The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Give It Away - Selfish Confessions

Today's message at church was interesting. It was about making 2011 less about "me" and more about... well, everyone else. It was a fantastic and a well-needed reminder that my life is not that bad, yet, to be perfectly painfully honest, some of it doesn't sit very well with me, all at the same time.

First, let me summarize the message:
  • We would have a "sweeter," happier life, if we lived like Jesus wants us to... focusing more on others than on ourselves. His suggestion- give unto others out of what blessings you have. If  you have money, give to those who need it. A warm coat? To those who are cold. If nothing else... give an ear to listen. Some people just want someone to talk to. He also made the point that people who are miserable with their lives are usually miserable for their own selfish reasons. Because they can't give things up to God for selfishness and pride. They are miserable because they can't stop drinking. Because they "just can't forgive" or whatnot. All in all... stop putting so much emphasis on yourself and focus more on others.

This seems like sort of the typical church message, right? So, why wouldn't it sit well with me? I love giving to others. So many of my dreams for life, for this year even, are for others (particularly my students and my children). I desperately want to make my drama students January 2012 trip to Broadway a reality. It will mean raising somewhere around $25,000, but I want it for them so bad, I am willing to do the work. I want my "Give Students the Gift of Book Ownership" Donors Choose project to fund SO badly, so that my students can each get to choose a book to keep. I want Vinny to be able to do something recreational again. We haven't had the money to let him keep up any extracurricular activities, and I know he wants to do gymnastics so badly. I wish I could give that to him.

So, what's the issue then?
Well, not to sound prideful, but I give so much of myself to others- my children, my husband, my students, my community, my friends, etc., and, honestly, sometimes there is so little left for me. Sometimes, I don't take very good care of myself, and then I get sick. I put more of my energy into caring for my students than into cleaning my house. I pretty much gave up any semblance of fashion, and I will even sometimes wear stained clothes. Not to make myself sound like a martyr, because this is sort of just whatever, part of my life. The one person I know who gives significantly more to others is my mother. And you know what? I'm sorry, but her life isn't sweeter because of it. She gives of herself until there is nothing left, physically, financially, and emotionally. She supports so many family members and even non-family members, and sometimes, in my opinion, she actually gives too much to where she is stressed out. I don't want that for her.

In theory, a life of giving constantly is a wonderful concept. But it is possible to give too much. The Christian church (as in big church, not any specific church) often makes it feel like taking care of yourself is a sin, and I am sort of starting to take issue with this. I know that Jesus says whoever wants to be first must be last, but not taking care of myself makes me just stressed out, which makes me a bad wife and a bad mom. When I take time to take care of myself, to pamper myself a little, to vacation, etc., I find myself to be a more relaxed wife and mother, and I treat my family more like God wants me to treat my family and even everyone else.

And you know what... there were a lot of  "for me" things I was hoping for in 2011 that finances have made clear will not be happening, and I am still kind of grieving those.
  • I wanted to take a nice trip somewhere as a family after Tiana's first birthday. (We will be lucky if we can scrape together enough for a family day at Disneyland).
  • I wanted to join some sort of hobby or team to help myself stay active and lose weight. (These things cost substantial amounts of money, and we can't afford excesses like this right now).
  • I wanted to buy more organic and natural food this year, since the increase in healthier and organic food last year really was for the best for our health. (It looks like we are actually going to need to go backwards this year and just buy whatever we can to keep tummies full, since the grocery budget is going to need to shrink to be able to pay for day care).
It just didn't sit very well with me today, because when I was thinking about my personal goals for 2011, honestly, I was thinking more along the lines of "I will take better care of myself this year." Is that really such a bad thing?

1 comment:

  1. Nope, not such a bad thing. I feel you. Since Rachel came to live with us all of what was left of me is gone. Not that I do not love it, but a once a week meeting or just sitting reading a book has gone out the window. And do not let me start on my schooling..considering dropping a class to be able to finish the semester and then the question: do I continue as I can not give all that I wish?
    I had a weird feeling about that particular sermon with a feeling of yes, I get it.
    I remember in the not so distant past Todd had a sermon where he actually focused on taking care of yourself like Jesus did. Like when the apostles were looking for him and he was just gone... quiet prayer time for himself. I liked that sermon very much.
    We are only good to others if we take good care of ourselves. Not an easy concept.