Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
March 2010
Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.
SF Bay Area Readers: Mark Your Calendars!

POETRY & PIZZA, Friday, April 2, 2010 at 7:30pm
Escape from New York Pizza, 333 Bush at Montgomery, San Francisco

For a mere $10 donation, you'll get all-you-can-eat pizza and a poetry reading that features Lian Gouw and Martha Clark Scala. Lian will read from her poetry manuscript, The Last Dance, which chronicles her journey as a caregiver of her ex-husband during his battle with cancer. Lian is the author of an excellent historical novel, Only a Girl, which is set in Indonesia. For more information about Lian, or to schedule a book group appearance (she's fabulous!), click here.

I'll be reading recently revised poems that address themes of spirituality and the creative life.

Why is S E L F I S H a dirty word?

When the 1970’s (and into the 80’s) were dubbed “The Me Decade” by novelist Tom Wolfe, he lamented the narcissistic, self-indulgent tendencies of a population lacking in adequate social concern. His observations may have been accurate. However, if you hear his complaint through an either/or filter, selfish becomes a dirty word; selflessness becomes a medal of honor. Does this polarity serve us?

How do you reconcile this Me Decade judgment with the instruction you are given as a plane prepares for take-off? You are told that if the oxygen mask drops down due to a dip in the cabin’s air pressure, you must put your own mask on first, prior to helping others. It’s a little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? You would probably want to help a child or an elderly person first, and yet, how helpful can you be if you don’t have adequate oxygen? It is not only appropriate but necessary to get your oxygen first. How would you assist others if you haven’t got enough oxygen to thrive?

Years ago, I attended a workshop on Community Organizing that was led by Mike Miller. One of the most memorable discussions was on the topic of self-interest. Mike suggested that self-interest falls in the middle of a spectrum between selfishness – concern for oneself at the expense of others, and altruism – concern for others to the exclusion of self. Placing the oxygen mask on your face qualifies as an act of self-interest, doesn’t it? If you are motivated by self-interest, you are self-possessed (rather than self-absorbed) enough to advocate for your wants and needs. Isn’t this a prerequisite for benevolent action in service of others or the community-at-large? If we pursue our well-being (rather than self-sacrifice), are we not more able to serve others? Are we less prone to burnout, and more likely to experience joy? And isn’t that in our self-interest? Too bad our association with the word selfish can’t incorporate the life-affirming element of self-interest, because then it wouldn’t be such a doggone dirty word.

A Wondering

Are those who criticize you for being selfish feeling threatened by, or jealous of, your ability to take care of yourself or to self-advocate? Would joy be a byproduct of more openly acknowledging one’s self-interest? It takes a lot of energy to hide things.

"Every effort that is allowed its full beat within will ripple as a birth of some kind in the world.”
                              ~ Mark Nepo

  Managing Disappointment

If you attend to your wants and needs, others may directly or indirectly express their disappointment in you. Guilt may ensue. Before you modify your decisions or actions, ask yourself who you would rather disappoint: yourself or someone else? When you disappoint or overly sacrifice your self, resentment shows up. You are better off managing the discomfort or anxiety that arises in disappointing someone else, aren’t you?

Your March 2010 Prompts for Joy

Click here to see a cat who took action that was possibly motivated by self-interest …

Click here for a rendition of "Waking Up is Hard to Do" by The Laryngospasms, a group of singers who have day jobs as anesthesiologists.

(A big thank you to Nancy Clark for sharing this video with me.)

Pictured Above

Mike Miller is the Executive Director of Organize Training Center. For ordering information about his book, A Community Organizer’s Tale: People and Power in San Francisco, click here. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can hear Mike talk about his book at Bird and Beckett Bookstore, 653 Chenery St., San Francisco, on Sunday, March 7th, at 2pm.

Joy-Gram for March 2010

Treat yourself to something which you would typically forego: a bouquet of flowers, an extra hour of sleep, turn the computer off … you get the idea. Notice if providing this treat for yourself expands your ability to care for or be magnanimous to others.

Archives Now Available

To re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303

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