January 2015

Carol Mathew-Rogers:

A new year . . . new chances to make changes that are satisfying and long-lasting. The optimist within me loves this time of year because there is so much possibility, so many hopes! I make lists; I make plans; I dream of how wonderful life will be when I succeed in all my endeavors. But that pessimist living inside, well, she knows better! How many years have I pledged to 1) lose weight 2) do more art 3) organize my paperwork and 4) clean that darn garage!? Sometimes some of it gets done, I have to admit. I have organized my paperwork and cleaned the garage numerous times, but it never seems to stay that way. And those other resolutions—do they get satisfied? Nope. I still weigh more than I should and I certainly never seem to make the time to create as much as I really want. What is this about? What does it mean? What does this say about me?

I live with this interesting (as in “painful”) dichotomy in my life: on the one hand, I am a natural caretaker. I tend to put the needs of others above my own. I take everyone else into consideration long before I consider what I want. This is a satisfying way to live because I know I am contributing positively to the lives of others. It feels good—it feels right, and all my life I have gotten positive reinforcement for this tendency. I think of myself as a caring, loving person, and that, I have learned, is a good kind of person to be.

On the other hand (and why is there ALWAYS an “other hand?”), I don’t want to be this loving, caring, nurturing person. I want to be selfish. Yes, you read that right—I want to be selfish! Is that so wrong? It sure feels wrong, and yet I long for this in a deep, visceral kind of way. I want to be the person who can say to others “I’m so sorry, I can’t possibly help you out today! I have to lay on my bed today because the sun is streaming onto my pillow and I need my medicinal B vitamins!” I want be someone who can make the choice, without reservation or regret, to spend a whole weekend (not just one hour, or even one day—a whole weekend!) playing with colored pencils and gel pens, doodling to my heart’s content.

My challenge, I realize, is to find the balance between these two different ways of being in the world. Instead of internally fighting with myself, I need to allow the space for both aspects to live and flourish. I recently had someone give me the perfect answer to this dilemma: it’s all about branding! According to this very wise friend, I need to stop thinking about “being selfish” and start “re-centering.” I need accept that it is good for me to choose those activities that bring me back to center, even when those activities are being silent and doing nothing. If I am so skilled at supporting others, then by re-centering, I become the kind of person who can support my own wellbeing. And this, too, is a good kind of person to be!