I just got off the phone with a friend who shared her recent trip to New York City. She went by herself, leaving her 7 year old with her reluctant husband and had the time of her life. She walked the streets of Manhattan, spending 5 hours in the original Macy’s. She talked to people, enjoyed the holiday decorations, and thoroughly enjoyed the city. She visited Soho, the East sides and Chinatown. I love walking and as I listened to her story I felt the joy of this walking experience. She spent hours, being in another world, away from home enjoying the moment. The weather was cold, but she had a warm coat, great boots and the heat of her own body from walking and going in and out of shops.
It sounded like so much fun! Sound selfish? This person works part time with her husband on a family business, is raising her sister’s daughter and may be gaining custody of her sister’s other children. Selfish? Or was she taking care of herself to replenish her energy to give to others.
Many people were upset with the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert for her “selfish” journey to far away places in order to get in touch with her own soul. Should she have stayed with her husband, lived the life that appeared happy by most standards, and grounded her in a life not fully satisfying, but certainly stable? Or do we sometimes need to take a journey where we have time to get in touch with our inner person, our true selves, and the inner direction to live a life that is not just satisfying, but honest and full of the joy of living and the energy to truly love others. We then can share lessons and journeys they might not have the luxury or freedom to take.
When Robert Ringer wrote his book, Looking Out for Number One his message was not to take care of your own needs regardless of the needs of those around you, but rather to be aware that by taking care of your needs you will be able to be a more whole person to those around you.
My friend returned from her trip energized and ready to “get back to her real world” with a renewed spirit. Her husband, who had been a little bit anxious about her timing for going away, stated that he had a new appreciation for how she balances her day-to-day life.
We are not helpful to anyone if we are stressed, burned out, or stepping over our feet to take care of people. Most of us appreciate a gift when given with joy and from an open and healthy heart.