In less than a week I leave for my trip back East. I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in too long, sort of looking forward to the actual travelling (hey, I like flying, I can’t help it; it’s pretty), and do not, at all, look forward to being away from home. I have a great deal of wanderlust, so travelling is always a bit of fun, but being somewhere there are no dogs to walk or cats to trip over is always disconcerting for me. I’d love to be able to visit all day long, and come back to my own bed to sleep. However, it’s only a week, and the benefit of seeing people I haven’t seen in nearly two years is a good distraction from not sleeping in my own bed. (It helps that the dog hasn’t slept with me since last summer, otherwise not feeling his body against me would be even more difficult.)
Facing a trip back to where the bulk of loved ones live always dredges up interesting conflicts within me. It brings to surface the utter selfishness of how I’ve chosen to live my life. It’s easier, now that I’ve got healthy coping mechanisms more or less in place, now that I have the comfortable distance between me and the world most of our culture lives in, now that I have things more or less the way that I need them in order to breathe and function and feel sane-enough, to look and contemplate, and see my selfishness as a potentially negative thing.
When I’m being objective, I think that we are by and large not selfish enough I suspect that our lack of compassion for ourselves and for others comes from the fast paced, misguided attempt at living our lives in the service of others, and the conflicting ideals put forth: strive to achieve all that you can, but continually be there for others. I’m tempted to say this is something women face more than men do — we’re lazy if we’re stay at home moms (and gods forbid if we’re simply stay at home spouses without children!) but we’re neglectful if we choose to persue a career. We must, instead, hit upon the perfect balance of both, giving selflessly to our home and our marriages and our partnerships, and if we can then carve out time for ourselves, then, well, good. Except, I don’t think it’s a problem men are free from, either; I simply don’t have any experience there, not being a man, and so my opinion about that particular part of the issue really doesn’t matter all that much.
It ends up boiling down to: strive to achieve all that you can, but make sure you’re striving to achieve what others think you should be achieving. Where, in all this, is the chance to “know thyself”?
I know myself. I know that I need space. I know that I prefer email to phone conversations because the distance the time lag introduces allows me to think and pick my responses carefully. I know I prefer going to work and coming home and having few demands placed upon me from the outside world. I know that I haven’t wanted children since I was a teenager, that the conviction only grew stronger the more I aged — the world doesn’t need more people, but more immediately, the world does not need any more of the genes my family has. I would not wish the moodswings I have or the migraines I suffer through — which seem to be genetic in my case, as my cycle is a spot on match for what my grandmother suffered through — or any of the myriad of fun things that I deal with, or that others in my family deal with, on anyone. Nevermind that my one brother has done his best to see that our genes live on forever. I know that I’m most content when my time and attention goes into my relationships with my gods and spirits, with my animals, into my passions, and into my time spent with Beth, who walks a path very much like my own. We happily refer to our house as the Nunnery, and that really does sum things up. It’s our retreat from the mad world that focuses on the wrong (for us) things, and allows us space and distance and sactuary.
My non-familial loved ones I don’t worry about. They get me, they’re chosen family, they wouldn’t be if they didn’t get me. Even if they don’t understand completely, they know and see that this makes me a better me, and they respect and honor that. My blood family, I worry a bit about. I feel . . . badly? . . . that they’ve been stuck with a person like me. I used to think, hey, wouldn’t it be easier for them if I’d've been called to the god they know and acknowledge, with the availablity of monastic traditions, I could have been involved in something they could wrap their heads around. But, heh, when I’ve toyed with the idea, “what if I was a Christian nun?” I realize that the sorts of convents that really appeal to be are the ones that retreat from the world, and it would be about the same as it is now, and I don’t think they’d really an easier time with that. People are naturally uncomfortable around that which is unknown and outside their experiences.
When faced with traveling back East I mourn what might have been, though more and more it’s not for my own sake; the only thing I’d do to change my situation now would be to make cross country travel more affordable and faster. Which, again, makes me selfish, but not living your lives for yourself baffles me to no end. On the other hand, I get serving others; that’s a big part of my own life, in fact. Is being called to serve your family all that different than being called to serve your spirits? I think, no. I think, not so much. I think, the difference is really in the ‘who’.