Kindness – Changing Lives Everywhere, Especially Ours

Couldn’t we all use a little more kindness in our lives? It has become sort of a rare commodity these days. Often our go-to response to many situations has become mean-spirited, belligerent, aggressive, angry or just plain rude. Just look at all the road rage we hear about these days—it’s frightening.

Most of the ‘stand-out’ people in my life have been those who have been and are kind. Kindness does not equate weakness; actually, it’s strength. That old Bible quote, “blessed are the peace-makers” is as real today as it ever was. I have seen situations shift from anger to calmness by just a bit of kindness.

I have to wonder what’s going on in some people’s lives that makes them react with anger; usually it has nothing to do with anyone but themselves and how they feel about themselves. I know that when I am anxious, fearful, sad or worried, I am snappish and easily offended. Most of the time, this is all about me and has nothing to do with anyone else.

The trick of it is to realize that I am just having a bad day, and then realize that I have the skills to turn it around. Whether or not I do this is up to me and me alone. Knowing this keeps me humble; I’m human and therefore fallible. But most of all, I don’t have to feel bad.

So on days like that, I make kindness my priority. Once we decide that we do not want to stay angry or resentful, we have the power to change. When I am struggling to get back to kindness, I think about what my amazing step-daughter used to say to Ava (my first granddaughter) when she got upset and angry over something.

She would smile at Ava and say, “how about we go upstairs and change out of your Cranky Pants into your Happy Pants?”

Just the thought of that cracks me up. And yes, it actually is easy to change our attitudes from cranky to happy. It is just another decision that only we can make for ourselves.

The days when we wake up feeling bad or just off-center, we can choose to lift ourselves up. I picture the process as “up-shifting;” that is, manually shift from cranky to happy. We can decide, just like that, that we want to be happy. We can decide to be grateful and see all that is good in our lives.

How do we do this? It’s as easy as saying out loud, “I am going to be happy and grateful today. I am leaving this bad mood by the side of the road, and I am going to start by being kind to the first person I see.” Just these thoughts and saying the words out loud make a chemical shift in our brains so that we actually can become happy.

By all means we can be kind to others. But why not be kind to ourselves? It’s a win-win; good for us and good for those around us. Even if we extend kindness to another person by simply smiling at them, it changes us and it changes them. They might not even smile back, BUT it makes a difference; believe it.

Kindness is the ultimate life-changer. Let’s all “up-shift!”

 

Journal to Clarity

Although this blog has become sort of a “go-to” journal, I still find that putting an actual pen to actual paper keeps me honest. Oh sure, I can always rip out pages I don’t like, but it’s like breaking a deal with myself. I do however admit to burning up all the journals I wrote when I was married to “wasband #1” because my entries were not truthful. They depicted a life I wanted to have but didn’t. Even after nearly 20 years, those journals just didn’t ring true and I realized they weren’t worth saving.

So—why journal? I do it because having the written words on paper gives me an authenticity I enjoy–and can’t deny. For example, this weekend I am attending a wonderful two-day seminar called “Letting It Go.” It was strongly suggested to all of us who are attending that we do two things prior to showing up for the seminar:

  • Recognize that feelings are going to be stirred up big time in mental preparation for this seminar. We may or may not find we are anxious, angry, upset, weepy, worried; all to be ready for the clearing to come.
  • Keep a journal of what is going on in our heads and hearts. (This will also be the journal I will take with me to the seminar.)

This time, I am keeping a journal filled with what is on my mind and heart and not treating the journal as if other people will read it. Keeping a journal is a way for me to stay honest and keep things real for me. At this stage of my life, I am pretty dang sure that I am none of the following:

  • a saint
  • another Mother Theresa
  • a flawless person
  • a constant giver and listener
  • a constant inspiration

Realizing all that, my journals are for me and my own progress; no one else. But I do know that I am trying to be the best me I can be. Keeping a journal helps; it keeps me honest and it reminds me that while I am not perfect, I am doing what I can to be better. And right now, “better” is not bad at all. Here is what else I know about keeping a journal: splurge a little. Get yourself a nice-looking journal (mine has kitties all over it), and a really, really good pen. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Oh, yes, and don’t judge yourself when you write. Just WRITE. I hope that you find your own thoughts on paper as clarifying as I find mine.

P.S. Don’t be afraid to doodle in the journal, too! I do it all the time.

Rest in the Day

Ever have a day where there is plenty to do but you just can’t get started? Everything you think you should be doing suddenly seems too much, or too hard or too much trouble or you just can’t pull yourself together. These are the days I have learned to say to myself to just ‘ rest in the day.’

That means that probably nothing of any consequence will get done–and does it really have to get done right then? If you are as stone-stubborn as I am, you will probably beat yourself up to ‘get going, already!’ But I’ve learned (painfully) that there are just days that are meant to be lived without doing much of anything. I prefer to think of those days as “recharge” days.

This concept never fully took root until I helped care for my dying mom along with my dad. She was in Hospice care, and the nurses became friends and family to us; they loved my mother, cared for Dad and me, and helped us beyond measure. However, Hospice care does not mean that an experienced nurse will be there 24/7. Dad and I found ourselves doing things for which we felt woefully inadequate.

Thanks to the kindness and love of my dear best friend (and sister-in-law–how lucky am I?), I found help on caretaker web sites to which she directed me. I learned that I was not alone in my fear and frustration, and that so many people were dealing with these same issues. It made my perspective on everything wider, better, and I learned that my feelings are very common. I also learned that you absolutely MUST take time for yourself. You may not always get all the time you need or want, but trust me–any time to yourself will help.

If I needed more proof that I was in fact suffering from “caretaker-itis,” I realized that my own body was sending me more and more urgent messages. In metaphysical terms, our right side is our “giving” side, and our left is our “receiving” side. I happened to look down at my fingernails on my right hand during a particularly hard day. All the cuticles on my right hand were overgrown, ragged, and discolored. My right shoulder gave me constant pain, as did my right knee.

My left hand was fine; cuticles neat and clean. My left shoulder, which had suffered a major rotator cuff tear years ago, wasn’t hurting, and neither was my left knee. Coincidence? Not at all.

We absolutely can’t pour water out of an empty pitcher, nor can we do more than we are able to do. Even if we take five minutes to just close our eyes, relax and think of a beautiful memory, or just stick our heads out of the door and breathe some fresh air–it helps. If we don’t give ourselves the love and care we would lavish on a loved one, we can’t be as effective as we want to be. We must remember that WE matter as well.

Let’s all give ourselves permission to rest in the day. We deserve it.