"What do you do for yourself?"
The bishop asked me this at tithing settlement. It's a question I usually don't appreciate, but in the guilt-enhancing environment of the bishop's office, I really didn't know what to say.
I suppose he meant something like, "What makes you happy?" or "How are you maintaining your physical, spiritual, mental, and social health so that you can continue to perform well your duties as wife, mother, and church member?" But that is not what he said, and in the moment, I took it literally.
I'm a mother of active children. I cook, clean, see that they get to the bus and lessons and games and activities... When would I have time to do anything else? The bishop knows I'm The Crazy Person Who Jogs Up the Hill Pushing a Big Blue Stroller, but with weather and holiday preparations, I haven't been doing much of that lately. I said, lamely, "I've gone to Book Club a couple of times." And I've been reading more than that, but not this week.
What is the right answer? Am I supposed to do things for myself, or not? I thought we were supposed to be emulating the selfless example of the Savior. What did He ever do for Himself? As I recall, the Biblical record mentions that He took a nap once. Okay, I do that sometimes. And He would go off by Himself to pray. I should do that more often. But, knowing Him, He was probably praying for others most of the time. So, should I say, "No, I prefer to lose myself in service?" No, because it isn't true.
Should I admit that, when I feel stressed, I hide in my bathroom and eat chocolate, and brush my teeth immediately so no one (including the dentist) will know? Should I tell him how much time I've been spending reading the blogs of friends and strangers, or searching for quilt ideas and crochet patterns that I'll probably never use? Should I reveal my recent goal to raise my personal dress standards by wearing jeans more often than sweat pants?
Some of the activities that one might categorize as "for self" actually benefit others. I save some cleaning tasks for the boys. They think I teach them to clean out of selfishness, not realizing that it is much more difficult to get them to work than to do it myself, nor that cleaning is a life skill that they will value someday. When I exercise, I feel better, which helps me keep my temper, which improves family living. I enjoy music, but rarely play anything on the piano but the pieces I need to practice for the choir. My hobbies are primarily creative in nature. I enjoy making things for myself, but also for others.
Then again, how much of what I do for others is really for myself? I patch the boys' jeans because I will be embarassed if they go out in holey clothes. I cook interesting foods so my family can have a varied, healthy diet, but also because I get bored of eating the same things all the time. When I decided that D2 should have his own Santa hat, I could have picked one up immediately from the Dollar Store. But I spent far more time and money crocheting one for him, so I could enjoy the project. I obviously value the creative process more than practicality as I slowly craft a quilt for Rollo. Did I crochet sweaters for my nieces because I wanted to keep them warm, or because I thought it would be fun to use that cute pattern?
And now I've spent all this time typing out my insecurities instead of folding the clothes, putting away dishes, or even eating my own lunch. Obviously I need some adjustment in my priorities.
Now, here's a tricky question for you: Who just got Super Glue stuck on his tongue? And WHY???
Parable of the Pit
9 months ago