By Guest Blogger Kyle Ruffin
“Self.” The center of your universe. No matter how selfless you are or how controlled by others you feel, “I” am at the center of everything you know, love, hate, experience. There’s no denying it.
Sometimes I find myself wondering if the world is passing me by. So many others seem to be out enjoying life, making a difference, making millions, getting ahead, being happy. I read somewhere that we tend to compare our entire selves to other people’s highlight reels. That sentiment has helped me put life in perspective.
Just because I’m not skydiving at this very moment doesn’t mean I’m not experiencing something that is valuable – valuable to me. Writing this right now is who I am – I love to write. Even when I’m giving myself to others, I’m doing it because of what I get out of it – fulfilling a selfish need to contribute to a better world. A better universe beyond what I can see.
My struggle comes with accepting a new identity – one of caregiver. I never had the desire to be a caregiver. People who want and have kids – in my mind, those are loving caregivers. They live to care for others and it shows. Since I never wanted to have or never had children, I didn’t see myself as a person with the skills and nature to care for others. But, that all changed with my mother’s stroke. Suddenly, I went from independent agent with a thriving career – the person I always saw myself becoming – to having someone depend on me for every basic need. At 48, I became a parent – a caregiver for someone who could no longer live without being constantly attended to by others. And the identity I worked on, nurtured, sacrificed for was no longer my primary self-image. That made me sad.
The struggle with my new role still rages inside of me. Some days I’m resentful. Some days I’m frustrated. Some days I’m angry. And some days I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished – especially when I make my mother laugh, even though what we’re going through is far from amusing.
The strange thing to me is when others say – you’re amazing for what you do for your mother. Particularly since I spend every day beating myself up for all the things I don’t do for her rather than taking pride in all the things I do. Sabatoging my happiness because it doesn’t look like I thought it would.
“I need to be a better daughter,” I recently said to my husband as we were walking down the boardwalk in Atlantic City searching for the place that as a child we ALWAYS bought fudge so I could bring some home to my mother. He looked at me curiously and said, “You’re not serious, are you?” Oh yeah…he only sees my highlight reel – not the dialogue in my head or even the many, many moments of great angst that come with this new territory. And this is the person who most closely witnesses me in my new role.
My ongoing homework is to refrain from denying my “self” – the “self” that is always evolving and that at its core is good. I have a choice. I can feel sorry for my latest “self” or I can be proud of my “self” even in roles that I never imagined my “self” in. “I” am still the center of my universe – no matter what or who orbits around me.
The same goes for the “I” in YOU.