Why I’m Proud to Be Self-Centered

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Photo by Cathy Cole (Fire Monkey Fish) via Creative Commons on Flickr.

One cliché about people without kids is that we’re self-centered. But shouldn’t that be a compliment?

I’m not talking about the traditional meaning of the word, which is close to “selfish” or “self-absorbed.” But let’s break “self-centered” down a bit.

Shouldn’t being “centered in myself” be good? It sounds like being grounded, knowing who I am, and having the strength from that to reach out to others and support them too.

In our culture, though, being self-centered means being interested in yourself at the expense of others. And this is a criticism often turned upon those of us who choose not to have kids.

Being childfree helps me remain self-centered, in my re-imagined sense of the word. If I had kids, I wouldn’t have much time to meet with my writing group, have phone calls with my friends about their love lives, or take the train to see my parents. I could still do those things, but they wouldn’t come as easily.

For my friends who are parents, their sense of self expands to include their kids. That’s beautiful. But a solitary sense of self can also be both strong and loving.

Childfree friends and allies with kids–join me in a pledge to get more self-centered! To know ourselves, and rely on ourselves, so we’re strong enough to do more good in the world.

Here’s an interesting essay defending parenthood against charges of selfishness.

I Forgot to Eat a Doughnut

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Photo by The Searcher via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Lara Swanson wrote a great post about her process for creating a compelling presentation. Along with asking people for feedback and practicing her talk multiple times, she included a step at the end of the process: eating a doughnut.

Swanson writes:

After the presentation’s done, I’ve checked the data, answered questions, and thanked people, I’ll go find a donut. I’m not really kidding. Eating a donut is an integral part of my career celebration process. Years ago, I found that whenever something awesome happened in my career […] I wouldn’t take the time to celebrate the achievement. I’m an achiever by nature, the kind who feels like every day starts at zero. Not deliberately marking these moments left me feeling like I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything.

This resonated with me big-time. I’m also an achiever. But I tend to gloss over my successes, not so much in a self-deprecating way, but in the interest of surging (or blundering) on to what’s next.

Case in point: I recently completed a first draft of my first feature-length screenplay. This is huge!

But I haven’t told that many people about it, let alone symbolized the milestone with a delicious snack.

It’s impossible for me to think about my screenplay as an achievement, because I immediately see all the upcoming steps in the process: the revising. The re-revising. The ego-at-the-door-checking.

There’s a Great Wall-length road between where I am now, and having this thing production-ready. (Not to mention what filming itself would entail.)

But. I completed a first draft. It’s done. And it would have been easy to walk away in the middle–but I held true to Chuck Wendig’s oath:

I am the commander of these words.

I am the king of this story.

I am the god of this place.

I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.

Amen.

Since I read those words I’ve made a commitment to at least complete Draft One of every writing project. Meaning that every scene is (mostly) in place, the plot (kinda) makes sense, my characters (overall) know who they are and what they want.

So how many more drafts are to come?

Unknown. I could drop this hot potato right now.

But instead of bailing, I will pause.

And savor the doughnut–or, in my case, the vegan chocolate-butterscotch pudding–of victory.

Do you have an equivalent of “eating the doughnut” when you hit a milestone?

On Googling Exes

The other day I did an online search for some ex-boyfriends. Afterwards I felt like I’d just binged on candy: hollow inside, and with an acidic taste in my mouth.

Was it nostalgia that made me Google their names? I certainly don’t want to revive any of those relationships. They’re long over, digested by both my brain and my heart. I’m with a new guy now, and life is fulfilling.

But my exes have been blundering through my mind lately, like half-hearted zombies. One lives right near my friends in their new neighborhood and we walked by his house when I visited them. Another is a new dad and Facebook is plastered with photos of his cute offspring.

Does being childfree make me more vulnerable to nostalgia and wondering what might have been? It hurt me, a tiny bit, to see my ex holding his baby and beaming.

I’m glad he has that happiness. But it’s also slightly alien. It’s like he’s cracked a code I’ll never decipher.

The fact that I don’t particularly want to crack that code doesn’t stop the twinge in my guts at the family portrait, the affectionate comments from his friends, his bountiful harvest of “likes.”

Any of you fall down this rabbit hole recently?

Becky Shaw in Nashua NH

I just saw my friend Holly Schaff play the title role in the dark comedy Becky Shaw, running through April 12 at the Artists Collective Theatre in Nashua, NH.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the historical-looking Hunt Memorial Building and saw that the play was going to be performed not only in the round, but in the tiny foyer (maybe 26 seats?). The actors were never more than a few feet away during the performance.

This too-close-for-comfort staging works well since the play is both intimate and cutting. It’s about a dysfunctional family and a blind date gone terribly wrong. One of the wonderful things about it is the subtlety of the writing and the acting. Each character has many facets and I kept changing my opinion about who I liked and who I trusted.

Holly and the rest of the cast nail both the humor and the angst their characters experience. Grab a ticket and if you see it, let me know what you think in the comments!