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Selfless or Self-LOSS?

A neighbor of mine is torn about what to do when she and her husband lose their home to foreclosure. Any decision she makes right now has to call the question on relationship issues she hasn’t been able to confront.

First, her husband has been a serial cheater. Second, her grown kids are still in the home. Third, she continues to live where she is because of obligations to a family business where she has never been appreciated.

The job? She wishes she’d left 20 years ago, but guilt and family pressure has kept her in place. The kids? They should be on their own. The husband? Look, the guy has a history of traipsing with trollops. We don’t even need to debate that one. What is it Dear Abby used to say? “She needs him like a moose needs a hat rack.”

All of these relationships have tethered her to obligations that she doesn’t really have to allow. I told her she has to stop putting herself last on the list, and she answered, “I’m not even on the list.”

Still, she waits. She figures she has about 20 good years left in her life. I wonder if she is going to live them. Maybe the foreclosure is a prompt from the universe that will give her the opening to finally do what she needs to do in order to actually live.

I wonder if she will. Most of us worry more about hurting and disappointing others than about our own feelings. Women do that as a way of life. It used to be in vogue to label that behavior “co-dependent,” but that label simply made women feel bad for behaving in the way women always have. By definition, codependency is passively putting your own needs after the needs of others. Sorry, but women do that. Some men do that, too, but women are wired for it. We do it every day when juggling the demands of work and family and community and whatever else before we finally notice we have no time for ourselves. In the effort to be selfless, we give up our selves.

That has to stop. We get one shot. If my friend does not use this moment to clear some space to really live HER life, when will she live it? Maybe all of the chaos has come into her life to free her to do what she should have done a long time ago. And maybe it’s a reminder that we can’t waste what little time we have on this earth putting everyone else first. We shouldn’t need a foreclosure to ask ourselves how we are going to live, but sometimes it is just what is needed to call the question.

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