October 27, 2016

What About Me?

This morning I went to my kitchen and was horrified at what I saw. Two baking pans, covered with the crusty, dried remains of last night's dinner. And in the sink, several forks and spoons, with bits and pieces of food particles slowing drying on them. A knife coated in peanut butter, the horror! The dishwasher, only inches away, was partially filled with dirty dishes, but had plenty of room to hold these items...should someone have felt the need to load them in. 

My husband, who had only been in the kitchen moments before, failed to tidy up anything. In fact, it probably didn't register with him that it needed tidying. We're different that way, in the things we notice. 

So I naturally did what any normal person would do. I started cleaning up, banging the dishes around loudly in the sink, hoping he'd at least hear me and feel guilty because I was having to do it. 

Are we a mess or what? When I say "we" I'm not even referring to my husband and me, although our house sometimes teeters between a state of slightly messy and "what just exploded in here." 

When I say we're a mess, I mean we as humans. As I was washing the peanut butter off a knife I had not used, feeling deeply wounded at the unfairness of it all, I had to laugh at myself. So ridiculous. 

What's the big deal about doing something kind or helpful for somebody else? In this case, how did tidying up my husband's dishes become such a monumental issue that I would actually be offended to get stuck with the task? 

It all comes down to this: What about me? 

I'm so quick to see only myself, my own wants and needs, my own sense of what should be. I would think nothing of having my husband clean up after me. Or perform some other task that might make my life easier, less hectic, more fun. Because it's all about me, right? Not! But sometimes it feels like that. 

Like there isn't going to be enough for me. Enough what exactly? Enough time, enough energy, enough recognition, enough acceptance, the list goes on. 

We're so wrapped up in our own little worlds, players in our own dramas and comedies. We build our sets, painstakingly curating our homes and other surroundings with all manner of things we think bring us joy. We toil and trouble ourselves to get everything just perfect. And we carefully cast each show with supporting characters who will bring just the right dramatic overtones and comedic timing. But be not mistaken about one important thing: we are the star. And it all must revolve around us, a perfect backdrop against which we can shine. 

It kind of sounds pathetic when you think about it like that. 

This idea of dying to ourselves is a big part of Christianity. One of my very favorite Bible verses is from Galatians...for I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 

Even if you don't profess a Christian faith, or any faith at all, the idea of selfishness is pretty much universally seen as rotten and not any way we should be. 

I don't think we ever set out to be selfish. But somewhere along the way, our experiences and the messages we receive make us feel like we aren't getting our fair shake. Like everybody else is having it better than us. And this is infuriating because aren't we're entitled to our piece of the pie? So we focus on ourselves and don't even realize we're doing it. Until we're banging dishes around trying to shame our spouse for the fact that the kitchen needed tidying up. 

And the most ironic part of all is that I wouldn't have had this moment of clarity had I not been standing in front of the sink, quietly contemplating things, giving my soul a moment to breathe and reflect, all the while washing dishes in the first place. 

Nobody is perfect. I have done bad things in my life. I've hurt people. And I've been selfish. And I've missed out on things that could have really blessed my heart because I was too busy worrying about getting my fair shake. I don't believe this is something we ever get free from as long as we are living on earth. It's a daily struggle to remember what's important, and to let go of the rest. 

It's something I'm working on. That doesn't mean I don't have my moments of "What about me?" But I have found the cure for this to be doing something for somebody else. Not an act of obligation, but giving purely and freely out of the abundance of the heart. In that place, there's no room for selfish anything.