how to find the happiness I know I deserve. I spend a lot of time trying to be what others think I should be.

Kelly (conversemomma) said...

That quote is one of my favorites, that we may contribute our own aria or off-key tune, that we may sing it in concert halls, or the silence of abandoned rooms. The purpose is to sing it.

starrlife said...

Hooray for Chani!

hele said...

so true. so beautiful. it makes me reach out and invite happiness in.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Well said. I pray that, at the minimum, each generation grows a bit.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

"It is the recognition that we have the right to be ourselves while not harming others. "

I needed to read this. Thank you.

Since I've started pursuing sketching in the last few months (taking up a passion I abandoned 35 years ago), I have been struggling with lots and lots of guilt and self-doubt. Trying to work my way through it. Reading posts like this keep me going on my journey.