Where were we?
So many ways I wanted to begin this blog post. So many lessons earned though internal and external struggles, many insights born out of the self awareness I continue to engage with life through. All of which I am yearning to share with you, one content offering at a time.
For now I want to simply begin by telling you about this deep contentment I feel for where I am. Not much has changed in my life, it still offers similar levels of challenges and triumphs. But I have an ever strengthening sense of iron clad will power in me, made sturdy through willfully practicing the repetition of burning down into and rising up from the ashes.
What ashes? You ask?
I'm talking about the pile of us, the piles we turn into after some seasons of life leave us exhausted, burnt out, resentful, confused, misaligned, unmotivated and lost.
I had such a summer.
In addition to the many hats I wear in my life, I gleefully agreed to invite and host my sister and her family of 4 at our home for the summer. Mind you, our home already had 8 human beings ages ranging from 6 months to 65 years cohabiting in it. As a good selfless immigrant woman raised with christian values and one who doesn't get to see her family living in a far away place she once called home, I did not even offer myself a choice.
The plan was to sustain myself as I went about giving selfless service to each of the 11 people who needed something from me. I was going to go to sleep late and rise up early after waking up to feed and settle my baby however many times the night required of me. I was going to cook meals that well nourished and equally excited all the palates I shared a dinning table with. I was going to lean into every need, discomforts or disagreement amongst the adults, the children or the adults and the children. Answer every question or research it then answer it if I couldn't. Provide comfortable and timely transportation, entertainment that kept safety but also fun at it's forefront, handle health concerns that may arise, engage in conversation regardless of it's personal value to me. After all, an Ethiopian must be interested in Ethiopian political affairs. Right?
I was going to do all the above while showing up powerfully to coach my clients. Selfless service has it that I also will continue giving value through all my social media platforms, creating content that impacts and transforms lives.
Yoga and meditation will sustain my body and soul while solitude and self care keep me in alignment, I asserted in the theoretical corner of my brain.
As days went by, I did more and more of the acts I considered selfless and less and less of ones I deemed selfish. While my higher knowing felt I was risking burnout, a deeper programming resurfaced with a vengeance I had not experienced in years. Irritation, exhaustion, even resentment followed. As I focused on other's strokes and positions in the water, making sure everyone else stayed afloat , I forgot to swim.
I almost drowned.
If it wasn't for an amazingly engaged and supportive husband, deeply insightful friends who offered their loving best to me and sessions with my therapist I took whenever and wherever I could, the above sentence would not have had an 'almost' in the middle.
As usual, the intuition I have made a friend out of over the years kept speaking. Even at the most challenging peak of the season, I knew that messy middle will soon become a lesson many of you are waiting to hear.
Because many of you know these seasons all too well. Some of you live in them full time. Culture, religion and some mindfulness teachings tell you that the less you think of yourself, the more you subdue the ego, the holier and happier you become. I am here to boldly ask you to put that aside.
What good is happiness offered by a selfless way of existing, if one is so fragmented from the sensations of joy and is therefore unable to reap the benefits of service deep within one's being? What is there, if anything, to sustain a giver, if the giver doesn't acclimate to joy that only self adoration can teach?
Should't we know selfishness to truly be selfless?
You could be caring for a parent or a loved one, have made nurturing your kids your primary focus in life, maybe you are committed to serving your community. Whatever giving yourself may look like, you give and give and give to others that you forget to give to the giver, you wonder if you even know how to receive. You are at a point where you are feeling resentful towards the very same thing you set out to nurture. I ask you to explore this sweet spot I speak of . A spot where you intuitively know that hidden deep within unconscious selflessness is dangerous selfishness that silently demands back approval and validation for it's survival, prone to unravel if unstopped. A spot where healthy selfishness makes you familiar with a sense of joy within yourself which you an then seek to find through servitude while setting boundaries that allow continual self nurturing so you may serve well and serve long. A spot where you are happy and in service first to yourself and only then to others. That which exists somewhere between selfishness and selflessness.
In the season opener episode of The Unchainingme Podcast, I go deeper into the insights I earned through the exploration of this demanding season I just put behind me. I ask you empowering questions that I also used as journaling prompts to dig deep and find the sources of my selfless aspirations. The results were not as holy as I assumed they would be and that is exactly what allowed me to challenge my repulsion towards selfishness.
How do you view selflessness? Do you see yourself making peace and seeing the value in your natural tendency to be selfish? Share your thoughts with me!
Until next week, keep unchaining!