Monday, August 17, 2009

Burden of Thoughtfulness

I tend toward thoughtfulness under normal circumstances. I like to think about the world in the abstract. Why do people behave the way they do? What influences us? What shapes our attitudes and expectations? This week I took it as a sign of well-being that I was able to read an essay on the plasticity of the human body in postmodern culture. Sometimes, however, this pattern of abstracted thoughtfulness is annoying. It can be hard for me to feel when I am preoccupied with analysis.

The thoughtfulness that attends my current mental and emotional state is something different. It is profoundly self-centered and much more difficult to escape. This thoughtfulness is not detached from feeling, but actually produces very intense feelings. I can think about myself and swirl around in my moroseness for a long time.

I have, by long habit, become accustomed to attending closely to what other people need. Parenting three children affirms that habit, since they require me to put their needs above mine several hours a day. Being a woman, a pastor’s wife, a person who likes to think herself independent and compassionate: these all reinforce possibly excessive other-centeredness. It is shameful to me that I have swung the other direction entirely. Right now, sustaining attention to someone else’s needs is exhausting.

Maybe the burden is not thoughtfulness so much as self-centeredness. It’s like I’m on a teeter-totter and want to get to the balanced spot where I have the humility to recognize both my needs and other’s needs, but so far I’ve been all teeter or all totter.

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Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.