Faye has been telling me lately when she’s feeling selfish. By which, I’ve gathered, she means she’s feeling like she wants some quiet time alone. Or, some quiet time together. Time to snuggle up and read a book. (Or snuggle up and stare out the window.) Time to walk by ourselves to school instead of joining friends we meet along the way.
“Oh, you’re feeling like you want some solitude.” I’ve offered. “Some time to be quiet, or alone.”
But in trying to help her to find the right word to describe her feelings, it’s struck me that I don’t have another perfect word to substitute for her. When you look up self in the dictionary, there’s a long list of hyphenated words that come after it. With some obvious exceptions, lots of them have an overall negative association: self-righteous, self-important, self-serving, self-centered. They’re not descriptors most people would claim with pride. Unlike selfless, which we use to mean compassionate and considerate and noble and generous.
But where does that leave us? How about the equally noble effort of being compassionate and considerate and generous with ourselves? How about being selffull? And taking the time to honor our own needs and fill ourselves up.
In the end, I’ve taken a liking to Faye’s use of the word selfish. Sometimes I feel selfish, too. Like I need the time to sit quietly and arrange cosmos. Or, walk solo with my kid to school. Or methodically rearrange the spice cabinet. Or decline an invitation and get into pajamas as soon as the clock strikes five o’clock. Earlier this week, between meetings, I finally booked an appointment for the facial that James and the kids gave to me for my birthday. I treated myself to mozzarella sticks for lunch. I ducked into a makeup shop and asked the clerk to help me, a thirty-five year old, learn to apply eyeliner.
Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day. I hope we can all find a way to be a little bit selfish, taking into account each of our own particular, quirky, evolving needs.