Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Kindness Project - JUNE

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Disclaimer: this is long and not very uplifting, so feel free to not read this post. Seriously. You've been warned.

So you know that part in our mission statement about "reach out even we aren't feeling entirely whole...?" That's me right now. More days than not recently, I haven't been feeling whole. In fact, I have been feeling like I am full of holes, with my good intentions and hopes and dreams leaking (sometimes gushing) out of me. I've been debating all week whether or not to tell everyone in this amazing group that I couldn't post this month. Because the honest truth is that I don't feel like I deserve to. I have tried every day to focus on this project, particularly when I've heard someone is in need or feeling down. I've tried to reach out and help others, even when it wasn't convenient for me. But I still feel like I've failed in many ways to truly embody the goal of this group. There are two big reasons why, but part of my struggle with this post is deciding how personal to get. I don't know for sure who does or doesn't read my blog in my circle of "real life" friends, family, and acquaintances, and I don't want to put in enough detail to cause anyone embarrassment or point any fingers. So let's try and keep it really vague, shall we?

How do you show kindness to people who often are unkind--even purposefully cruel--but are a permanent part of your life? This is a question that I have been struggling with all month. And unfortunately, I have more often than not tried to just avoid those people, rather than make an effort to be kind to them. Part of my excuse was that being kind is a double-edge sword in this case, because in the past, the majority of my efforts of kindness have been rewarded with more meanness.

The second part of my failure has been more in my internal thought processes than any outward manifestation. I am having a very hard time being kind to myself right now, and I think to be able to show true kindness to others, you have to first be loving and happy with yourself. And right now? I'm struggling with that, on so many levels. My internal dialogue is full of negativity at myself, if I'm being totally honest. I'm always surprised when people tell me "you seem so confident!" "I was so glad to hear that you doubt yourself, because you seem like you're so knowledgeable/sure of yourself/etc." I have done acting in the past, I even got to say, "They go to Hell, sir!" (in a British accent) in Jane Eyre, the Musical at a local professional theater (I know, right? I'm, like, practically famous), but I must be an even better actress than I thought! Because I am a mess of insecurities.

While everyone around me continues to have good news and more good news and happy, wonderful news (and I am genuinely so so very happy for them, and they know that!!); I, on the other hand, do not. In fact, I often feel as thought I'm falling further and further behind while everyone else is scaling (sometimes flying) over the mountains I'm trying to climb. And not just publishing mountains (although that is one big sucker and sometimes I feel like I'm barely clinging on), but in other ways, too. As a mom, as an athlete, and more.

Some of these doubts are self-inflicted and others stem from the doubts put there by others--including the people I hinted at before. Some come from having to adjust my expectations of life, based on things out of my control. Like the fact that I absolutely adore babies, and I've always wanted a BIG family. I'm talking 5, 6, maybe even 7 kids. But life has a different plan for me, and I am having to adjust to the fact that my sweet, beautiful Baby Girl is going to be my last. She's going to be 1 in just a couple of weeks, and the realization that she's getting so big, so fast, and that I will never again have a sweet baby of my own to cuddle takes my breath away, and leaves me feeling hollow. And then I think of others who can only have one, or maybe can't have any children at all, and I feel even worse. Because I am SO grateful for the three children I have, and I shouldn't feel sad that we can't have more. I shouldn't dare complain. I hated people like me when I was going through infertility. "Oh boo, poor her with her three, beautiful children." We went through infertility and loss, I know the pain and agony of that trial--and I know how lucky we are to have the three children that we do. There were times when it looked like SonA would be our only child. And yet, I still struggle. I'm being decidely unkind to myself about my inability to follow through on this goal and dream. And how is that helping me or anyone else at all? It's not.

I guess I always try to be so positive and upbeat on my blog, but I decided maybe I should just be honest. And I'm not always like this. But this has been a hard month, and so there you have it.
Man, this post is hard. I keep writing stuff and then deleting it. And I'm pretty sure these are intended to be inspiring and I'm thinking this post is anything but that. I probably should have just decided to not post this month and try harder in June so I had something to write for July. Oh well, too late for that!

So, yeah, massive #sarafail in the Kindness department this month.

Let's just say this: making a conscious effort to be extraordinarily kind is hard sometimes. And it involves taking risk. And it opens you up to being hurt sometimes, too. But I'm still going to keep trying.

Check out these (probably much more inspiring) posts from the other members of this group:


Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Oh, Sara. You're having a tough time. That's not a #sarafail at all. And you're not alone.

Ignoring those who are mean doesn't necessarily mean you're not being kind to them as well. Because if you didn't ignore them, maybe it'd get worse. Hurt people hurt people, so staying in the line of their lash isn't good for you OR them.

Sometimes being kind is as simple as not screaming at someone. Or still smiling when someone else is ridiculously happy even though your own heart is so heavy. Sometimes that's the best we can offer. And that's okay.

Yes, this project pushes us to live a kinder life, but kindness comes in SO many forms. Big and small. And, NONE of us are saints. You're doing the best you can with what you have in you right now. So keep that chin up and hang on, because it's all going to get better.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, the risk of being kind. It's so true. It IS hard to be kind to someone when you're not feeling particularly great about yourself. Or when the reward is more meanness.

I'm sorry this person doesn't see the goodness in you. You are a fantastic mom, writer, athlete, and you will find your way through this dark maze of life. There is a light shining. You just need to keep walking toward it.


kjmckendry said...

Hey it's ok, sometimes it is inspiring to know that others are going through tough times too.

My littlest just turned 8 and is already growing up to be a man and yes I'm a little sad that my house is going to be quiet in a few years but it gives me a chance to regain my strength to be an awesome grandma someday!

Sometimes life makes the dreams/goals we envision unattainable and that's when we have to reset our sights on a new and wonderful journey.
Hang in there! :)

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Oh my, my dear Sara. I think the only mistake you've made is not seeing how truly inspiring your post really is. Because I think so many of us (all really, but I say so many of us because some wouldn't admit to it) have been there. Or are there. Or will be there. I feel such a kinship with you. And no, I'm not happy to hear you're struggling with some things--this doesn't uplift me in any way, or make me feel better about my own woes. But it does make me feel a little less alone. I hope that makes sense.

Just the fact that you have given this issue of kindness this much thought says a lot about who you are. And warms me to you all the more. Kindness is hard, especially when you're not feeling fully intact. And then you have a-holes who will throw your kindness in your face. But you know, it's not about them, your kindness. It's about you. Kindness can be a cleansing thing, whether it's scoffed at, undervalued or doubted as genuine. Kindness is as much a gift to you as to the receiver, whether they choose to accept it or not. And yeah, being kind can make you vulnerable. that's something I've learned the hard way. But it can be freeing, too.

You will find your way through these hardships. I have no doubt. Call me, text, email--anytime. I'll be there.

Michele Shaw said...

Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is be honest. By baring your truths and struggles you are being kind to your readers, letting them know they aren't alone. That took strength and courage and most of all kindness. I think that first birthday was hardest for me with both of my kids. Such a turning point. I wanted those first 12 months back. It's normal and part of your endless love for your kids.

Lola Sharp said...

The lovely ladies above me have said it all so well, but I will say it all again.

First, I'm sorry. *hugs* I'm sorry you are having a tough time. But I think your sharing this honest post is doing more kindness than you may realize. Other people may feel less alone (like Carol said) knowing that their feelings are 'normal'. You are likely helping others. Also, sometimes articulating something, putting something honest and vulnerable out there is a needed first step in healing.
Healing ourselves, self-kindness, self-compassion is by far the kindest thing we can give the world.

As for truly negative and difficult people in our lives, I agree with Sara. Sometimes when honesty and communication are impossible, the kindest thing we can do is keep them at a distance. We can love and forgive someone and from a distance. We don't HAVE to allow their negativity in our lives. Some people are toxic and aren't ready to heal themselves enough, no matter how much we try to help them. Sometimes helping them means letting them go from our least for now. Sometimes it's the kindest gift we can give them. It's not okay, or kind to yourself or your family, to allow someone to be a negative force in your life. Often we want to help, they're clearly in pain, which is why they're lashing out, but they aren't ready to self examine. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for them is be honest: "I love you. I care about you. But your cruelty is no longer an option in my life. Until you are willing to treat us with polite respect, I have to let you go. I wish you well. I hope you find your way back to us." (Or something like that.)
Just because someone invites you to an argument, doesn't mean you have to attend.

Take some time to be kind to yourself right now. <3

You will come through this a better person.

And you can use some of this emotion and growth, these themes you're struggling with, in your writing. Because they're universal. We ALL struggle with difficult relatives, self-doubt, and we all have to find our way with things that are out of control. And finding this organic and honest place to write from often leads to our best work.

Thank you for sharing yourself with us here today, Sara. <3


Tracey Neithercott said...

Aw, Sara. I want to give you a giant hug. You may think this post is a giant fail, but you're wrong. The fact that you're even worried about not living up to what the KP preaches shows just how kind you are. Most people don't worry this much about whether or not they're being kind at all times, and so my heart breaks that you're so hard on yourself.

I'm so glad you wrote this post, though. I feel like you understand exactly how I feel sometimes. It's not just you who struggles with these things. Take heart knowing we're all imperfect. Mean people make it incredibly hard to be kind, and I don't think that skill is something you can pick up after a month. Sometimes it takes a lifetime, and I think the point is that you're conscious of it.


Anna said...

I don't think this is a fail at all! When people are mean or rude I try to tell myself that they may have more problems than I know about...doesn't excuse it, maybe it's not true, but it helps me feel better and calmer.

erica m. chapman said...

There are some excellent comments here that say everything I was going to write. Let me just say, being honest is a hard thing to do, especially when it's to yourself. I've definitely been there and some days I wonder if it's all worth it, ya know?

I think this post is exactly what this project is about. Getting down to the real person inside of each of us and sharing what we feel. There's absolutely no failing in that!

Just look at all of us that were affected by your post. I'd say you made a difference. I sure hope everything you are speaking of gets better for you soon. Sometimes time is all it takes and a little perspective.


Claire Hennessy said...

Hey, perhaps there is something in the air. Lots of us are finding it a bit tough. Honesty is the first step to healing though, so well done you for baring your soul. Let's all try and be a kinder to ourselves, a little less harsh and self-damning. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Hope you start feeling a bit more positive soon.

Unknown said...

Sara, you are so loving and lovable. Here's my hug (( )). Things will get better.

The Dixon Family said...

Sara, I'm sorry you're struggling, but I think you really are BRAVE for sharing. You are kind though. I've seen it personally and in the way you champion friends and other author's successes through this blog. Keep your chin up, sister, this too shall pass. Hugs.

Matthew MacNish said...

Personally, I have to argue that telling the truth, especially when it's hard and fraught with fear, IS KINDNESS at it's utmost.

You're telling the truth, and expressing your frustration, so you're being kind to yourself because those feelings need to get out.

You're sharing an inner part of you, which helps anyone who reads this who might be going through something similar realize they're not alone.

And man, I totally feel you about family that doesn't reciprocate your kindness. I've dealt with that my whole life. They suck.

Sarah said...

I agree with Matt--it's often easier to hide behind the screen and pretend everything is going well, which leaves others wondering what the hell is wrong with THEM, that they feel so broken and alienated and substandard? By being open about a struggle, you've offered a valuable, honest perspective and an example--how to persevere rather than retreating (which would be easier!). I'm grateful for this post, but I also want to say I'm sorry it was so hard, that the whole month has been difficult--I hope you get a little bit of space and peace in the coming month!

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

It IS inspiring to hear that other people are human, and that they struggle with some of the things I struggle with. :0)

Anonymous said...

I think that you posting this in the face of all you're hurting through is even MORE powerful. Being kind, striving for kindness, when you feel like nothing more than pulling the covers over your head is a *miraculous* feat that very few people even *try* to do.

Throughout this whole post, I just kept nodding my head. To wondering how to be kind to people who are actively mean--people you can't escape--to trying to be empathetic to those who can't have kids/have few kids when your heart yearns for your own, to struggling with holding on by threads to a dream that feels impossible, I was with you the whole way through this.

The fact that you're aware, that you're *trying* even when you're fighting to just make it through--doesn't that just mean you're so much stronger than you know? That kindness matters that much more? Because I don't read this and think you're a downer. I think you're a fighter. And I'm proud of you for it. I love people all the more when they're honest, when they don't hide behind the struggle, because I connect with them and it brings compassion to my heart. When we see people, really see them, we can love them even better.

So really, thank you for this. It IS a kindness.

Jennie Bailey said...

Sara, I'm so sorry that you're going through a tough time right now, but I am very glad that you shared it. I think honesty is really good - and you never know who a blog post like this is going to touch. It certainly touched me. I can't tell you what a kindness your honesty is. I feel not so alone. Someone can identify with me! And if beautiful Sara can feel this way, then it's okay for me to have moments too. Your time will come. When it does, how much more grateful are we going to be for that blessing? Surround yourself with people who believe and they will shield and lift you up when you can't do it yourself. Love you, girl. Mean it.

Wendy Lu said...

Hi Sara. I found your blog through Elana Johnson. I have read some incredible stories from The Kindness Project. I think the fact that you wrote this blog post and feel this way shows exactly how much you care. Being kind is easy. But being kind to unkind people is hard. Really hard. I guess the best we can do is to grit our teeth and smile even when it hurts. I try to remember that we can't change other people - we can only change ourselves and control the way we act towards others.

Hmm..."Mean" by Taylor Swift just popped into my head. #relevant

Also, I can really relate to the idea that everyone is moving forward while it feels as though I am the one not moving at all, or even backwards. It seems like everyone I know knows what they want to do with their lives, and I'm just sitting around without a clue. Perhaps you are being too hard on yourself. You seem like a very loving mother and passionate writer, after all. Maybe it's time to stop comparing yourself to others, and start looking at how much you HAVE accomplished over the years. :)

Thanks for your honesty, Sara. I know I have just met you, but it means a lot and shows so much about you as a person. I am following you now.

By the way, I'm hosting an awesome blogfest and critique giveaway at my blog from June 22-24 that you should totally come participate in if you're interested! :) Hope you have a great day.

~Wendy Lu

The Roarin' Twenties Poetry Blogfest + Chapter Critique Giveaway (hosted by The Red Angel)