I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They’ve always felt to me like daily reminders of my lack of discipline and perseverance. So when my daughter asked on January 1st what my New Year’s resolution was, I gave a speech from atop my soap box. She nodded, listened patiently, and then responded,
“My resolution this year is to be selfish.”
Not only was I appalled that she obviously hadn’t listened intently to my speech about the failure of resolutions, she forged ahead with her own. And from where I stood, it was brazenly self-centered.
“You want to be more selfish in the New Year?” I nearly screamed. Who was this narcissistic, prima donna I had spent twenty one years grooming to be kind, compassionate and selfless?
“Sometimes,” she continued, “ I feel like I put other people’s needs in front of my own.”
Is that a bad thing? I wondered aloud. Isn’t giving freely of yourself the best of us? Certainly giving to others isn’t always convenient, but it is the hallmark of a civilized society. I shook my head, and considered my daughter a lost cause.
A few days later, at the crack of dawn I trekked to the gym. It was frigid and dark and I was exhausted, so I dragged my feet and got a late start. As I trudged along on the treadmill, I paid close attention to the clock on the wall above me. I needed to be home by 7:45 so that I could chop the kale and apples for my high schooler’s lunch. When the clock struck 7:40, I climbed off the treadmill, irritated I had to cut my workout short to get back home. I wish I could just be selfish.
My work day was crazy as I hurried to complete long overdue revisions. I needed a few more hours to really make a dent, but, it was the 5:00 witching hour and I needed to get dinner started. Again irritated, I shuffled into the kitchen to prepare a family dinner. James was working in the studio. One daughter was upstairs napping, the other working on her laptop. My son was listening to music. I banged the pots and cursed. I wish I could just be selfish.
The week went on, louder and busier than usual with the kids home still home from school on holiday break. The work on my revisions were interrupted by questions about school assignments and SAT prep and doctor’s appointments and laundry and internship applications and cable channels and money borrowing and food shortages. I wish I could just be selfish.
And then, on another cold and frigid morning at the gym, eye on the clock, I realized, I am going to be selfish. The selfishness my daughter was referencing wasn’t necessarily about ignoring others, it was about paying attention to yourself. As the clock ticked past 7:45 I kept right on jogging. I will take care of myself first. I took my time, zipping my coat and driving home. And when I got there, my daughter was in the kitchen miraculously chopping her own kale. “I’m trying to be more selfish by making sure I get in a full workout,” I said bracing for the blowback.
“Okay,” she shrugged, continuing her chopping.
That night, when the witching hour arrived, I ignored it, staying instead at my desk to work.
“What’s for dinner,” my son asked, as he always does if it is 5:01 and he doesn’t smell anything savory coming from the kitchen.
“Figure it out, I’m working,” I told him.
He shrugged. I guess he went and found his one of his sisters because before I knew it, I heard the sizzle of a pan and turkey tacos were served.
This selfishness thing seemed to be working so well I continued. I took a long walk when I could have cleaned the house. I read a book in the middle of the day when I could have been working. I turned down social invites and stayed home and watched t.v. I said no, a lot.
I have now embraced selfishness in all it’s glory. It doesn’t make me any less compassionate. In fact the opposite is true. I feel more willing to give to others knowing I have filled my own stores.
And the best part is, next year I will make a new year’s resolution: Listen to My Daughter.