From the outset, we are taught to be good, to be compassionate, to be giving, forgiving and so forth. Good teachings, no doubt. A virtuous living — religions preach it, teachers teach it, parents instill it, society expects it, and your loved ones want it. You often find yourself constantly working towards it, never-ending, like the dog catching its own tail. Their expectations never seem to end and they can probably say the same about you. Here is my take on this; you may find my perspective a little unusual:
Imagine a tree, a strong and fruit-laden tree. If it is nurtured well, it will give more fruit season after season. Vines may creep around it, it may give shade to others, on its boughs, birds may build their nests, squirrels may home themselves somewhere in its trunk, there may be an aroma, a fragrance of freshness in the air. Not only does it seem to be supporting an ecosystem, it has almost become an ecosystem in itself.
All of the above is only possible if the tree is strong, if it gets nourishment and nutrition, if it has room to spread and grow its roots, if it gets fresh air, oxygen, and the sunlight it needs. If, however, the tree is starved and deprived of its basic requirements, it will start to decay before completely perishing one day. The consumers of its fruit, the birds, squirrels, other creepers, and the ecosystem, everything becomes affected adversely.
Now envision you are that tree. What a beautiful sight when you are fragrant and fruit-laden, when you are green and healthy, when the birds are singing, everyone is benefitted. But you can only provide such value on a sustainable basis when you remain alive and strong. For that to happen, you ought to give yourself what you require. No matter who you are, a daughter, a mother, a CEO, whoever, whatever, if you do not work on your own fulfillment, if you keep ignoring what matters to you simply to keep up with the expectations of others, you will increasingly find the charm of life disappearing like dewdrops in the sunlight.
If you are happy within, fulfilled, somewhat complete, and taken care of, you will be able to take care of others much better. Be not so busy that you forget yourself. Following virtues, being responsible is great, but there is a fine line between being a pushover and being polite. And what is that fine line? You need not ask me or anyone else. Inquire within. Your inner voice will give you the most accurate answer. Someone with good financial acumen will tell you to divide your earnings between savings and spending, between expenses and investments, between borrowing and lending. Your financial success depends on that balance. The same goes for your time, for your own life too. Some part of it you give to others and some you retain for yourself, some you spend while some of it you invest.
If you do not engage in what gives you joy, gives you happiness, your inner peace and bliss will evaporate. You will keep feeling something is missing without knowing what, you will feel angrier with others, with yourself, with the world, you will find yourself getting irritated quickly, you will wonder why you are not as patient as before. If you are experiencing these things, I can say with much conviction, you are not taking care of yourself. Behind your smile, you are hiding the privilege of freedom. You may fool others but you cannot fool yourself. You know your own reality.
Spend some time in introspection. Write down what you would like to do, what gives you joy, what makes you feel complete, what gives meaning to your life. And start devoting some time, however little, to yourself. You will be amazed at the discovery of the new you. Everyone around you will get even more of you, the virtues will no longer need to be played, they will come naturally, automatically.
Mulla Nasrudin, when a little boy, was left home alone one day. His parents promised him a reward if he behaved himself while they were away.
Upon their return, they asked, “So, did you stay out of trouble and be a good boy?”
“Just Good? I was way gooder than good. In fact, I was so good that I could hardly stand myself!”
What good is being so good that you cannot even stand yourself! You have to find time now because moment by moment, life continues to pass by, the clock continues to tick; expectations will stay if not grow. Present mirth hath present laughter as Shakespeare would tell you. Do not let this slip by. Start living. Now is a good time. To take care of yourself is no sacrilege; taking care of only yourself may be.
Be not a casualty of virtues, be the cause. No, not a victim. A victor. Don’t ignore yourself.