Today has been tough for me. I’m feeling anxious about my condo/financial situation. I’m feeling like my life is out of control. (And you know I’m not good at lack of control.) But perhaps worst of all, I’m feeling like there is just too much to process and understand in this life.
Call it writer/poet sensitivity. But it’s real. Were I Hemingway, I’d be rip-roaring drunk by now. Instead, I stay up until 5:00 in the morning reading and writing. Then I sleep all day feeling guilty about doing nothing, but feeling too overwhelmed to go out and do.
This is my life now.
I left DC because I wanted to find and live my truest self. I wanted to be separate from what was familiar and to write truthfully without the influence of friends, social constructs, and expectations. I’m not sure I’m doing that. And that’s where the angst comes from tonight.
Though I am calm. I feel disconnected from myself, from my mission. I feel listless.
But besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?
In my recent reflections, I have made two harsh realizations about myself.
1.) Turns out I am selfish.
Maybe not in an obvious, self-serving way. But most of what I do is, in fact, to serve myself. On this journey, I am not helping and serving others. I am on a one-woman mission to understand and accept myself. I am not teaching or reaching others. I am complaining about my life, online, in the most public, attention-seeking way possible: a blog! What I’m learning and writing may or may not be useful to anyone else. But I can no longer pretend that it’s some selfless attempt to better the world.
My friend and business partner, Monty*, started the awakening by calling me out about my side-business. I had a sale before I left offering discounts and free samples. But the truth is, I wasn’t helping anyone but myself. And it was obvious. I was looking for charity. Ultimately, my products did end up helping another friend who wanted and needed the inventory. But I also got some of my money back from the purchases so it was not selfless.
My awakening continued as I watched my good friend, Rebecca*, build and launch her website. Sure, she also wants to make money, but she’s started her business because she genuinely wants to help others and give back what she, herself, has learned.
My eyes were opened even more on my trip to McLeod Ganj in Himalchal Pradesh in India. When I finally went to volunteer at LHA. Here were people with nothing but a desire for my time and conversation and I could only be bothered to make it there once. And I hadn’t even sought it out myself, a fellow traveler had found it and told me about it. He was there for two days and had already found a way to give back. I had been there over a week – knowing there were Tibetan refugees – and I didn’t even think to look or ask how I could help.
The last wake up call was today. Tomas* called to talk right at the tail-end of terse negotiations with a maid I had hired to clean my flat where I was staying in Pune. Due to language barriers, there had been a misunderstanding about payment. She had thought I was hiring her full-time rather than just to clean the one day. And then she was upset at what I was offering to pay her. I was still in the midst of the emotion when Tomas called so I complained to him for five minutes about my frustrations with lack of communication in India. I lamented, “And the thing is, I’m only doing it to be nice! I don’t need to have internet installed or the house cleaned, but I thought it would be nice for my friends." Tomas called me out saying I couldn’t complain about trying to do something nice when I was the one benefiting from my acts.
Shit if he wasn’t right. Yes, they happened to be kind gestures to my friends, but in reality, they profited me more and certainly more immediately.
Turns out I am a “selfish bitch” like my mother always claimed.
But now what to do with this information? Is there nothing in my life which I do out of pure love and kindness?
The only thing that comes to mind right away is the time I picked up a friend from the side of the road after his bicycle tire blew. I had another friend over and we were making lunch together. I had limited time and knew we would already be rushed. But I also knew my other friend had no one else to come help him. So I went.
Another thing that comes to mind is my mentoring a girl I used to tutor. I am no longer paid to have big-sister chats with her, so I talk to her and guide her out of love.
But I realize more and more that all of the good things I think about doing for others, I never actually do. I am generous in my heart and in my thoughts, but I am extremely selfish in my life and in my actions.
So how does one go about changing one’s entire character?
How does one become kind, compassionate, and selfless after thirty years of living a different way?
This is where I find myself this afternoon floored by my own selfishness. But the good thing is, at least now I know. And when we know better, we do better.
“I had some ambition. I meant everything to be different with me. I thought I had more strength and mastery. But the most terrible obstacles are such as nobody can see except oneself.” ~George Eliot in Middlemarch
2.) Turns out I am lazy.
Maybe not in the couch-potato, reject all physical activity and never make productive decisions kind of way, but I do not actively seek events, hobbies, or activities. I am 100% content these past few weeks to lay around all day writing, reading, sleeping, and most times just staring blankly into space while I work things out in my head. Doing nothing for two weeks straight – not to mention the two months of doing nothing before heading out on my journey – a probably a good definition of lazy.
I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about it because I designed this trip to be about nothing. I’m not slacking on responsibilities or missing meetings or neglecting relationships or anything. I just feel useless and embarrassed when others ask me what I’m doing here. And I’ve got nothing. Nothing but writing, reading, and sleeping. No work. No giving back. No social interaction. Just nothing.
It’s not that I’m agoraphobic. When I leave the house, I feel fine. In fact, because I haven’t been going anywhere at all lately, just exiting the house feels like a major accomplishment. But overcoming the inertia – the mental block in my head – of what to do once I get out there is sometimes too hard. So I stay home… all day… thinking… but not doing.
Am I supposed to be doing more? Surely the responsible thing to do is find paying work or volunteer work. But then I’d be tied to a place, a routine, a job. And for some reason that doesn’t sit well with me.
What is the job that excites my soul? Where is the talent or skill I cannot help but share? What am I even doing here… if not nothing?
Ultimately, since I am out on my own for the first time ever in my life – without anyone to look after, without anyone to answer to, without anyone to worry about – it feels right to just go with the flow and see where I end up. It doesn’t feel irresponsible to do things I might normally be embarrassed to admit to doing because that is kind of the point of this journey.
To let go of embarrassment.
To release self-judgment.
To embrace where life and the universe are leading me.
All of these goals are an attempt to rediscover what I seem to have never learned, or maybe I’ve just forgotten along the way: Selfish and lazy or not, I am enough.