In a self indulgent world, distortions of reality threaten to taint the essentials that hold our sanity together. The essentials are so much more difficult to recognise these days. This binary lifestyle that we’ve perpetuated for so long now insists that if we take care of ourselves, it must be to the exclusion of taking care of others. Even though I believe there to be truth in that, making such a statement seems like an unfair projection of my gripes on the world.
Setting out on some open road therapy this week, hints of guilt trailed closely behind me. My focus having increasingly shifted to servitude over the years, self indulgence suddenly felt wrong, or blameworthy. Taking time to collect my thoughts, clear the fuzz, and regain my sense of purpose offered the only hope of holding on to what defines my unique contribution to this world.
Self-censure has been rife in recent times. Sometimes because of the futility of expression to an oblivious crowd, but more often because of the taunting accuracy of predictable outcomes. Hope flirts on the edges of such trends and promises a break in the cycle, but that break is never self-realising. It takes an active contribution or effort to break a cycle.
It’s like the waves that I see breaking over each other. Those washing up against the shore full of energy and motivation to reach the land as they crash and subdue the residual of the ones that went before. The ones that went before spread out lazily on the beach, aerated and foaming with delight at their achievements, then losing momentum from the complacency of their arrival only to recede in order to make way for the next wave of enthusiasm. And each time I saw this cycle repeat itself I was reminded of the lapping ripples of the Mediterranean off the island of Kerkennah. Peaceful and uninspiring, but so easily disrupted. A thrashing run through the waves I saw before me now would leave no trace even before my feet would reach the sand beneath it, while a casual stomp through the ripples on that island would see my footprints left in the sand beneath the water. Even if only for a while before the complacent lapping erased its presence while restoring the order of the ages.
Life plays out in the cycles we disrupt every day. Without a critical mass of support, we’re no more than a bad wind drifting out to sea. Sometimes we impose ourselves as rocks of confidence and guidance as we watch the waves shape around us. But there are too few rocks and too many waves. Being such a lighthouse of fortitude can be taxing, but only as long as we expect the waves to stop pounding and instead to become ripples that caress our foothold.
Abstracts aside, taking care of me threatens to become a central theme in my life if I lose focus as to why being me is important. It’s not important because of a need to prevail. It’s important because I provide, or at least seek to provide a counter balance to the insanity I see crashing down around me. The moment I stop serving a purpose larger than me, and I start serving me only, I add to that stench that I so revile.
Taking care of me becomes more difficult as my awareness grows of what plays out around me. It’s easy to dismiss my contribution towards those that are obstinate in their distraction or defeatism, because I can easily justify it by focusing on the quick-wins instead. The ones that are hungry for change, for advice, for support, and so much more. But I’m always faced with the blunt truth when I shy away from the tough ones. Am I turning away to preserve my ego, or am I turning away because my time would really be better invested in one that will embrace my contribution? In fact, isn’t there a threat of ego-preservation in that as well?
Egos, expectations, trust, and betrayal. It’s all part of how we express our happiness or dismay at the world. None of us are immune to its ill effects so be sure never to trust one that claims to have risen above it. The challenge is in being able to reflect and recognise the influences that each have on our choices. If we do, we stand a chance of living purposefully, rather than defensively. Without an ego, a leader will not step up to lead the masses out of a sorry state, and without expectations, followers will not look to leaders for guidance. Everything has its place. It’s when we allow it out of its place and let it prevail where it shouldn’t, that is when we lose sight of ourselves, and taking care of me suddenly becomes denying the rights of others in favour of me.
We all need some self-indulgence sometime. Even for the one that has it all. When you find yourself awkward in your own company without any distractions or company to keep you occupied, when your thoughts scratch the insides of your skull or gnaw at your rib cage, and your instinctive response is to get busy with something, anything…when that is the state you find yourself in, know with certainty that you have not taken care of yourself. You have only distracted yourself from the reality you wish to avoid.
[Another incomplete thought process to add to the collection.]