Today I watched a very compelling documentary called “In a Dream” about the life and love of a prolific & passionate mosaic artist in Philly. The film hit home on a subject I have been confronting as of late, the compulsive self-absorption of the men in my life. I hesitate to write something like this so publicly, for fear of offending anyone, especially the men who do not fall into this category, of which I do know quite a few (thankfully!). But the examples loom so large in my existence, it is difficult to ignore.
The documentary follows artist Isaiah and his wife, Julia, who is supportive and selfless in her husbands indulgences into his craft. Yet Isaiah disappears so far into himself that consideration of her falls by the wayside as he follows his impulses. He selfishly chooses an inopportune time to disclose some of his more painful forays into satisfying his own needs, demonstrating just how careless he can be. He takes a moment that truly belongs to the well-being of his son, and makes it about him. It’s disappointing and heart-breaking to observe, especially when it is clear that the love between the pair is sweet & lifelong, and the artist himself is an otherwise nice human being, who has built monuments to his family life all over the city of Philadelphia. One of the most observational moments in the film is the realization that his love for his family is not direct, but rather an indirect expression of his love for himself & his illusions of grandeur.
And this is where I find myself synthesizing my own experience with self-absorbed men. To be clear, we all have a degree of self-absorption that can be healthy in the creative process (self included), but I’m talking about the kind that leaves so-called loves ones out of care & consideration all-together. A self-obsession that abandons those around them in their time of need, not intentionally as far as I can tell, but they are so consumed with thoughts of self, that thoughts of other are removed from their inner reality rendering true understanding impossible. The selfless & loving words & actions that could come so easily are never brought to life, leaving those that love them disappointed and hurt.
Of course, these experiences are not uncommon, in fact they are prolific in our society and the cause of most relationship dysfunction. I know women who are the same way as well, but have observed it far more often in men. Perhaps this is what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls. For my part, I know that I can chose the people to relate to in my life and one of the blessing of carrying a child is the absolute clarity I have about what is healthy for me and what is not. I now think in terms of what example I want to set for my child, and it becomes so obvious where the line is and how to lovingly and compassionately say, I deserve better, we all do.