outgoing-mail-happy-faceOne of the things I’ve become determined to do lately is be more… outside myself.

Instead of thinking about me all the time, I want to think about others and ways I can reach into the world and make small changes.

It’s more difficult than I thought. I’ve been under the impression – for  years – that I was constantly thinking about others before myself. I thought I was the kind of person who was always putting others first and thinking of their needs before my own. I’m a mom after all, that’s what moms do, right? If I didn’t then the kids wouldn’t get fed and they’d starve and then I wouldn’t be a mom at all.

Logic +1

But it’s not as simple as all that. Sure, I think about other people and I absolutely put my family’s needs high up on the list of priorities, but in general, that’s for my own benefit. Happy children and a happy husband make my life easier.

It came about because I met someone who isn’t the please and thank you type. From everything I can gather we have a lot of similar interests and when another one of my friends met her she could not say a nice thing about her. I did not have the same experience as my close friend and while I did not disagree with my friend (I wasn’t there to judge, either way) I also did not jump in and add fuel to the fire or disparage someone I did not have any kind of real interaction with.

Long story shorter I’ve talked to some other people and had some of my own interactions and my determination is that this person lives solely through themselves and all the good that is done is through that myopic lens. It’s difficult to describe…most people think being self-centered is a person who comes across as mean or a jerk. It’s really far more subtle than that. It is a person who has beliefs that begin and end with their worldview. I’m not sure I’m expressing this fully, but I saw some things in this person that felt familiar and I took a good, long look and I thought, “Woah. I have passed an invisible line and I need to come back.”

I believe we all need to take care of ourselves before we can give to others. It’s an emotional version of putting the oxygen mask that drops down on the plane on yourself before a child or someone sitting next to you. Making sure you survive in order to help others.

But when this is taken too far – and I truly believe this is exacerbated by difficult circumstances – it becomes a shell and we can only see through the narrow mask we have made ourselves wear. We can only see the world through our own experiences. I had become closed minded. In my closed-mindedness I could only see the actions of others in terms of how those actions affected me.

It was a pretty bleak realization.

I had no immediate solution, so I just kind of opened myself to the possibility of change and put a metaphysical pin in it.

The first thing that happened was a fun get together with a really emotionally-heavy tarot reading. It was a great night. One of those nights where you leave and hope everyone had as good a time as you did. It was great. I didn’t spill anything, remembered my manners, and helped clean up. I wanted to be a good guest!

Today I wrote up a simple thank you note that is going out in the mail today. I know it’s kitschy, I know it’s old fashioned, and I know most people reserve their notecards for post-interview thank you sending, but I just felt the party was so nice I wanted to do something above and beyond – something traditional. I hope she likes it.

The next morning, someone who said something very kind to me recently put a call out on Facebook for cards for her mother’s birthday. I thought, “This!” and turned and grabbed another notecard. The thing is, as much as I love my hootie-hoo owl notecards, they’re blank inside. So I had to compose my own birthday message for the inside of the card.

I took some time and typed a bunch of different things out to see if they sounded right. I kept backspacing and trying again. I couldn’t get the tone right. Then I realized it was because I’m trying to be way too formal. I decided to have some fun with it.

This is the card in one of the envelopes in the picture at the top of the post.

birthday-card-drawing-bordered

I got the inspiration by searching YouTube (also known as the sum total of all human knowledge) for drawing happy birthday cartoons and art. This is kind of a hodgepodge from multiple videos. It’s not expert level, for sure…but I think it gets across the feeling I was going for.

Plus, how often do you get the chance to use that many different Sharpie markers in one sitting? Exactly. How could I resist?

I felt great after spending the time to make the card. Between that and my old fashioned thank you note I really felt good about myself.

Only one thing was left on my to-do list before the mailperson came. I filled out our family’s membership to Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center (A joint project of my park district and the park district next to ours). This will give me a chance to get out into the community and begin to volunteer.

As much as I might have a natural gift for seeing things from the point of view of other people, nothing can replace being around other people and working side by side with them. A sense of community begins by being part of the community.

On a very personal level, I feel very accomplished today!