Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On becoming self-aware about being self-absorbed

Note: This column appears in the 1/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/30 issue of the Peoria Times

Nobody, for the most part, thinks that they’re selfish. I sure didn’t. But I always thought of selfishness in the context of material things. Like, for example, if I were eating a sandwich in the park and a homeless man came up to me and asked me for a bite, I’d be like, “Sure, dude. But you better have a knife and fork because you are not putting your mouth on this. Also, I’m a vegetarian, so I hope you like lettuce.” Then I would cut him a (small) piece of my sandwich, and proceed to mentally pat myself on the back for being so selfless. This is a hypothetical situation of course, but I am pretty sure it’s an accurate assessment of my potential character.

So, I would say, that after the age of four -- when you would rather hold your breath for 15 minutes straight than share something with even a sibling -- it becomes rather easy to be selfless when it comes to things. But what about time? Hmmm…

The perception that I had of myself as not being selfish came crashing down to earth a few weeks ago, when my wife informed me that one of the families that she works with had invited us over to their children’s birthday party. It was on Sunday morning at eleven. The exact kickoff time of the Giants-Eagles playoff game. Before she could even finish informing me of any additional details, I interrupted her with random phrases of refusal: “No. Babe. Can’t do it. Giants game. Sorry.”

My wife didn’t even give me a hard time. She knew it was the playoffs. More than anything she was upset that she’d either have to go by herself or not at all. On Friday she excitedly called me to say that the party had been pushed back to 12:30. “That’s halftime, babe. Can’t do it.” I could sense her deflating on the other end, as she relented and said, “Well…just think about.”

Those words stuck in my head for the next few hours. Just think about it. In doing just that, I realized that the only person I was thinking about was myself. In fact, I was thinking so much of myself that I refused to even entertain the thought of not doing exactly what I wanted to do. I was selfish after all. And this wasn’t an isolated incident either -– my free time typically revolves around my own will.

So, a compromise was in order: We’ll watch the first half, and I’ll DVR the second half and watch it after the party.

So there I was. My favorite football team was in a heated battle with their division rival for a chance to go to the NFC Championship Game, and I was sitting in a kitchen listening to Thomas the Train songs. Behind all the kids was a huge flat screen TV that wasn’t even turned on. Taunting me. But a funny thing happened on the road to selflessness: I was having a good time. I was drinking -- which helped -- but I also met a few really nice people, had some good food, and got to see my wife smile, which she rarely does on football Sunday.

Turns out I would have enjoyed watching Thomas the Train episodes more than the second half I was so anxiously waiting to see. At least I was comforted by the fact that, for at least an afternoon, I wasn’t a selfish jerk. Possibly you think that you’re not either. To which I say: Think about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mike, you are such a good person. I know how much you like to watch sports especially a game like the Giants going to the play offs. I have a son who's whole life is sports. Whatever the sport he is either watching or talking about it. I think you know who it is.