A self-involved presence

I am the most self-involved person that I know. While I suspect that there might be others whose soul focus on earth is me-me-me, I can’t speak to their experience . . . only mine.

And, no, use of the words “soul focus” is not a typographical error. Or a mismatch of “sole” and “soul.” My soul is my focus. Ever since I can consciously remember (fed by some raw, wordless impulse within me), I have asked the universal question: “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?”

For my entire childhood and into young adulthood, that answer was “Make your parents happy!” (Their idea, not mine.) By the time I was 30, the insight hit me – not quite like a bolt of lightning but more like a stinky sock in my face – that nothing in this universe was going to make them happy because they already were: they delighted in their misery, settling with deep satisfaction into that cool muddy pool of inertia. They were, and one of them still is, very attached to their pain. The one that is still alive is demanding daily affirmation of worth through the actions of others. I don’t know what the dead one is doing right now . . . maybe peering over my shoulder while I write this, hopelessly seething with indignant justification for the heinous and neglectful actions that person committed in the name of love. Oh, wait, I need to let them off the hook for that stuff . . . okay, onward.

It seemed to me that many people had been given the purpose of making themselves happy. And other people, animals, objects, and events were supposed to do that for them. So, I figured I would get on that wagon and ride it home.

Fast forward twenty years and the dawning wisdom that – duh – all things come to pass. People. Animals. Plants. Objects. Events. To rely upon the ever-transitioning universe to provide me with steady, uncompromisable (or is it incompromisable?) happiness is a witless expectation. There is only one place where happiness can live eternally and that is within my soul.

I am not finding legions of friends lining up outside my door thrusting soul food into my arms. If my soul is to have nourishment, I need to seek that for myself. If my soul is to thrive and bloom in this existence, then it is up to me to nurture the environment within where that can happen.

The self that I am is very involved in that process, almost to the exclusion of everything else. And I think that the “almost” is an illusion. I am slowly realizing that everything I do, act, think, feel, and believe is in service of the self, creating fertile ground for my soul to flourish. There is no truly altruistic thought or act. I might think so as I help another or know within my bones I would die for a loved one . . . but even those thoughts and actions have a reward for me. I feel good about myself when I can provide for another. The pain of dying is nothing compared to the pain I imagine living without my loved one.

Self-involved is not a bad place – it is where I am intended to be. I must be involved with myself before I can be involved with others. The rules of behavior and boundaries of responsibility seem arbitrary and subject to self-perception, but this is all I’ve got. To be self-involved to the exclusion of the rights and needs of others is a clear boundary that often gets murky in my desperate attempts to reach that golden pot of enlightenment.

Yet, each day a particle of gold drops from that pot into my awareness and some new space of existence lights up inside me. A new understanding connects across those synapses in my brain. I am suddenly more complete than I was a moment before and yet painfully aware of more incompleteness and work to be done.

My self is working on it all right now.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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8 Responses to “A self-involved presence”

  1. jeffstroud Says:

    Barbara,

    One of the most important understandings of our soul being that this is yet is so missed understood by others and the person in the midst of the self-centeredness.
    You are so correct in your line, “if my soul is to thrive and bloom in this existence, then it is up to me to nurture the environment within where that can happen.” So so true, it is only up to us has evolving beings to nurture the environment, what others do or think is none of our business.
    In Conversations with God Bk 1 Neale Donald Walsch discuss this many many times for it is the most important aspect of our spiritual growth. Plus there is a whole chapter on “relationship”. God/Neale, state “The Master understands that it doesn’t matter what the other is being, doing, having, saying, wanting, demanding. It doesn’t matter what the other is thinking, expecting, planning. It only matters what you are being in relationship to that.
    The most loving person is the person who is Self-centered.”

    I think your journey of awakening is courageous, conscious, and full of abundant self – love!!!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — interesting commentary on self-centeredness; I was raised to “put others first” and always put myself last; when I grew up, I discovered that there was no one waiting in line to take care of me and that most people resented the fact that I was not taking care of myself, thus forcing those who cared about me to step up to the plate and rescue me. It didn’t matter that I was being “noble” and “unselfish.” I still have family members who never learned to take care of themselves and still wander around looking for others to take care of them.

      I wish them the best on their journey, but so very much appreciate your comment that my journey of awakening is courageous — thank you.

  2. Kimberly Grady Says:

    WOW,
    Barbara,I love the deep thoughts you portray to not only challenge yourself but others as well.

    I was always pushed that being selfish was sinful to a point.
    I would portray two aspects here, being selfish in a hurtful way, to yourself and others, or being in life-giving, self-sustaining way, hopefully helping yourself first, then others.
    There have been some that have hardened the idea that a servant should be self-less, but if there is no self-wroth, no self-love, no self-confidence; not much room for self-improvement or help for others. I feel it can be both ways depending on the individual. Self-love first, others first and serving others that gives us more understanding or our own self and loving it more deeply.

    Regards and :hugs:
    Kimberly

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kim — hope things are well with you! You are right — there is a selfishness that is harmful to both self and others; our definition of self-care is one that arises from self-love. Jesus was a great example. He gave of himself selflessly but no where in all the Gospels will one find that he did not take good care of himself.

  3. holessence Says:

    “…not quite like a bolt of lightning but more like a stinky sock in my face…”

    “Oh, wait, I need to let them off the hook for that stuff . . . okay, onward.”

    Oh my gosh, Barbara – I’m still cracking up!

    Shifting gears…

    When you wrote,

    “I am suddenly more complete than I was a moment before and yet painfully aware of more incompleteness and work to be done,”

    it immediately brought to mind a statement I heard just a few minutes ago when Jeff Stroud posted an 8-minute clip about Zen Photography on Facebook. The speaker said:

    “The moment is where our life takes place. We miss the moment, we miss our life.”

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — yes, I think the quote is very appropriate. I was talking with my brother on the telephone yesterday. He is struggling with life right now and I was encouraging him to go for a walk, volunteer, be grateful for what he does have, and I told him “with every thought, with every moment, you are making your life; you CAN change tomorrow when you take care of you right now with the best thoughts and the best actions you can muster.” I don’t know if he heard me, but I heard me.

  4. Nancy Leverett Says:

    “I am suddenly more complete than I was a moment before and yet painfully aware of more incompleteness and work to be done”

    Loved the self-awareness shared within that statement. It has taken me more than fifty years to figure out that many of the actions and choices in my life have resonated from a place of fear, and that reacting to fear should not be confused with the act of living a life.

    I also had to chuckle at your side comments to yourself … they are the subtle and quiet reminders that our self-talk is constantly on alert and more than ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to sway our focus away from the task at hand (or to help us stay on track, depending on which voice we hear the loudest). Your side comments made me smile, and also had me nodding my head in recognition. The voice in our head can be distracting.

    Speaking of which, to go back to the subject at hand, I love it that being self-involved can be viewed as a work-in-progress, rather than as being stuck in a proverbial rut. I’d like to believe that all the soul-searching and pondering I’ve done over the years has been essential to the always-evolving version of me that interacts with the world. That every moment of self-awareness adds another golden drop into the pot of enlightenment is a beautiful way to envision the journey. Thanks for sharing your pot of gold. (smile)

  5. Barbara Kass Says:

    Hi, Nancy — it is so good to hear from you! I hope you are well. It is my feeling that true altruism does not really exist, but it is only an ideal fed to us with the innuendo that we “should” strive for that. Even Mother Teresa was serving herself while she was serving the dying on the streets of Calcutta. We need to be more self-involved and realize that by caring, nurturing, and taking care of ourselves, we are doing the world a favor: they don’t have to take care of us. At the same time, when we do care for ourselves, we find this amazing capacity to be more of who we truly are who can support and nurture others. When we stop to take care of those who are sick or dying and are unable to care adequately for themselves, we are actually serving some future self of our own who might be in the same circumstances.

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