Archives for posts with tag: kindness

My coffee is a memory. By the time I got to actually drinking it, it was already rather tepid. It lingers, cold, and bitter, in my recollection. My day is off to a rather poor start for no good reason. At some point, the quality of my experience becomes up to me…

I reflect on things quietly, thinking perhaps I’ll gain perspective through writing, then find myself stalled, unwilling to tackle the “harder questions” this morning, in spite of knowing they would do well to be asked, and where possible, answered. Instead, I make an ambitious list of household chores and resolve to complete those. It’s easier.  Today is, in most respects, an ordinary enough Sunday.

…Order from chaos… sometimes I find it helps with other challenges troubling me in the background…It helps to have a list.

Same view, different day. Perspective matters, but we each have to walk our own hard mile.

I remind myself to make room for other perspectives, to listen deeply, to be open to change…

A slight change in point of view can make a difference in understanding our circumstances.

…I wander off to get started on my list. Another new beginning… the day may improve, if I can stay open to that potential. I can always begin again…

…Sometimes this shit is hard. Seems so, I mean. Subjectively. I remind myself “one practice at a time, one step at a time, one task at a time; it all adds up”… I feel unconvinced and blue. Some days suck. I make a mental note that change is – even the most miserable moment is just a moment, and it’ll pass. I have choices. I have practices that I know I can count on to be uplifting. Yeah, not super convincing that time, either. I’ll “get over it” and “move past this”. For now, this is the experience I seem to be having. I try not to take it personally, and stay with both this actual moment, and these feelings; the moment, which is frankly fine, is my anchor, my point of “safety” that gives me a firm foundation to consider the feelings without becoming mired in them (that’s the intention, anyway). I’m okay right now. That’s real. The emotions are emotions. I make a point to refrain from conflating the feelings with actual experiences.

…I make a point to consider the experience separately from the emotions I feel during or about the experience, itself…

…Uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences are something I can learn and grow from. Fighting that isn’t particularly helpful. Getting mired in unresolved emotions isn’t particularly helpful (or comfortable) either. I take a breath and turn towards my discomfort, seeking growth… and begin again, again. I eye my “baggage” and personal demons with some distaste and impatience, and snarl to myself “bitches, I can do this “begin again” shit all fucking day, just go ahead and fucking bring it“. That at least gets a laugh out of me.

I check my list, and yeah, I even check it twice. There’s more to do… and it all begins with a beginning.

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes predictably so, sometimes unexpectedly. It’s going to happen. That, by itself, is pretty certain. Life can get messy, complicated, painful, and unpleasant, sometimes.

…Still worth living…

Begin again. Take a breath. Cut yourself some slack. Take a step back and look at the situation differently. Make healthy choices. Express sincere regret, and offer (and accept) an unreserved heartfelt apology. Give people (including yourself) room to be human. Listen deeply. Breathe.

No, seriously – breathe.

Eventually tears dry. Eventually angry words stop lingering in the air. Eventually there is an opportunity to reconnect. Make a point to give room for those things to happen. Beginning again sometimes requires us to let go of hurting, or at least be aware of the hurting of those we have, ourselves, inflicted hurts upon – and ideally seek to do something about that.

I definitely pay the price when my meditation practice falls apart.

No finger-pointing or blame-laying here. I’m a mess and every bit as human as I could possibly be. This is not written from the perspective of me telling you, from atop some lofty tower, these are reminders for me. The woman looking back at me from the mirror is not always the person I most want to be.

I have some things to reflect on. Things I need to grow from. Things I need to make amends for. Things I need to make right. I could do better. I know there are choices to be made. There are practices to practice. There are verbs involved.

…First I’ve got to begin again.

Sometimes life seems to have a bitter aftertaste, a hint of hurt, an edge to it – too much work, not enough rest, too much future, not enough in the way of resources; the challenges pile up faster than the solutions. Still… however fast the challenges pile up, life has its sweetness, too. It’s those sweet moments, those small pleasures, those brief interludes of delight that hold the power to wrap me in smiles even while I wade through knee-deep difficulties in one moment or another.

Sometimes even though the world appears to be on fire, it’s really just the sunrise.

We’re each having our own experience. We’re each walking our own mile, each focused on some short bit of the path ahead of us. We’re each telling our own tale, living inside our own narrative and barely able to fully consider what anyone else is going through. Our logarithmically curated personal internet bubbles suggest to each of us that the world is more of whatever we assume we think it is than it was the day before. Unless we try really really hard to find out what is going on elsewhere, we may never know another world, or any other “truth”. Awkward or angry conversations become more common as we are further separated from each other by the tools that purport to connect us. We end up divided and feeling powerless. It’s a very human experience.

A young neighbor, hearing me beyond the words when I described my irritation with anger about my bird feeder pole being wrecked, offered to try to fix it. He succeeded. It’s oriented quite differently now, and just behind my happy smile, I find myself wondering if the birds noticed that, too, and if that would matter to them…? A stranger on the train, on crutches, had difficulty getting a seat in the morning; I asked the person seated next to me to give up their seat for her. That same evening, I got on the crowded train heading home and she returned the favor, asking the young person sitting next to her to give up their seat for me; I felt relieved that I wouldn’t be awkwardly off-balance and standing precariously gripping my cane for the trip home.  I’m just saying; sometimes the world is scary, sometimes the world is human beings taking a moment to be kind to each other.

When the world feels unkind, I practice kindness, myself.

I’ve been making a point to savor life’s sweetness, too, not just lingering over the bitterness of the occasional unpleasant bite. I find it a bit odd, when I think about it, how much more practice it takes to remain aware of what works, what feels good, what supports me well… and how effortless it seems to become mired in sorrow, disappointment, resentment, or anger. Negativity bias is a deep lingering bit of woe that requires pretty continuous practice to mitigate. I meditate. I practice “taking in the good“. I practice being aware and present in the moment, I practice being kind, I practice feeling gratitude – it all matters, it all helps… and I’m still human. 🙂

It’s a journey. The destination is along the way, the way out is through, and the map is not the world. We each walk our own mile.

Today I head out into the world looking for “home”. Later, I’ll enjoy some time with my Traveling Partner, and hear a traveler’s tales. Today, I’ll wrap myself in smiles, and taste life’s sweetness. 🙂

Each sunrise is a moment to begin again, and a moment to pause for now.

 

I woke up this morning with a thought echoing my head. It’s gone now. I let it go understanding that chasing it isn’t really likely to help get it back, and the sensation that I’ve forgotten something important is no true indicator of the value of the thought that slipped away. I make coffee, and wander off and forget it. I take up my unfinished to do list from yesterday, and set it down somewhere… and wander off without reviewing it. It’s not that it is important, it’s just that it was my intention to sit down with the list, and my coffee, and consider the day ahead. It’s of no real consequence; I shrug it off as not yet being awake and move on with the morning.

There is snow on the ground left from yesterday. This morning there is more snow in the forecast. I feel cozy and warm here at home, content to stay in and enjoy the day from the warm side of the windows. Later I’ll build a fire in the fireplace, perhaps put my feet up and read a book. I savor the moment of contentment, while also making room for the recollection of past hard times that would have colored such a day very differently. Hardship changes our view of the world. Hardship is a different experience to be having – and a lot of people are having it.

I wonder briefly why are we not kinder to those facing hardships, or people struggling, or people whose circumstances or injuries wreck their quality of life? I say “we” when I think about this, not because I am myself cruel or inconsiderate of unfortunate others as a practice or by intention, but because I’m just as likely, I think, to be cluelessly insensitive, wrapped in my own current contentment in life, or whatever privilege I am fortunate enough to have. I say “we” because when I look at “all of us” – and include things we excuse as “Schadenfreude“, we all tend to look pretty terrible as a human population. You may be inclined to excuse this; the catharsis and relief of laughter… or… something… right? Well, I’m betting that generally speaking, the person being laughed at would probably prefer to have some help, instead, and hey, maybe not to be humiliated in the face of injury, pain, or embarrassment.  Just saying. We laugh at the misery of others, and make excuses for that instead of helping, and it’s a common enough thing that we’ve given it a name to make it okay with ourselves. We can do better, as beings. We could choose to be compassionate. We could choose to be kind.

I don’t know why this is on my mind this morning. Perhaps because I heard that my young niece had been laughed at when she fell, tangled up with her service dog. How was that funny? People are incredibly cruel. Fancy monkeys, and no better than that, so very often. Me, too. I have my own moments of failure to live up to what I could become as a human being. I’m not a fan of laughing at people who have fallen, or making fun of people; mockery is something I find extraordinarily unpleasant, and see it as an act of hostility, as a personal attack. My more likely failure that leads me to cruelty is insensitivity that is a byproduct of having my own experience, and forgetting in some moment that the other person’s experience, being similarly their own, is not what I imagine it to be. Assumptions don’t function well as facts.

Our assumptions about others are highly likely to result in misunderstandings that can lead us to be cruel, or to mistreat people. We tend to make more assumptions, and check them with less care, about people who are dear to us. That’s something to think about. How often have I tripped up and treated my traveling partner poorly because I made an assumption about his experience, his character, his thinking, or his understanding of the world, that was entirely incorrect? It’s easy to “fix” this one; don’t make assumptions. Ask questions.

Even in those “passing stranger” moments, rather than bust out laughing when someone falls, (which assumes a lot of things, one of which is that any comedic potential in that moment has more value than the human being having the moment themselves) maybe ask if they are okay. Yes, and even if they are laughing – because people often laugh in the face of personal embarrassment, to save face, to ease the sting, to make light of a hard moment. That’s not an invitation to join them in laughter; it’s an invitation to help, to determine if they are okay, and to ease their insecurity in that moment. We’d do well to stop being such dicks to each other. The future of our world may depend on it.

This morning, I’m safe at home. Somewhere out there, someone is walking to a destination, very carefully, on icy sidewalks. If you see them fall, maybe help them up, and ask them the one question that really matters just then, “Are you okay?”

Today is a good day to care. Today is a good day to take just a step toward being a better human being than I was yesterday. Today is a good day to do some small thing to improve someone’s quality of life, by being kind. Can kindness change the world? I don’t know; the world hasn’t tried it.

Heading home in the cold last night, walking from the office to the light rail station, I crossed the square. As I walked toward the train platform, I passed a tall man carrying a flower-print duffel bag, wearing an expression of fatigue and sadness. I kept walking. I noticed the woman hurrying to catch up with him, a moment later. Then she started screaming. A plaintive wail, “no!”. “No! No no no!” She wailed. She screamed it at him, pulling what looked like a sleeping bag around her shoulders. She began to run after him, shrieking, wailing, crying into the night, and to all the passers-by “no!!!”. It was not anger that made her voice so distinctive and alarming, it was the pure raw grief and hurt and fear – real panic, the sort of thing one expects to hear in the midst of warfare, or violence. She sounded desperate, terrified, and bereft. The wails continued as she ran after the man. He walked on calmly without looking back. I turned and watched the scene move away from me, feeling helpless. There was no obvious action to take. The woman was blind to everyone and everything around her, except that man walking away. The only sign he was aware of her at all was that they had been sitting together, when I saw them from a distance, and also… a flower-print duffel bag is an odd thing for a man his age to be carrying, generally. Her screaming haunted my sleep. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how her story ends. I feel ashamed that I didn’t do more, but don’t know what I could have done under the circumstances. I feel puzzled by the seeming lack of awareness of everyone around, that evening… I saw no heads turn but my own.  Bystanders, each and all of us. What a shitty situation for a woman screaming “no”, alone in the night. I’d like to have been more helpful. It is still on my mind this morning.

I sip my coffee and think about how this experience is so telling of who I am now, where I am in life as a human being. I spend a few minutes noticing that I actually do care, even about the isolated distress of a stranger I passed in the night. I wasn’t always this person. I sip my coffee, and think about other times, when I was the one screaming and afraid, without help, alone in the darkness… I think about people who might have heard me, who may have wanted to do… something, but… what? I feel grateful that my life is calm and quiet these days. I take a moment to appreciate having survived some terrible dark nights. I make room to forgive the passing strangers who did not help, because they did not know how. That’s a step forward, for me. I feel the weight of a little more baggage drop to the floor. It hits with an imagined thud, and the realization that I can also forgive myself for being unable to figure out what to do last night, to help a stranger in distress.

It's okay to put some of that down, for now.

It’s okay to put some of that down, for now.

I take one more moment to wish a stranger well, after-the-fact, and to hope she found some peace, somehow, and some comfort. I hope she found a moment she could be okay in. “Not my circus, not my monkeys…” Well, sure… but… also… we’re all human beings. Each having our own experience. Separating myself, generally, from drama doesn’t have to also make me a dick to people, or insensitive, or callous, or cruel. Compassion, kindness, consideration are all still within reach, still important to cultivate, still matter. I’m no super hero – I barely adult adequately well to support my own life, some of the time – but I can still care, and still be kind, and still open my heart to listen deeply to another. Those still matter, even if I can’t save the world. Even if I can’t stop all of the screaming, everywhere.

Today is a good day to be awake, aware, and considerate. It’s a good place to begin. It could be enough to change the world… with some practice.