In Support of Selfishness

On one of my visits to Israel, I had an important insight. The children and I have the most fun when we do what I enjoy rather than what I think they might enjoy. This insight came paired with another wise saying, this one from my mother: don’t give the children too many options about what you’re going to do.

These wonderful revelations, giving me selfish free reign to do whatever I want while in Israel (and elsewhere), came after many visits touched by dissatisfaction. There is nothing I find more irritating than taking the kids to the zoo, museum, playground, etc. and hearing from them nothing but complaints. I mean, really! What ingratitude!

Surprisingly, or maybe not, all three of us have much more fun when I am not harboring resentment. Our last two visits we went hiking in creeks, checked out the tank museum in Latrun, and got lost in the Arab Quarter in Jerusalem. We went on a tour of the tunnels under the Kotel and through the City of David. We had a blast.

In The Happiness Project, one of the resolutions Gretchen Rubin adopts is “do it for myself.” I was raised to be considerate and to think of others more than of myself (after all, selflessness is a virtue in a nation which believes that it is good to die for one’s country). “Do it for myself” sounds to me more like: “selfishness alert! Beware!”

Nonetheless, “do it for myself” is an important lesson for me to learn. Far too often I find myself exhausted by thinking about others more than of myself. In her section on friendships, Ms. Rubin says: “one of the most delightful of pleasures is to please another person.” For me, at least, the emphasis is on the word “please.” My happiness is sadly decreased if the beneficiary of my kindness does not appreciate it.

The ability to enjoy a kindness independent of the receiver’s reaction seems near sainthood to me. There might be a way to “do it for myself” while trying to please another. For now, however, I guess I’ll have to settle for being imperfect with good intentions. In Israel, selfishness gave happiness to me and the kids. Perhaps, exercised moderately, it can bring happiness also at home. Maybe on my next birthday they can surprise me. Who knows.

2 Responses to In Support of Selfishness

  1. Sarit November 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I chuckled when you mentioned getting lost in the Arab quarter as one of the highlights of your trip. The same thing happened to me and my boys, when I was with my dad no less, and I was rather terrified…

  2. Sigal November 8, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    You know I always say that courage can’t actually exist without fear, right? I was absolutely terrified too to find myself with two kids by myself in the middle of the Arab Quarter and not knowing where to go to get out. But… we made it, and the adventure made it all the more fun!

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109