Friday, April 20, 2007

On Selfishness

I was a Mormon missionary in Ohio. I really love who I was then--I think "Sister Hall" was a seriously good person. Sometimes when I feel crummy about myself I think of who I was then, and ask myself, "self, what was it that made Sister Hall so happy?" There are lots of things, of course, like having the Spirit so strongly, wearing the name of Christ on a nametag right over my heart every day, and having the "mantle" of a missionary. But, in a word, I think what made me happy was unselfishness. I was there for the Lord and for those people. For the first time in my life I was completely focused on service. I wasn't upset that I gained a bit of weight, or that I was missing big events back home, or even that I had runs in all of my nylons. I just loved the people I was serving and put all of my energy into doing just that. Now, of course, you have to take care of yourself. And you have to think of yourself enough to be physically and emotionally healthy. And certainly I did that as a missionary. But I know I was so happy then because I didn't think of myself so darn much.

Background--I am the youngest of five children. Yep. The youngest. And let's be honest here. I was a bit spoiled. When you're the youngest you tend to get more dates with Mom to get slurpees or a new pair of shoes. Heck, I even got 2 trips to Hawaii in high school. Some of siblings still razz me for that. So, yeah. I never had a little brother or sister I had to share my candy or clothes or bedroom or anything with. I really don't feel that I was ridiculously spoiled and my parents definitely taught me how to be pragmatic and grateful, but I think I became a little selfish by circumstance of birth order.

The first time I realized I might be selfish was when I lived in Mexico with my amazing friend,
Lorraine. Lorraine has about 9, 627 outstanding qualities, but one that I particularly love is her unselfishness. Now I thought about using the word "generosity" here, but I don't think it would illustrate my point well enough. I think I am fairly good at being generous, but not always unselfish. Here's what I mean: Lorraine is such a sharer. She buys a pack of M&Ms and immediately, upon tearing it open, asks, "Want some, Anne?" Then she proceeds to dump half of the contents of the bag in my hand before even tasting one herself. That's unselfish. My version would be to eat about five, then think, "Oh, the polite, generous thing to do here is make a token offer to my friend here" and say, "want some, friend?" At which point I dump three or four M&Ms into said friend's hand and consider them shared. (My point is that if I've got plenty for myself I'm happy to be generous, but not always good at being unselfish, knowing I will have to sacrifice some of my own.) OK, now obviously I'm being a little tongue and cheek here, and I promise I'm not really the scum of the earth, but I just remember being so impressed with Lorraine on this Mexico trip. She was constantly sharing like this. It was then that I knew I had something to work on.

As stated previously (sheesh this post is getting long!) I learned to temper my selfishness on my mission. I just seemed to get it then that I was on an errand for the Lord and it just wasn't about me.

Fast forward to wifehood and motherhood. I have been selfish. I just asked Taylor to give me an example of my selfishness in our marriage so that I could write about it on my blog. "Uh uh, not going to answer," he said. "That's like asking 'what's your least favorite part on my body?' You just don't answer those questions." Taylor is smart. Suffice it to say, Taylor does a lot for me that I don't deserve.

I feel like I've been particularly selfish as a mother. I have always wanted to be a mother, and I absolutely love my son. But I can honestly tell you that it ha
s been much more difficult than I ever imagined. Not difficult in the sense that Blaine keeps spitting out his food lately or that he likes to pull the contents out of every drawer and cupboard in the kitchen. Not even in the sense that we have had a lot of sleepless nights. Those things are certainly hard. But the most challenging thing for me has been letting go of my career as a teacher and putting aside the things that I want to do each day. Let's be honest--I'm a total control freak and if I can't check several things off a to-do list at the end of each day I feel like a loser. I have to make a sincere effort to remember that playing with, feeding, and caring for Blaine each day is my job now. In fact, it's my career. (My mom always liked writing "career mother" as her occupation instead of "housewife." I concur.) I have to remind myself daily that if nothing else gets done all day--that's OK! Sometimes I just have to forget about all the frivolous things I want and cherish the moments I have with my son. (As you read on my last post, I am getting better at that.) And sometimes I have to write "shower," "eat," and "brush teeth" on my to-do list. That way I get to check things off.

So after all this ranting, there are two ways in which I want to be more unselfish. First, I want to be more like Lorraine. And more like my sister-in-law, Rebecca. She is in town visiting right now, and she has-in the course of four days-offered me about half her wardrobe. "I just got this new headband at Ann Taylor but it's a little tight. Why don't you have it, Anne?" "Oh, I just love H&M accessories. Anne, you should have this one..." Seriously. And here I am sharing my four token M&Ms. So I pledge to be more like them.

Secondly, I want to be more like the "Responsible Woman" and the "virtuous woman" my
sister blogged about recently. Read her post. I think it will inspire you, as it did me, to be a spiritual leader, to do good, to work hard, to be kind, and to put my family's needs and wants above my own. I pledge to be more like them.

And then maybe I'll have more moments where I feel like Sister Hall again--totally happy and overcoming unselfishness.


liz said...

Hey, thanks for the reference to my blog! You gave me some things to think about -- I'm totally the share four m&ms type, but I'm trying to teach my children not to be. Jon (4) regularly gives his friends and brothers quarters from his piggy bank -- how long before he outgrows that, do you think? You have to occasionally be selfish as a mother to get anything. I remember Meredith Vieira once talking about how much her kids loved pickles and how she never took the last one in the jar, but always gave it to one of them. Unselfish, yes, but sometimes you really want a pickle!

Anne said...

Liz, how cute is Jon?! And I agree that you really want a pickle sometimes! It's just that I ALWAYS save that pickle for me, you know? So I hope this post isn't taken as "We all need to be self-sacrificing martyrs." I mean it more as "I think about myself 100% of the time and I think that's pathetic." :)

danielle said...

Anne, first of all, thanks for all the nice comments on my blog. I am glad I am not the only one who feels crappy when they read/see all the really great interesting things everyone else is doing in their lives, and feel like my life is nowhere near as interesting. Its funny though, like emily said in her latest post, that people in blog world tend to post just the fabulous examples of their lives, and maybe not all the not so great things. I do have to say, its been fun to see everyone kind of open up on these things. I feel like I am getting to know all of my friends better.

So second, I just want to say that I miss you too! And I do sometimes miss all our fun times in the blue house etc. And I would like to point out that it takes a pretty unselfish person to share a room with me for all those years and deal with my piles of junk everywhere without ever complaining. But I would also like to say that one of things I have always really admired about you is you ability and willingness to look at yourself and make changes where you think you could use some changes. I think that is one of the very best qualities that anyone can have.

Lets go shopping or something ok? and ps, let us watch Blaine sometime so you can get some alone time...I think that is good for a mother's sanity. I am certified in infant CPR/first aid you I think I would make an excellent candidate for a baby sitting position.

danielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
danielle said...

oops I accidentally posted the same thing twice.

Lorraine said...

Anne, thanks for the praise. My goodness! As always, you are way too good to me. You know I could make a list of the reasons why you are an example to me, and I will probably do that over the phone or in a letter. I love you, ANNE!! We were meant to be friends!! (Even if it means very long distance ones right now...)

kate said...

I know I keep telling you but pasta and brownies was so much fun!!! LOVE YOU!!!

Sugar said...

Blogland does seem a little like Wonderland with it's happily ever after feel. Of course everyone writes what the happy moments are in life because you have to focus on those moments to stay sane. Plus, no one takes pictures while they are screaming and ranting at their kids. Yikes, who would want to read that blog? I do love your honesty though because, most of us being women that read this blog, know what it is like to be a woman. There is this constant feeling like someone is better, happier, more creative, prettier, funnier (not a word), etc, and the list goes on! My word, how hard we are on ourselves! Kate came up to visit on Friday and we got to talking about the blue house and roommates and I was sad that I never got to know anyone as well as I would have liked to, but you should know that Kate helps me to get to know you as this amazing, fun, sweet, creative, hilarious, sharing person. So despite all the things that we as individuals are lacking in, our friends and families love us all the more for who we are, not who we aren't!

Emily said...

i need to wax introspective like this more often. i agree with danielle, you seem to be always aware of yourself, your weaknesses, and the ways you can improve. that, my dear, is a neat gift. "growing up" is kind of painful sometimes. I love these little glimpses we're getting into each other's hearts on our blogs. love you.

lori said...

Anne, thanks for such thought-provoking comments. I admire you for many reasons - one reason is that you constantly STRIVE (I often coast rather than stive. It's sometimes preferable to the eye-opening introspection required by strivers...)
Anyway, that was vague. I hope it makes sense as the compliment I mean it to be. And I also hope you had some good "retail therapy" today at Deon's.

As a P.S. I'm going to give you the address of the blog Wes and I started a few weeks ago. We initially just notified the people we don't see very often, realizing that for everyone else it's probably a bore. But, as you are my blogging inspiration, we're at:

liz said...

I'm now officially obsessed with blogging and am on pins and needles waiting for your next post! I know you have a real job and all, but come on Mrs. Cropper! (ok I'm actually just testing my new blogger identity. How rude that they won't link my comments to my blog unless I have one!)

danielle said...

Anne please do post a movie blog. Trav and I have seen a bunch of good foreign movies too. We really really like those. I would love to hear what you guys have liked because its hard to know sometimes. It seems when we can find nothing good in the reguliar section (a lot) we head to foreign section and are usually pleasantly suprised. My all time favorite movie in Amalie. Its rated R, but i still reccomend it. Also a movie called "Ushpizen" Its so good. You will love it. We did. Its about Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and its such a feel good movie. Anyway, I guess I will make a movie post cause their are so many more.