Selfishness versus self-regard and the power of the written word
When I’m down, I truly don’t know what to do but write. I don’t know how better to process and excise feelings of crappiness, loneliness, anger, worry, frustration. Interestingly, but perhaps commonly, it is the negative feelings which need expression in written rather than spoken form. When I’m happy or excited, I want nothing more than a good song to dance to or a good friend with an open ear. For me, at least, that’s why periods of gloom feel especially lonely; not only have I learned over the years that most people don’t actually want to hear about your sadness, rough day or true challenge, but also, words often escape those feelings which run counter to simple happiness.
Social media has both ameliorated and made more acute these worlds-apart poles. A person you knew from long ago but haven’t seen in years or even an individual you’ve never actually met is as likely to provide you the love and support you need and want as is the person you see daily or people you consider your closest friends. I am struck, in those moments, by how awful it feels when a good friend not a mile down the street doesn’t respond to my struggle or sadness but how comforted I am by someone far away, perhaps a stranger in a non-virtual world, who writes with concern and care and an “I get it!”
At the end of the day, this is why I continue writing Em-i-lis. I am a multi-faceted woman who loves to eat, cook, drink, mother, garden and live, but who also knows what it is like to feel alone in each or all of those endeavors. As such, if, through my writing, I can help even one other person feel less alone, less scared, less shitty, more supported, more validated, then my daily (almost) shares/vents/musings/opines are completely worth it.
Over the past few months, I have spent a good deal of time assessing the very real amount of time, each day, I have and how best I can, should and want to spend it. Giving of myself to unappreciative others just doesn’t fit in this equation anymore, and it is with a real sense of loss that I decided that. It is in my nature -and it is how I think the world would optimally function- to interact with the many communities of which I’m part with an open spirit; to do as much for them as I can; to give to them thoughtfully and generously; to serve as a Gore-tex thread in the quilt each is. I say this in the humblest and sincerest of ways; seeking laudatory acknowledgement is not my style. But some degree of self-preservation is, and as my life progresses, I realize more and more what there is and is not room and energy for.
It’s taken a long while for me to understand the difference between selfishness and self-regard. The former ignores the needs and value of others while the latter urges you not to forget the YOU. At BlogHer, we were encouraged to consider why we were, each of us, doing what we were: who was deciding the parameters of success we each tried to meet? Before he died, Steve Jobs urged us all not just to live life but to create a life in which others could live: who’s to say your or my sense of what best constitutes living isn’t the way to go?
And so, as I wonder if I’m over-sensitive, if I spend too much time trying to make the life I’m living meaningful and valuable and really worth something, I come back to this: if you don’t feel, deep down, that you are what you most want to be, regardless of whether or not that makes or loses you friends or popularity, then perhaps you -I!- need to reconsider what you give to and ask of others and the world around you.