Monday, December 9, 2013

To thy own self be true, or…


Following ones heart or intuition.

I was brought up in a generation where we were more or less taught (if not verbally, certainly by example and implication) that most everyone else’s needs came before ours: that the polite thing to do was to be accommodating; that we “owed” a lot to anyone in the family or close circle of friends and to be available – always – for others.

I am either growing up, or growing more egotistical.
I should have (note the should – although I am trying to follow someone else’s suggestion of replacing “should” with “could”, I am often not very successful – yet another blog) made a trip to be with my in-laws this week – celebrating an important birthday with my sister-in-law.  A 7-hour train ride each way and a few days there.

Recent events (some too horrible to write about), however, have gotten me down and I was starting to resent having (again note the “have” instead of “could” or “privilege”) to go; to putting on a cheerful face when I am not in the slightest inclined to do so; to putting others (perceived?) comfort before my own; in short to sublimating my own feelings in the service of sparing others.

After a long discussion yesterday with my younger son and his girlfriend, of their repeating back to me what I was articulating, of judicious questions as to why I felt the way I did, there were a couple of remarks that had me thinking, in particular when my son said, “Mom why don’t you apply what you have taught us? Listen to yourself, believe in your feelings – whether others agree or not, your own thoughts are important and you should come number one in your own plans”.

Now, was the phone call to my in-laws to say that I wasn’t coming easy? No. Did all the attempts to make me feel guilty (“I was so looking forward to it, everyone will be there, we may never all be together again”)work?  Yes. However, I held firm, knowing that someone who was liable to get teary at many remarks or thoughts was not going to add to the party. That, at this point in my life, I couldn’t spare the week just to please someone else, be they ever so close and that for once I needed to take care of myself.

I will go in the spring when my older son has time and can accompany me.
If it is not the perfect solution, it is a compromise in between other’s needs and mine.
Selfish? Some will see it that way. In my present mood I choose to label it Self-preservation. Remember, one can only be as good to others, as one is to oneself.

This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare, 'Hamlet,' Act I, Scene iii

Ceramic heart from Harmony, California