These words, out of my mouth, often: I’m a selfish person.
In my head, even more often.
I’m an only child. I don’t show the people I love how much I love them. I’ve complained about errands requested instead of cheerfully seizing an opportunity for kindness. I’ve holed up inside of myself, kept contained, not warming, not opening. And many more things big and small.
My mother puts others first, easily and naturally. She finished cleaning off the garden for me the other day – an hour of hard labor – and didn’t even mention it until I was about to go finish the job. “You did what?”- me, surprised. Her – a shrug as if it truly was nothing.
With my mother as point of contrast, a selfless person, I conclude that I, then, am selfish. The kid on the stage, the performer, it’s all about me.
This self-appointed label (among a wide swath of others) has been with me for years. I keep it in my front pocket, a scrap of paper, a reminder, a mantra.
What if I could throw it away.
What if the mere act of thinking I’m selfish makes it true.
What if, instead, I thought I was a generous person? If that word was the scrap in my front pocket? I could even support it with evidence. There have been many moments where I’ve been generous. It’s just as applicable as selfish. I’m not whitewashing the truth.
And maybe by identifying with being generous, I’ll then be more generous. A generous person sends a note in the mail, a little reminder of love. A gift given. An errand. A solution. Kind words amply given. My full, undivided attention.
If selfish is my label, maybe I’ll then be more selfish.
If generous is my label, maybe I’ll be more generous.
Maybe labels are just labels. Maybe they evaporate when we stop telling ourselves the same old stories, and come into clear focus when we tell ourselves a new one.
Maybe I’m fluid, not fixed.
I’m not going to be selfish anymore.