Yup. That’s a rather cryptic title, and I admit it freely. It’s also true.
You see, this is my Before post for The Kindness Challenge, a seven week challenge being hosted by Niki Lopez over at The Richness of Simplicity. Except the challenge kicked off on Monday, and it’s already Thursday, so I’m really more After than Before, at this point.
Am I making sense?
I intended to write this post last week, just as I intended to do two posts for the amazing Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest a few weeks back…
There’s a saying about what’s paved with good intentions. But it’s not a very kind saying, and I tend to believe that intentions stand for something. It’s hard to act purposefully, after all, without intention. No, intention can’t replace action – but it is a starting point.
So I intended, and I failed to act upon those intentions. In the case of #BOAW, I’ll be waiting for another chance next year. In the case of this Before post, I’m going ahead with it, because, while it is definitely After, it’s not yet edged into Too Late territory, at least as I see things.
I do wish I had done both projects in a timely manner, but that didn’t happen. I could heap recriminations upon myself, but that wouldn’t accomplish anything at this point, and it would make me feel bad – definitely a poor way to kick off a challenge that starts with a week of self-kindness. Besides, it wasn’t like I was just off in limbo somewhere while I wasn’t getting those posts written. I was involved in two major writing challenges last month, and one of them spiraled and expanded in delightful and unexpected ways. My daughter will soon be getting a long-awaited kitten, and preparations needed to be made. April ended, and May brought a new challenge. The yard beckoned for tending, and so did the house. There are obligations I have to my children, my spouse, and even our pets.
So, here’s where all this connects to the challenge in general, and the week of self-kindness already underway in particular.
I’m going to be kind to myself, exonerate myself from the self-imposed stigma of being late to the before-party, and carry on from here.
Because kindness matters, and we can all use more of it in our lives. Really.
It’s as simple as this:
I believe that only through kindness can we create a better world. It’s in the small gestures, like smiling at the cashier ringing up my order at the local grocery store, looking them in the eye to give them a moment of human recognition that’s sometimes lacking in that type of occupation (I know this, because every job I’ve ever had was service-oriented.) It might be complimenting a stranger’s earrings. Or smiling at the mom with a screaming, struggling two-year-old, and saying, “Being small is hard. And being the mom of someone small can be hard, too.” So often, when a child is in loud public distress, people look daggers at the parent, as though they’ve committed a gross offense. And, when I was the mother of little children, rather than a teen and a pre-teen, I felt that unspoken judgment keenly. It didn’t make me a better mother, and it certainly didn’t make me a kinder one. But smiling at the mom and her frustrated tiny offspring who can’t possibly be expected to contain his our her emotional responses yet always seems to elicit a weak little mom-smile, and a deep exhalation of stress. Often, the little one is distracted enough to allow a reduction in parental stress levels, too.
Not all of the kindnesses I’ll focus on during these next weeks will be small, but many will. Because the fabric of life is made up of the small things, whether hostile, neutral, or kind. I want my small things to skew strongly toward the kind and gentle, because I was raised in a home where there was always an edge of volatility to things, and I began as a parent in keeping with that pattern.
Life wasn’t so kind, gentle, or pretty here, when people were small.
Learning kindness, gentleness and acceptance of what is as it is was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done (and I say this as a fiancee who held her beloved while he died, and as a mother and wife who watched her husband do the same for our twelve-day-old son.)
Those were moments of tragedy, and healing from them was by no means easy. There will always be pangs and abraded places…
But kindness is ongoing. It’s never done, this learning to be kind. There’s always more kindness that I can bestow upon myself and others. There is always a higher, deeper level I can attain…