I have a headache… probably from staying up too late, watching “This Is Us”. The writing is brilliant. Beautiful. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Both, sometimes at the same time.
Why is life so complicated? How did kindness become such a challenging state of being to bestow upon those around us?
I am constantly reminded that kindness is a choice, as are many other things, and sometimes kindness means to be honest with the kind of integrity that makes you quake inside, that makes you worry that everything meaningful you’ve ever hoped to build toward will crumble.
Sometimes it means to be brave and to persevere, even though failure might be the end result. I feel I’ve done that, time and again in my life. Not always, because sometimes fear yanks away the wheel from my grip and relegates me to the back seat, but when I let it drive for a while, I realize that I’m moving farther away from where my heart wants me to be. So I relent, find the resolve to take my seat in the front again.
I try to lead by good example, and I fail that too, at times. Spectacularly. I fail because I can’t see past my own humanity, or that of the ones who surround me, by whom I fail, sometimes. I look at people and see what they are not. What they could be. What I think they are, however erroneously. The strengths and weaknesses intermingled into one hot mess that I can’t rise above, at least not then, maybe not ever.
The thing is, I keep coming back, showing up to give it another go. I do that because I believe in us, all of us. I believe in people, and their beautiful frailty and strength. The two don’t diminish each other, they make each stronger, more enduring.
When I was young, I would get into these dark moods. It was a kind of sadness that would grow out from my marrow and overwhelm me. It felt sort of like covering myself with a big comforter in the early morning, in an attempt to sink back into sleep, not sure whether it was to rest some more or as an escape from the weight of trying to learn to be a human being.
No one really teaches you how to be that. Sure, we are told what to do and not do by anyone who has an opinion to give. Mostly though, we each end up finding our own way, no matter how skewed the journey. We learn from those around us how we want to be; who we want to be less like. Our hearts are broken a million times in a lifetime, and in the end it is up to us to figure out how to find a way to mend each break.
Sometimes, people come into our lives, at times briefly, at times more enduringly, and teach us the things we need to know to become more of who we are meant to be. Sometimes they just hold our hands while we figure things out, and sometimes they hold all of us, our lives, together while we make our way through to the other side of the painful things that break us down and force us to remake ourselves again. Sometimes, they do the breaking, or watch us break, hoping that we will find a way to mend ourselves, on our own.
I have no answers – I never have. I have only more questions, many without any answers.
I’ve learned that being told what to do seldom works. My mother, on those darkened days, used to urge me to “cheer up”. There was never a moment that she reached out to try to solve the why of it, or how to go about finding a solution. It’s not that she had any answers, per se, but maybe going through the motions of coming up with solutions, to be witnessed instead of reacted to, I might have found my own way to the answers, at least a whole lot sooner than fifty some-odd years in.
I still don’t have all the answers, though, at least not definitive ones. The solutions change as quickly as the dilemmas do, and what worked today may not work tomorrow. What I have learned though is to stay the course, through the good stuff, the less than pleasant stuff. There is always some kind of revelation that arises, if I am patient enough, if I allow myself to be open to its receiving. If I forgive myself when I give a less than stellar performance and allow myself to be the human that I am.
Life is miraculous. The fact that we exist is miraculous, that we’ve persevered as a collective species; that I am alive, despite so many odds of it being otherwise. I don’t understand, can’t even pretend to know, why it is so. That is part of the great mystery.
What I do know is that the reason we have survived is because we have been able to find common ground… to pull together and help support each other in the face of insurmountable odds. We have found ways to persevere, and to thrive because we have been able to become greater than the sum of our collective parts.
Sure, for millennia, the weakest amongst us were eliminated from the gene pool by virtue of the fittest outliving those that were less so. We live a comfortable existence today, by comparison. We have luxuries and comforts that very few were afforded with any sort of regularity even a century ago. You could say that such softness was an affliction of the ruling class, a class that got to where they were by originally being the hardier and smarter of the populace, but that became diminished by dint of their self-inflicted segregation.
We weaken when we become exclusive, when we stop engaging with each other. It is a sure recipe for die-off. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their progeny, to learn from what has come before, to let all of that sink in real good, and find a way to rise above all of it.