Nice Matters: A Shout-Out of Gratitude

peonyToday I’ve written a bit about mean, so let’s shake that crappy mojo. I’m going to  write about something more important; nice (aka kindness).

Kindness matters. It’s part of that grace thing that I’ve been trying master for a few years.  We get it right sometimes, and we get it wrong sometimes, but what matters is that we strive to get better at it.

It’s good for us. Just as good as a healthy diet, or eight hours of sleep. Nice makes our bodies happy and our spirits calm.

Lately there has been a lot of nice in my life. My ‘crazy’ family and friends have been generous in their support of my son’s flight from the nest. He as been encouraged, supported, and cheered on. As a mother, there is nothing better than knowing your child is thriving and that they have a solid support network or friends, mentors, coaches and family. Thank you for being nice.

I’m taking a little longer to adjust to the transition. I tear up daily, and am struggling with the transition of being totally dedicated to my kiddo to being totally dedicated, but from a distance. My friends have been kind and gentle and supportive. Thank you for being nice.

I have flooded my social media feed with proud mom moments and not once has anyone told me how annoying it is. Thank you for being nice.

This is a challenging transition year for me, once again wondering where I will live, work and mom from in a year. In advance to my friends and family; thank you for being nice.

 

 

Advertisements

Kindness – It Matters the Most

kindnessKindness matters.

It really does.

I was reminded of that today as someone extended gracious behavior toward me.

Regardless of how old we get, how long we’ve lived somewhere, worked somewhere, or think we’re familiar with something, we always need help from others. Always.

We also always have a lot going on in our own lives. Family, friendships, hobbies, jobs, relationships, and the battle we wage in our own heads about our own baggage, every, single, day.

Today I showed up in a vulnerable situation and was met with grace and kindness.

If you remember to do one thing today, let it be this; be kind. Even if you can only start with being kind to yourself.

The Kindness of Strangers

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.”
~Oscar Wilde~

Today I thought that my only lifeline would be a bag of marshmallow bananas and nap.

I was wrong. As usual.

Our authentic selves have a  funny way of  being teased out from the darkness during difficult moments, uncanny timing, and serendipitous encounters.

Each day I try to put my best foot forward, wear a true smile, and treat other people the way that I wish to be treated; with respect, an open heart, and eagerness to make each encounter a kind one. At the very least, I try my best not to be a worry-mongering busy-body (read; miserable twatcycle).

Today was not a great example of that. Today was one of the rare days that I felt tired, worn-out, and frankly my sweet little plums, just a tad concerned about how I was doing. I. As in me. As in, this calls for a totally emotionally, nutritionally unsound trip through the drive-through for my no-fail-depression-and-sadness-indulging lunch of synthetic food and a jumbo sized-diet-going-to-chew-through-your guts cola.

Yah, it was one of those days.

As I raised my card to tap-through my payment for food that was sure to make my insides feel even more crappola, the lady at the window paused and said, ” You have children don’t you?”

Her comment caught me by surprise, and I simply answered, “Yes”. Honesty, you see, is my default. Yes, yes, I know that’s naïve, but it works for me, despite popular practice to the contrary.

“They are so lucky to have a beautiful mother like you.”

What a kind thing to say. What a shining bright spot in my otherwise bleak day. What a way to be reminded that there are other people out there in the world who take time for kindness.

It was enough of a boost to make me pause. Evaluate. Pull myself up by the black-patent-pump straps of life and formulate a plan.

As I munched away on my I’m-having-a-feeling-sorry-for-myself lunch, I made a couple of personal calls, and then carried on with what turned out to be a rather unsuccessful day.

By the end of the day, my greasy, fatty, nutritionally decrepit lunch had settled in my tummy  like a physical manifestation of the way I had been feeling. The comment about how lucky my children were had slid off my over-tired, damp-from-the-humidity face, and clung somewhere to the bottom of my trouser leg like a tattle-telling piece of toilet tissue.

My last stop of the day was a must-stop, and I was sure my facial expression could be saying nothing less than, “Please show me to your quiet room where I can take a nap and suck my manicured thumb”.

Instead of being rushed out, I was shown gracious hospitality, and was charmed by a gentleman who, during the ten minutes it took to meet, exchange pleasantries and do the business of the day, managed to have delivered a beautiful flower to my vehicle to thank me for being so kind.

It was all I could do not to fall apart when these two strangers took time to smile from their heart, communicate from their soul, and spend the extra few seconds to make a difference in my life.

Often it’s the kindness of strangers that keeps us buoyed up during turbulent times. Many people have good intentions, but very few ever are moved to act in kindness. The best intentions are meaningless without action.

Never underestimate the power of your smile, the value of taking a few extra moments to care, and the treasure you are given by way of these simple things during your moments of darkness.

Tonight I’m sad, and I can only go to bed hoping that tomorrow might be a little brighter,that the seeds I planted in the days and weeks and months before, will come to fruition and bless my life with beauty. For now, all I can do is hope.

Tomorrow I will wake up and meet the world as that kind ‘stranger’, because that’s just how I roll.

It’s a madhouse darlings, so make the best of it and travel with people who love you for who you are.

How to Be Creative

magicalcreativityStop.

Just stop doing what you habitually do.

Easier said than done, isn’t it darlings?

It’s a pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible thing to actually do.

When you must work instead of daydream to pay the bills, creativity can be awfully hard to coax out from inside your cluttered, cog-work-brain.

Just this week, some poor, unsuspecting, arrogant fellow managed to make me angry. Not annoyed at-you-angry, no, none of that. I mean, the kind of angry that finds my soul flipping his soul the mother-of-all birds.

It made me realize that I had allowed this spiritual niblet to make me angry, and, darlings, we can’t be having that. We are ladies of spirit and dignity. We stand for what is good and right and we must be reckoned with.

moments of decisionWhen we find ourselves bowing down to some imaginary regime, we must always take a clear stand of independence, and trust me darlings, that’s exactly what I did.

The key is to recognize that it is imaginary. We have made it so in our minds. Which means we can un-make it.

The trick is to actually recognize that you’ve been had. You need to be aware of the fact that you have a choice when your temper flares, or tears fall, or your heart goes pitter-patter.

Upon becoming aware, you need to step away and find some peace. You throw open the doors of your silly old brain and call out for some clarity.

Clarity is the capacity to recognize and distinguish the unlimited variety of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and appearances that continually emerge in the mind. It is also called luminosity. Without clarity, we wouldn’t be able to recognize or identify any aspect of our experience. ~Shambala Sun, Nov. 2014, Adapted from Tsoknyi Rinpoche with Eric Swanson, from Open Heart, Open Mind: A Guide to Inner Transformation~

Sometimes the best way to slough off the dead skin of mundane-musts and come to some semblance of clarity is eek out some solitude and try one of these;

1) Take a highway drive and sing at the top of your lungs to whichever music lifts your mood.

2) Long, hot baths. Candles, music, and your beverage of choice.

3) A full day of nothing. No plans. No going out or coming back in. Just staying put, in your own home, with no distractions.

4) A visit to an art gallery with no agenda; no particular exhibit you must see, no timed exhibitions and a notebook to write the thoughts inspired by someone else’s expression of the human spirit.

5) Writing. Write it out. Write what you think and feel.

6) Reading. Read something you wrote five years ago, yesterday, anything. If you don’t write, read the biography of someone you admire. It’s often reassuring to know that most people who do great things in the world were often told they had it all wrong.

7) Look at the stars. Just bundle up for the weather and look up at the clear, night sky. It will make you realize just how vast the possibilities are.

8) Get yourself to the ocean. There’s nothing better to soothe aching wounds than to get lost in an endless vista of rolling sea.

wellQuite a few of us do not have the luxury of escape, but we all have the luxury of limitless minds. Seeking stillness and replenishment of our human spirit is what provides depth for our creative wells.

Chances are if you feel lost, empty, meaningless, you have let your well run dry.

Wishing you the cleansing rain of clarity to saturate your creative spirit.

In Defence of Big Goblins & Ghosties

I wrote this a few years ago, but I think it’s worthwhile reposting.

This is my first year goblinless.

My kiddo is officially too old to go out for Hallowe’en, and even more than that, too tall.

At just over 6′ tall, the tallest in the school, he is not welcome on Hallowe’en doorsteps. Other kids the same age will be going out, because they’re small.

So, tonight, when the big kids show up on your doorstep (not the ones who show up at 10pm with beards and a pillowcase), be kind, and remember, they’re just kids on the inside, even if they’re tall on the outside.

 

Kindness and Her Annoying Little Brother, Sarcasm

1 flowerWhen you find someone whose sarcasm is sharp and quick, likely two things are true about them; they’ve had to develop their sarcasm as a weapon against cruelty, and they have been shown very little kindness.

But that’s not your problem.  It’s enough of an effort to cultivate deep compassion within yourself. When you do that, it will eventually radiate outward and infect those around you.

Kindness is a rare and beautiful quality these days. I mean real kindness, the kind that just kinda hangs around with someone all day despite their being tired, stressed or lonely. It is not some magical quality. No, darlings. It needs to be cultivated like that six-pack of abs, or your ability to cook.

Now, given that my last post was titled, ‘I Took Etiquette Lessons – Asshole’, I openly admit, that my supply of kindness runs out rather abruptly when I’m encountered with someone who is plainly rude in order to make themselves feel superior to me, or anyone else.

This morning a social media pal posted something about someone  pointing out that he had gained weight. His quick retort was funny, but my pal, with what I can only imagine was a voice in his head wondering loudly, how the heck anyone thinks saying something like that is appropriate.

I on the other hand tend to land retorts deep and quick in the guts of my passive aggressive commentators. When  a colleague called me ‘pretty good looking for being so stout’, I smiled and replied coyly that he wasn’t so bad for a fat old man himself. I looked in his eyes and smiled for a one-two-three beat, and then turned my back and walked away.

I try to say something positive and kind every day when I enter my workplace, when I’m greeted, or before I tuck my kiddo into bed. That doesn’t mean that I passively accept rudeness, mean-spirited comments, or bow to sarcasm. I kindly return the bitterness to the sender on a lovely silver platter with a smile, as little sarcasm and as much honesty as I can muster.

Kindness is; telling someone you like a certain outfit, rather than telling them that something makes them look fat.

Kindness is; passing a breath mint instead of waving your hand in front of your nose and telling someone their breath stinks.

Kindness is; asking someone who’s put on a few pounds if they’d like to go for a walk instead of pointing out their weight gain.

Kindness is; seeing someone in distress socially, and buoying them up with your smile and gentle defense.

Kindness is; handing back mean words, rude observations and a bad attitude so that the person generating negativity has a chance to reconsider and come up with something more positive for themselves and those around them.

Sometimes, kindness is also just keeping your mouth shut, coming home, putting on your stretchy pants and having a nice, cold, white-wine spritzer while listening to Solomon Burke….well, for some of us anyway.

The Amazing C and I often used to say to one another when asked our opinion, ” Do you want me to be honest, or do you want me to be nice?”

Well, I’ve done a lot of living since those days, and I believe that you can be honest and nice all at once. So now, instead of honesty, I want honesty delivered in a kind way.

We’re all old enough to know when we’ve done something stupid or been duped. We know that we make mistakes when we’re vulnerable and in love.

At the beginning of my study of the dharma with monastics, my partner at the time laughed at me when I became emotional and said something about wanting to be a more kind and gentle person. Having been known as a strong, independent woman, it took courage to want to tear down some psychological barriers and it took courage to confide  in him.

His response was not gentle or kind, but sharp sarcasm…and that my darlings, was the beginning of the end.  In that moment, I knew he was not the one. I did not need sarcasm, discouragement, or belittling. I needed kindness.

This Sunday morning, I give you this recitation by George Saunders….

Kindness

Lotus Flowers in Ritan Park

Lotus Flowers in Ritan Park (Photo credit: gadgetdan)

Sometimes, it seems like the world has gone mad. Like the love of kindness has dried off and fallen off like an old wart.

Drivers crowd the cars in the merging lane as if to allow someone to enter the flow of traffic is to be defeated and weak.

Shoppers guard their spots in too-long grocery store line-ups and eyeball anyone who steps out of formation.

Neighbours keep one another up at night without consideration for the precious healing power of silence and slumber.

Coworkers go about their to-do lists as if they are lone soldiers in the battle of poor-me-working-for-a-living without taking time to care about the well-being of their colleagues.

Life can be void of kindness for long periods of time.

That’s what makes kindness such wonderful treat. I recently had a great kindness extended to me by someone I have met only in passing.  Their friendly, kind, generous  message seemed suspect at first.

I caught myself thinking;

1) What does he want?

2) Is he going to try and poison me against so-and-so?

3) Is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

4) Id’ better be careful  and not tell him too much.

And then I thought, maybe, just maybe it’s a genuine outreach of support. Maybe, like me, this person just wants to connect and form a positive relationship.

Yep, that’s what I’m going to go with. Kindness like love surrounds all of us. We just have to appreciate it for what it is, not what we wish it to be.

Although I wish loved looked a little more like a hot-passionate-love-note-bouquet-of-peonies-poetry-worthy-romance, I do have an abundance of love in my life.

Today I wish all of you kindness.

Shame & Should; What to do with Shame, Guilt and Fear

SHAME

SHAME (Photo credit: BlueRobot)

I’ve felt uber-connected in some parts of my life lately. I have a blessed abundance of friendship, of caring friends whom, without their support the last few months, I would have dipped more deeply into some mindless-emotion-numbing habit.It’s true what they say about doing something kind for others. It really does make you feel better. Kindness is a kind of tonic that multiplies in efficacy. It benefits not only the beneficiary, but the donor.

That’s all well and great. Happiness, contentment, lack of longing, healthy, forgiving expectation. Aren’t they all terrific emotions? Sure my sweet little peach-pies. It’s all bliss and toothy grins.

But last night I had a different kind of conversation. A long conversation, about emotions much less pleasant. What about shame, guilt, fear, anger and addiction ?

They all suck. Quite often when someone is feeling these emotions, well-meaning friends offer advice about what you, ‘should’ do to cure the feeling. Should, has no place in a conversation with yourself or anyone else when these emotions are playing with your heart and mind.

Shame, guilt, fear and anger deserve our attention equally, if not more so, than the feel-good emotions we strive to cling to day after day, and moment-to-moment. After all, it’s human nature to run these bad-boy emotions out of our life. Why? Because they hurt. A punch to the solar plexus is much more tolerable than carrying the weight of negative emotion.

So, last night, during a conversation that was meant to encourage another person to seize the day and make the most out of life, even after crisis and loss, I revisited some of the indiscretions of my past. It was painful, for me and I’m not sure I made my point. I babbled well though, I’m good at that.

Experience comes from making mistakes, and let’s just say, I’ve had a world of experience my darlings. Although my decision-making, especially regarding personal relationships, has been much more healthy during the past few years, I alone know the truth about how I came to this place of strength and personal integrity.

I arrived at this place through much pain, loss and suffering. I had to learn painful emotional lessons over and over in order to make a change. An important part of ‘learning the lesson’ was forgiving myself and allowing myself to be loved, to believe in all of the things my heart ever ached for, and (gasp) to be vulnerable enough to trust other people who, being human and all, have also made shameful, guilt-provoking mistakes in their own lives.

So, it was not easy to disclose some of my more painful memories of indiscretion last night over a glass of wine and some food. It was much easier after the second glass of wine, but I digress

Still, I woke up this morning wanting to pull the covers over my head and stay there until someone noticed a funny smell in the hallway and broke in to investigate.

Being vulnerable, being open, being honest, can be very painful, especially if you think it was pointless.

My hope was to help a friend realize that we all make mistakes. We’re all assholes sometime, and it’s ok, as long as we learn and change for the better because of it. Life goes on even when you don’t want to wake up in the morning. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and everyone else, there is no redemption. There is no spiritual growth, and you perpetuate pain and suffering. Your remain, simply, and plainly, an asshole.

So life isn’t what you expected. You screwed up. Tuck the lesson in your pocket and carry on hoping, with faith, and believing in love. Forgive yourself, give up on battering your ego to the ground with negative self-talk, and let the life you always wanted take root.

Oh yah, and don’t judge me because I don’t feel guilty or ashamed any more.

Earlier this weekend a friend told me about some advice that was given to her when life presented a challenge. “The fork in the road”, dilemma over what to do next. A man gave her some advice, ” You don’t stand there looking at the fork. You pick up the fork and go looking for your next meal.”

Trust me, when you pick up the fork, you’ll know exactly the kind of life you’re craving.

Link to a blog about sexuality and shame; http://markandrewalward.blogspot.ca/2013/01/marks-sermon-on-mount-reflections-on-my.html