Selfish

You guys, I am so selfish. I know this about myself and, because I’m also fairly crazy, I do a fair amount of checking my thoughts, words, actions, and privilege. This results in a lot of personal adjusting. That, in turn, feels like self-criticism. That results in frustration which makes me angry because have a right to be a little frustrated and, I think, to be at least a little selfish. All that makes me unpleasant. Fun for everyone.

And sometimes you just don’t get to be selfish. That’s fine, for awhile. For me, awhile is a about two days. To be clear, I’m not talking about those sometimes miserable days when the kids cry all day, have to be fed all day, aren’t able to be put down for a shower, and so forth. My brand of selfish is pretty much okay with that. Keeping my human alive was always mostly okay, even when it made me cry in frustration. It often felt like a solitary endeavor. One person screaming at another is something that creates a bubble where it’s just the screamer and screamee, no matter how many other people are in the room.

It’s the other people thing. If you want to skip the incredibly boring details of my life (assuming you got this far) come back in a few days.

It started sometime last week. Swimming lessons ran into gymnastics sending my wife and I into an argument about whether there was enough time to shower which left me simultaneously angry that I had to compromise and that she was drawing attention to my frustration. I felt like it was entirely my fault for not getting my timing right, after all, it’s not her fault I didn’t want to spend more than half a day in sweaty gym clothes. Or to have people be quietly noticing I am wearing gym clothes and then thinking things about those clothes. On Sunday, I had to visit my parents and it’s hard. Every time. It was harder this time and involved putting out a lot of energy instead of just hanging on. On Monday, a board meeting featuring not only grown-up decisions but also a whole lot of tiny people who make me feel like a giant on a folding metal chair. On Tuesday, a professional dinner with someone I’d only just met. On Wednesday, an all-day high-energy event followed by staying out of the house entertaining my kid while my wife had band practice in our basement. On Thursday, chatting with the babysitter and going to hear my wife play, smiling at all of her friends, hugging people I barely know. Today, a lovely breakfast with dear friends then two days with my wife’s family. Who make her so happy.

You see, it’s not just the hard time commitments, it’s the really wonderful things, too.

With even one break any one of these things would have been more okay. Four days passed this week when my commitments didn’t allow me to go to the bathroom when I wanted to. You should be able to pee when you have to pee. It’s a terrible cycle because the longer it lasts the more my faults start bursting out. For example, I truly dislike being noticed. I don’t want anyone to comment about anything I am doing, being, saying. And they do. Because people do that and because I’m odd that way and it’s not their fault. It’s a fault. It sucks. I’m sorry. It’s who I am. I am so busy trying to fix all kinds of other things about myself I’m certainly not going to add that in. And so I skip peeing, eating, moving, because I don’t want to hear a goddamn thing about what I’m doing.

“Oh, are you working today?”
“What are you having for lunch?”
“Are you still [doing/being whatever in a non judgmental way]?”

The longer the pressure to be on lasts, I’m even more unwilling to hear the good things.

“It’s great to see you!”
“You smell so good!”
“I’m happy you’re here!”

I’m lucky I hear those things. Most of the time I either don’t notice or am just slightly uncomfortable. This week, I’d rather be invisible. Please, please don’t notice me.

I didn’t claim to be sane and, as I said, I’m totally selfish. But you know what? My three hours off (spent working) are up and I’m due to take my child to the trampoline park and to have dinner with my in-laws. And I have to pee.

 

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17 Responses

  1. I remember when my daughter was a wee infant and I’d hear other moms complain about how they didn’t have time for showers and I scoffed at them, because here I was able to, why couldn’t they? Even when mine didn’t nap and I didn’t get that break all day I was a bit smug about it, but then somewhere along the time, when my child was of school age and able to get her own showers and I was working from home, I somehow had days where I didn’t have time for a shower. WTF? I still don’t always, but I learned a trick from my always (and I do mean always) elegantly turned out girlfriend Nancy, that just throw on a fresh bra, clean clothes and pull that hair back in a ponytail and you’re set. No one will ever know you’ve not showered in three days. (oh yes, she can go three days and you’d never, ever guess it!)

    Also, want to hear selfish? My poor husband has an awful cold. I have spent so much time complaining about his moaning and dying at the office, I’m pretty sure all the men I work with will now reconsider telling me they are sick. In fact, one giggled when upon being asked what my big weekend plans were, I replied, “Well, he’s dying, so I guess I’ll be avoiding that all weekend”. Awful, aren’t I?

    For real though. This week has been long and nutsy. What’s up with that? Is it because the children had TWO back to back weeks of only two days at school and this week everyone got caught up and it was awful? I had very little me time myself this week and I’m a little grumpy about it too (see above about my husband ‘dying’).

    • I do to. Hang in there. It will all come together and when you where you are at a bend in the road , and stop and lock back. It will make sense. I think I have just giving you the answer to my problem. I am in hospice, playing the “The Wait ” game. I am still here and I gotta pee!

      • I think of you and wonder how you are. I hope when I’m next contemplating the pattern on the roll of toilet paper instead of having to go back to a crowded room, your thoughts ring in my head!

    • I am completely sympathetic to your position on your husband dying. I mean for pete’s sake, how long can a cold last?! I’ve found myself in your shoes before and I have to check my awfulness and offer another tissue. It’s a burden being a wife sometimes…in the best ways.

  2. It’s tough being an introvert and needing time to recharge. My husband, Patrick, is a lot like you that way. I don’t view it as selfish, I just try to build downtime into the schedule. Instead of bringing him to a family function last Saturday (between a Friday with a concert and a Sunday birthday party), I left him home to recharge. My family doesn’t guilt trip, and even if they did, it’s more important not to run out of steam.

    I hope you get some time to recharge soon. And also to go pee.

  3. Now now, it’s not all selfish, is it? I like to think of recharge time as saving the world from the worst possible version of myself. It’s for their own good. Really.

    But there is something wrong with society that we can’t acknowledge this as a universal truth:

    “You should be able to pee when you have to pee.”

    The thing that gets me is how it always seems to happen in waves. Life, I mean, not peeing. I go through droughts where I’m bored, bored, stir-crazy bored, and then suddenly it’s several weeks of all activities all the time. Brutal.

    Which is all of course to say: I getcha. Marriage, parenthood, life…not for the faint of heart. Keep up the work and for G-D’s sake woman, go pee.

    • “saving the world from the worst possible version of myself” – that is so, so, so true. Alas, I’m afraid the world suffered this weekend. My wife needs some kind of reminder on her phone “psst marriage is not for the faint of heart”! I need the same for life!

  4. ‘Out of energy for people’ is not the same thing as ‘selfish.’ Really. -Signed, the person who regularly hides in the basement.

    (I also don’t like strangers touching me. It weirds me out. Here is my hand, please shake my hand like normal strangers thank you.)

    • That is so true. Complicating the matter is that my wife doesn’t entirely get it I don’t think. She either takes it personally when I’m burnt out and it has an impact on something she’s doing or is sympathetic but has a muscle through attitude. Nothing would have changed my week last week (I would have still made all the same decisions) but I feel hungover in a way that makes me think we could have done *something* differently. But..it’s all tangled up in my own guilt for taking time away when we have guests, etc. There was no winning last week 😦 Also – all strangers should handshake. Come on!

      • She sounds like someone who really enjoys others’ company no matter what! (Perhaps you could – in a kind and loving manner- ask her how she would feel if she didn’t talk to anyone but you for a week. Not that it’s the same feeling. But.)

        At my sister’s wedding I went and sat in a closet (for real) for two hours. (With the baby. But.)

  5. Have you read information about being an introvert and managing life as such? Because I read this and it’s so clear to me that you’re an introvert without any recharge time. Without that it is impossible to function. This isn’t just a preference but a requirement for your health! So please, get selfish. Get selfish before you’re ready to explode and fight for your needs. If you can, read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. It was so helpful for me and other introverts I know. She just launched a new project on parenting for introverts that you should check out.
    http://www.quietrev.com/quiet-revolutions-newest-chapter-quiet-parenting/

    • apparently that’s about parenting introverted kids, which still can be helpful. Either way, explore her site. There’s a daily newsletter you might enjoy as well.

      • thank you – that’s really helpful. I’m cautious of how I approach things with RR. I don’t know that she’s an introvert (though I could guess) but it’s hard not to fall into the patterns I grew up with: “It’s be fun once you get there!” and “This is silly, just make friends” among other things I’d prefer to block out. As a child I once had to go to an overnight lock-in with strangers and I was utterly miserable. I’m better for a lot of pushing my mom did but not on that one – still scarred!

      • By the way, the Quiet book is almost more important for the non-introvert to read. It’s incredibly helpful in understanding the needs of quiet people and provides tips to make introvert-extrovert relationships work.

  6. It’s not a fault or a personality flaw to prefer for people not to comment on things you are doing – it’s just part of your personality, which is subtly but importantly different. Every comment is another jab in your already bruised interaction-coping-shield.

    I agree with a previous comment that it’d be worth trying to figure out a similar experience that your wife might recognise, like being unable to interact with anyone at all for a week or only speaking to toddlers all day. It’s hard for people to understand something that’s utterly alien to their own experience. I have a friends-couple (why isn’t there a word for that? Or is there, and I forgot it?) where one is a very sociable extrovert with ADHD who dislikes being alone and either phones people or invites friends over when her partner is working, and the other is a very, very private introvert who uses up all their cope when they’re at work. Their solution is that the introvert goes and has “introvert time” in their bedroom when they are overwhelmed and the extrovert partner fields any guest-confusion or well-meant but unproductive attempts to interfere, and they try to make sure they have at least one evening just the two of them.

    I’m fortunate that my girlfriend is, whilst not as introverted as me, quite happy to spend time just hanging out quietly getting on with our own stuff, and very tuned into my emotional wellbeing (more than I am, often) but for a lot of people, this is stuff you have to learn and the first step of that learning is realising that you even need to learn it, if that makes sense.

    Sorry, rambling!

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