I was about four years old when I was introduced to eggplant.
Among of my father's favorite dishes - one of only three or four plants I ever saw him eat aside from iceberg lettuce and frozen peas - my mom likely made it as a prophylactic for his anger spells that typically ended with flashing lights storming the front yard.
I remember walking the produce section of our local supermarket that morning skeptically eyeing violet extraterrestrials with green hats heaped below a chalkboard sign, prophetically certain it would re-define the meaning of disgusting formed in the brief 1,500 days of my existence.
At the table, the stringy, slimy mush abducted any hope I had of enjoying the meal, and I was bold enough to plea for mercy. It was the only thing my parents ever let me leave the table having not finished, but it never landed in the trash.
For me, the word selfish surfaces similar disdain I hold for eggplant.
Initially penned to designate extreme measures taken for ones own benefit, the word is flopped on plates as an everyday main course, satisfying another's banal needs when it should be a side dish reward reserved only for the deserving.
The only ones to be free are those who flat out refuse to accept it.
Women in particular have been conditioned to believe that to do something for oneself is to be "selfish." Even as we shift to more progressive allowance for women to select careers and hire a house keeper, the expectation remains that selfless sacrifice is the basic measurement a woman is rated against.
Like the Giving Tree, sawed down to a dead stump sentenced to decay, we strip ourselves bare of sleep, nourishment, enrichment and peace for the sake of "serving" the needs of those around us. No doubt twenty examples come to mind without me offering a single prod.
And then, having never pursued our dreams and desires - or even taking a moment to explore what they might be - we wonder why we're plagued with anxiety, depression and feelings of extreme loneliness and failure.
Yet between Selfish and Selfless lies a middle ground where other's needs are met as well as our own. It's a spring that nourishes, not a waterfall that floods or a river that runs out and dry.
We can only create it by acknowledging what we need and giving it to ourselves. We have to make our own Proverbial eggplant, not choke down what others have presented or demand it be given to us. We need to be our own audience of one.
It never occurred to me until recently to write for the sake of doing so. Like all other things in my life, it must be a means to an end, an end of supporting my family and enhancing their well-being. And that "thing" must be enjoyed by the masses or it doesn't count.
We all have things to unlearn from our childhood. Among mine is the lesson taught in a thousand nights similar to that plated alien feast that I can only care about others if I'm caring for others.
But enhancing my own well-being means I have the reserves to meet those of those around me. Simply doing it makes me. It makes you. Here's to doing it.