Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I WILL Change the World

As a kid, there were times I wanted to be famous.  I wanted everyone to know who I was and believe I was wonderful.  I wanted to make a grand discovery or create something breath-taking or just be so incredible that everyone had to know me.

I no longer have that desire.  Partly because I have seen what fame is like.  I truly believe most famous people are miserable.  They are still searching for approval.  They are still trying to fill that hole in their heart that says they're incomplete.

I'm not.  I am complete.  I am content.

But I WILL change the world.

I used to think I had to be famous to change the world.  Or that if I changed the world it would make me famous.  Neither of those things is necessarily true (although it can happen).

The best part of being sick (I call myself sick even though we can't figure out what's wrong; my body doesn't function the way it should -- to me, that's sick) is what I have learned.  I have learned to slow down.  I have learned to spend time with people.  I have learned to look them in the eyes and listen.  I have learned to hear the pain in their hearts.

And that's how to change the world.  Touch one heart.  Lift one burden.  Comfort one soul.  And the world is changed for the better.

I don't need to reach millions; I just need to reach one.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Doesn't the World Stop?

The first funeral I remember attending was for a baby. I was fourteen. It was my cousin's baby. I hadn't met the baby and wasn't close to this cousin. But that funeral has stuck with me.

Before the funeral started there was a family prayer in another room. I was there. I heard them pray for the parents and family. I heard them pray for the babysitter, who had found the baby in the crib. Not breathing. Crib death. And I remember the sound my cousin made when they closed the coffin. A tiny gasp escaped her. The sound of her heart breaking.

I cried throughout the funeral. Not because I would miss this baby; I probably wouldn't have seen her more than once or twice in her lifetime. I cried because of the overwhelming pain in the room. So many people. So devastated.

I'd missed school to attend the funeral. My mom offered to let me skip the rest of the day, but I had classes that I shouldn't miss. So I went back to school.

And I didn't understand.

Why was everyone walking around like there was nothing wrong? Did they not understand that a tragedy had occurred? It seemed so irreverent. How could they be so heartless? People giggling, are you kidding me? Nothing in the rest of the world had changed.

Why? Why didn't the world stop? Something so horrific had happened. A tiny, innocent child had died and no one cared. The world didn't care. It was difficult for me to process.

And later that day I noticed myself talking with friends and laughing. I felt horrible! How could I just move on? How could I feel better when my cousin was so terribly sad? What a horrible person I was.

Fast forward twenty years. My marriage is in shambles. My health is failing. I am in therapy, borderline suicidal. I am self-injuring and taking sedatives just to make it through each day. And my boss, who is one of my best friends and a therapist, keeps giving me more work. I am dying inside. My heart is breaking. I can barely get out of bed. He knows this. Why won't he give me a break? Doesn't he understand that I just want to rest? I just want to stop. I just want to not exist for a while.

Yes, he understands all of that. And he knows me. He knows that isn't healthy for me. He tells me that he knows he's giving me more and it's hard, but he worries that if he doesn't I will disconnect from the world. I will sink so far into a depression that I might not come out. He is doing this to help me. Because he loves me and worries about me. It's his way of trying to protect me.

That happened about seven years ago. It was the worst time of my life. But I got through it. The world kept spinning and I had to go on. My friend was right. There is power in continuing. I had time to heal, but I also had something to keep me connected to the world.  To keep me moving forward.

The world doesn't stop. Everything just keeps on going. And I have come to believe that's an incredible gift. It is unhealthy for us to just give up and quit. Take a break and take time to mourn, of course. I am not saying that's not important. But we must keep going or we die. Maybe not our bodies, but our hearts and souls.

If we stop at the point of the most intense pain then that is where we will live. We will be forever in a hell of our own making. We didn't chose the tragedy, but we choose whether or not to sit and stare at it for the rest of our lives. And if the world didn't keep going on around us, if we didn't still have obligations to meet and people to take care of, it would be too easy to just sit in our pain. Forever.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Kindness Project -- 6 Months In

As the new year began I decided I wanted one word to focus on.  One idea to center my life around.  I chose kindness.  After a month I decided to broaden my vision a bit to include elements connected to kindness.  I'm six months into it now and guess what -- I'm perfect at it!

I am kind all the time to everyone I meet.  Every word I speak is kind.  Every thought I have is kind.  Every action I take.  Even my gestures.  I just radiate kindness.

Well, no.   But I wish that were true.

I am truthful and direct by nature most of the time.  This means that sometimes stupid things come out of my mouth.  I don't mean them to be hurtful, but apparently they are.  I can tell because I see the look on the person's face.  Or I miss the reaction completely and find out later because a friend of a friend has the courage to tell me.  And there are probably many times when I never find out at all. 

But I am trying.  I work harder to think before I speak.  I let the possible laugh go because the words might hurt.  I worry less about what I want to say and more about how I'd like the people with me to feel.  I want the people I'm with to feel valued.  I'm making a special effort to put away the snide and invite the sincere.

And there are times when I know it would be kind to go over and talk to someone who is alone.  To say hi to the person at the store I haven't seen in a long time.  To reach out.  But I don't.  Because, more often than not, I am scared.  That they won't remember me.  That they never really liked me.  That I imagined a relationship that was never really there.  That they are too cool for me.  That I will say something stupid.  Or a hundred other things.  Basically, that I am inadequate and not worthy of their time.  (Yes, this is a psychological hangup I have from my childhood.  I'm working on it.)  Basically I get so worked up about me that I forget about them.

I haven't worked much on this.  I need to.  I could do better.  I am pretty friendly and kind once I am invited into a conversation; I'm just not good at inviting myself.

There are some people it's very easy to be kind to.  There are days it's easy to be kind.  And then there are other people and other days.

I don't want who I am talking with to determine whether or not I am kind.  I don't want a bad day to squelch my kindness.  I want to be a person who is kind.  Period. 

The thing I'm working on most is my thoughts.  I grew up in a house full of very sarcastic people.  I am fluent in two languages:  English and sarcasm.  I am equally powerful on the defensive or on the attack.  And I hate it.  Like someone who has spent a great deal of time in another country automatically thinks things in that language first, I too often hear those snotty comebacks in my head before I ever think something nice. 

There is a language of kindness.  I am not a native speaker.  I know a lot of the words, but I am not fluent yet.  I can understand it better than I speak it.  But I am reminding myself more often to think in kindness.  Not just to push a mean or judgmental thought away, but to sense when it's starting and step on it.

Change takes time and focus.  I will be patient.  And as often as I can, I will be kind.