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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Divided Loyalties

Today, I saw something that absolutely floored me while out running. I had to do a double take.

I saw a guy running in an Alabama t-shirt... with an Auburn hat on.

This is the first time I've ever seen this. Maybe it's more common than I know but it seriously made me look. The poor guy probably thought I was going to kill him with the way I was staring at him.

But that brought to mind some thoughts that have been gestating in my head for a while about divided loyalties. It's not about football loyalties or friend loyalties, two of the more common loyalties out there that everyone brings up when the subject of divided loyalties comes up... no, I'm talking about the internal divided loyalties.

I'm talking about being loyal to oneself... or oneself... or oneself

It sounds confusing but it's really quite simple. In my opinion everyone has to deal with (at least) three versions of themselves. Let me break it down for you.

1. The Selfish S.O.B.

It's all about us. This phase is most common in children because children, by their nature, are only acquainted with thinking of themselves. They have hardly anyone else to concern themselves with and even if they do, those other people are at the bottom of their list... until they become useful, in which case they ascend to the top of the list.

But as we get older and come to our own in this crazy world, the selfish part of us, though not nearly as obvious as when we were children, is still there. And boy, does it's voice seem louder some days than others. Especially those days when you have something you want to do but there are other obligations to be met... and just jumping ship sounds easier.

I did this some in high school and college. Being a selfish S.O.B. was not my go to method to get out of something: that was procrastination (another post for another time). But I still did selfish things, like any dumb teenager/young 20 something.

Freedom is intoxicating at first... when you get into high school you get a little bit of it. When you get to college, you get plenty of it. You binge on freedom and you do whatever you want. Did plenty of that in college and you know what? Totally unfulfilling in retrospect.

It's like an addiction. At first, giving in to those selfish desires is great... you feel free. You feel alive. But as you keep giving in, it takes bigger selfish things to get that same high. Before it was simple enough to eat the last slice of pizza because I wanted to... now I'm going to blow off my sister's dance recital to go to Taco Bell with some friends who I see every day anyway.

I still battle against this part of me. I have things I want to do but I pretty much limit to certain times-like during the night-because that's my time, that's a time where my usefulness to others is limited (if not nonexistent).

2. The Unselfish Saint:

Otherwise known as "the nice guy/girl." Anything that's asked of us, we try our best to do. You need something cleaned? I'm on it. People to babysit? Sure. You don't want to cook dinner? Let me at it. I don't mind.

Seriously, I don't. This is the best part of a person, the unselfish part, and I routinely give in to it as often as I can. Why? Because being a selfish S.O.B. SUCKS and is horribly empty. Giving in to the things you want to do doesn't do anything for you when you do it often.

But being unselfish? That only gets better the MORE you do it. I'm not saying do everything for everyone, but do things for others often and you'll find life more rewarding.

I don't mean rewarding as in "I have a ton of cash now because I did a nice thing for someone else" rewarding. I mean "I made someone smile... or laugh... or grin ect." rewarding. It's the little things in life, the things you can do for other people to make their lives easier and better, that makes your life easier and better... in my opinion.

When it comes to the unselfish part of me, I want it to be the most prominent thing on display. That's still a work in progress because I am still a loud (as in "someone who is routinely told to be quiet at night" loud), blunt, opinionated, and weird (best descriptor out there for me. Waiting on Webster's to come up with something better) person. But the unselfish part of me has cracked the top ten of things you can say about me I think... definitely the top twenty at this point. That's a major improvement from where it was a few years ago.

3. The Happy/Unhappy Medium

Then there's this part of everyone, where reality is acknowledged and we realize we can't just be unselfish or selfish... there has to be a middle ground. The thing about that middle ground is that it's the least stable of the three parts of us. That middle ground is like being on a fault line... you never know when a quake is gonna hit, you never know how bad it'll be, and you never know what it'll wreck.

The middle ground is a delicate balance. We give in too much to our selfish desires and we feel like a loser. We don't give in to them at all and we eventually hit burnout being so unselfish. The thing is we need both parts of us to coexist. We have to support both teams because it's in the best interest of everyone that we do.

I hate the middle ground. A lot. I'm a person of extremes, right or wrong, black or white, ect and I find the middle ground to be flaky. It likes to change it's mind a lot... it likes to interpret things differently based on how the day is going. It's moody. It's emotional. It doesn't have one motivation but multiple motivations.

It's complicated, it's difficult, and I'd rather not deal with it. I can't seem to find the balance to make it a happy medium... it's only an unhappy one for me.

Which brings us to back to divided loyalties. Today, I decided to be the selfish S.O.B. It was all about what Zach wanted today because I just felt like I needed a day to be that.

I did great at being the unselfish saint over the labor day weekend. I freakin' owned Saturday, stomped Sunday, and survived Monday (mostly unscathed). Tuesday was ho hum, but Wednesday I did pretty decently again and was productive despite the likelihood I wouldn't be.

So today, Thursday, I decided to make it my day. I should have known something was off when I slept for nine hours and suffered through a horrible zombie filled nightmare that I could not get out of until everyone died in it. It took awhile (my zombie survival skills are legit in dreamland) but we did all finally perish in gruesome, blood soaked ways... the details are seared into my brain and no one will ever want to hear them.

Anyways, I should have known the day was off from that point but it didn't red flag because of how out of it I was (nine hours of zombie nightmare sleep=really crappy sleep). I knocked out some leftovers for lunch, tried out an unsuccessful new recipe, and reserved myself to a bumtastic day on Netflix... but I felt the urge to run. I also wanted to hang in the library for a while.

Today was back to school night, so my services during the evening were not going to be needed... the kids and parents would be at the school, suffering enjoying the various things the kids wanted to show off... it was gonna be awesome. Everyone wins.

So, I set off towards the park, I ran, I swung, I flew like Superman (in my mind... though in real life I was listening to the Superman theme and wearing my Superman shirt), and then headed off to the library, where I wrote a good bit, had some nice relaxing time to myself, and killed three flies in three attempts (it was epic).

The day was good, I ended up back at the house around 9PM.

But it wasn't like I was expecting. The kids did NOT go to back to school night, in a complete reversal from what I have ever known apparently this back to school night was for adults ONLY. Which meant I shirked my duties.

"What a jackass," I thought to myself as things were explained to me as I was heading off to shower. I didn't know, yeah, I get that, but that doesn't change the fact I left the ship-so to speak-a man down at a critical juncture.

I gave in to my selfish S.O.B. side today and, predictably, the taste of victory turned sour within minutes of my arrival back at the house. I felt, and still feel, like a complete loser. I assumed I knew what back to school night was... but my assumption was wrong.

Is it that big a deal? In reality, probably not. I'm likely overreacting. But I still feel pretty bad about the whole affair. So much so I grabbed a tall glass of wine to offset the guilt.

The headache says that was a poor choice.

Anyway, I wasn't able to find that happy medium today. I found an unhappy one, where I was pretty unselfish for most of the week but screwed up today and feel as though I messed up the whole week. It sucks.

Which is why my divided loyalties are pretty one sided. I'm 99% in favor of my unselfish part and I'll split the other 1% amongst my selfish part and my happy.unhappy medium. I need to find a better balance.

I imagine you folks need to as well. So, I shall strive to do that in the coming weeks and see if I can. As always, any and all comments are welcome, and thanks for reading.

Good night. :)

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