Question 180 of 365: Are we selfish?

Question 180 of 365: Are we selfish?

I have never liked cavorting. I find the nimble act of careless frolicking to be unnerving. Done within the snow is even more scary. You have to dress for the occasion and know that the people you are with will not laugh at you. The mood is almost never right for frolicking. I can’t have just settled down with a book or ready to go to work. I certainly can’t be half-asleep when it starts to snow and be asked to frolic by my girlfriend in college and feel an amazing need to leave our dorm room with heavy clothes on to go and cavort at two in the morning.

Surely, no one could say that this was selfish. Hopefully, you see that cavorting under the circumstances was not my first choice. How dare she ask me to do that when all I wanted to was sleep. Her understanding of my needs was lacking, which was much of the reason that we broke up after about 7 months of dating. And yet, this was the moment that I realized that I was inherently selfish. That my own needs were above those of people that I loved.

In everything that has happened since, I have been trying to unravel what it is that would cause me to get up and cavort like I want to do it as much as the one I’m with. And more than that, what would cause me to stop doing whatever I am doing and start working with those that I love toward their priorities.

Last night I went out and spent money. Money my family doesn’t have at the moment, at least not for going out without my family. I felt selfish in the act, and even worse in the aftermath. Explaining away the expenditure seems to be as painful as realizing that I didn’t want to frolic with my ex-girlfriend. I realized that my priorities are not the same in that moment as what my wife wants and what my family needs.

That kind of selfishness is excusable sometimes, but I can’t say that it ever feels okay. I may have needed last night, but it was at the expense of what the rest of me (my family) needed. How can I justify that? How can I allow myself to be separated from who I am to simply go after what I want?

I know I will work it out, but if I am honest with myself, I know that I made the wrong decision last night. I’m okay with being wrong, but this is a bad wrong. I can and will learn from it, but why couldn’t I see it before the fact? I saw the separation, but somehow I thought it was justified. It isn’t.

And it makes me wonder about all of the things that we deny and separate out so that we can be selfish for a moment. Keeping in sync with the people that mean more to me than anything else is the only thing that matters. The conference, the meeting, the blog post, and the unending grind of the public sphere is designed to separate us out into our interests and capacities.

The get together will boil us down to our most selfish interests. We network because we want more than we have, even if that is just a good conversation. We meet to advance the things who will become while cutting of a little bit of who we are. We mask the worst of ourselves much of the time because we are envious of this version of ourselves that doesn’t really exist. And that may be healthy for some, but not for me. At least not after last night.

I am selfish, and I know what it costs. It costs me cavorting and frolicking and enjoying the company of the people that will feed my passion. And this is how I know:

Last night was exhausting. Going out for happy hour with my wife gives me energy. That is the kind of cavorting that I need. Those moments that keep me energized are the ways that I know I am not being selfish because I am completely in sync with the other person’s needs. I want to be in sync with my family because they give me the energy to live. And I want to live, without being too selfish.

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  1. Jacqueline L Cahill

    Finding a balance is challenging. Prioritizing and continual reflection is ideal for those of us who are insanely busy…much by choice. We are human – sometimes we make the same mistake more than once. The kicking of ourselves always hurts a little more; however, we oftentimes will learn and generalize the lesson then. You went through a lot of that within this blog. I am curious…did you ask yourself why going out last night was exhausting and expensive rather than energizing and within budget? Were there lessons you could take from that, so that next time you could try a route that will be more effective for you and within budget for your family? I have built a large part of my social life around these ideas…it is amazing how well it helps life flow.

  2. Yeah. I asked myself a lot of questions as I was trying to find a
    context for how I was feeling. I kept on thinking that I had written
    this post before as I was thinking it through. That was a worry
    because I don't want to believe that I make these kinds of mistakes
    too often. But, the thing that I learned most of all was simply that I
    need to reflect before I act and not just after. I am good at asking
    the right questions (I think), but sometimes it only is as a result
    and not as a way to plan. Sometimes, the concrete nature of making the
    right decisions eludes me.

  3. Jacqueline L Cahill

    We all make some mistakes more than once. We're human. For some reason, those are the lessons that are the hardest for us to learn. They stick eventually though. Don't beat yourself up…I just made the same error yet again about a week ago and even thought when I was doing it I think I have learned this lesson and moved forward anyhow. Maybe next time I'll remember. ha ha

  4. Does selfish = weak?
    I don't have an answer to the question, but this makes me ask it. Well done there.
    Being selfish in moments isn't the same as being selfish, no?
    It sounds like you had a moment of selfishness. The thoughtfulness afterward, makes me think you know you're not all-encompassingly selfish.
    You're not, by the way. You know that, right?

  5. Yes. I recognize that for as many mistakes as I make, I am not
    completely selfish and worthless. I just realize how much of a mirror
    that my family represents for me. They let me see everything that is
    wrong and right with the way that I act.

    I would say that selfishness and weakness are good sometimes. They
    don't equal each other, but they definitely intermingle. Personal
    demons don't care how you categorize them, they will take whatever
    form you let them. I used to call these sin, but I don't anymore. I
    didn't sin in spending more money than I should have. I didn't sin in
    forgetting my family for a while. I was selfish and I'm okay with
    having been that. I'm not interested in repeating that exact brand of
    selfishness, but I am interested in being selfish again sometime. For
    that matter, I'm interested in being weak again too.

    Mad World is playing at the coffee shop I'm sitting in. I think that
    is pretty perfect.

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