I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Kindness in today's world

Front porch flowers yesterday

Not knowing for sure what I might write about, yesterday I snapped this picture of my front porch flowers to start the process: showing what my petunias and geraniums are doing right now. I look at the flowers in my fellow bloggers' posts and realize my little offering is modest. But just right for me, since I tend to be someone whose garden needs to flourish under my "benign neglect." In other words, I enjoy looking at them and making sure they are watered, but otherwise they must get by without much else.
I've been searching for ways to heal myself, and I've found that kindness is the best way. —Lady Gaga

Kindness. What an interesting concept. I've written before about how much better it feels to treat others with kindness rather than hatred, to see them as we would like to be seen, and having a sense of forgiveness for slights, great or small,  to allow ourselves to grow in kindness.

It's amazing how much that can change my mood and the trajectory of my entire day. Finding ways to choose the softer, more inclusive path makes my life feel so much better. In other posts I've given ideas of how we might find more kindness in our lives, with the incredibly distressing news cycle trying hard to make us suspicious of everything and everybody. But it doesn't have to be like that. 

Instead, we can start each day with the idea that we will be agents of good today, that we will find ways to make someone else's day better. After all, this day is really all we have: our hopes and dreams can disappear in the blink of an eye. Nobody has a  guarantee that there will be a tomorrow, so let's take the present moment and use it for joy and love. We do get to choose that much.

This past week I joined the Senior Trailblazers for a hike I have enjoyed for more than a decade. The weather was perfect, late summer and clear skies made for a cold start in the High Country, but more than a dozen of us made the trek together. It was really nice to see everyone again, but I was so nervous about whether I could still do it that I hardly slept the night before. I worried that I would have ankle problems, or overheat as I have often lately, and I built the entire excursion into a problem. 

It occurs to me that I am no longer the risk taker I was in my earlier years. No, these days I am happy to keep going in a much safer, more sedate way. This is someone who enjoyed hurling herself out of an airplane several times in one day. But that was then. Now, I am so very happy to walk or hike, using my trekking poles for balance, with good friends in the wilderness and forests of my world. And remembering always to give thanks for the ability to continue well into my late seventies. 

I read a really good story this past week, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. It's a book that will make you think about what your life might have been like, if only you had made a different decision in some past situation. From that link:

As a place, the Midnight Library isn't really a library (of course), but is instead a 101-level lecture in parallel universe theory, philosophy and quantum indeterminacy. Really, it's a therapist simulator, minus the couch. A place of regret and possibility. Because who, in their darkest moments — or maybe just on a Tuesday — hasn't wondered what life would be like if only...

 I really enjoyed the book and thinking about how different my own life would have been if I had taken off in a different direction at various junctures in my life. If I had not made that first tandem jump back in 1990 and not having fallen in love with freefall, I would never had met my life partner, for one thing. As he sleeps next to me, I try but fail to imagine my life without him. Although we don't jump out of airplanes together any more, skydiving shaped my life and changed its trajectory forever. We have been together now for three decades and watched each other grow old. We met just before our fiftieth birthdays and, doing the math, you know we are well into our final years. Happy together in ways I could never have imagined.

When I retired from my job in 2007, we made the decision to move somewhere other than Colorado. What if we had chosen to stay, or to move some place like, for instance, Louisiana? Or New Jersey? Those places are in the news today because of Hurricane Ida, which caused enormous destruction as it tore apart entire cities this past week.

I am being careful here, because I could easily go down the path in my writing to consider today's news cycle. But I won't, since I believe most of us are looking for something else to fill our minds with. Like love and joy and hope and happiness. These aspects of life are always available to us by changing the direction of our thoughts, by looking past the present difficulties and being grateful for that which is always present in our lives: peace and hope for a better future. As I write this, I realize that there are many of us who are suffering, but it is possible to look beyond today's problems to a time when things will get better. And one thing I can promise you: it will change, because nothing in life holds still. It's always changing, and we can imagine a happy future just as well as any other.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. —Albert Einstein

I am incredibly blessed in my own present world, but I also know it will not stay this way forever. Life isn't like that, but it doesn't mean I need to cower in a corner and be afraid of what is coming. It does mean that I must continue to take care of myself and my surroundings as best I can, and look ahead to more joy and love in my life, no matter what else comes along. We can all do that, if we just put our minds to it. 

Oh, yes. A good friend of mine has always said "yes" to the world and what comes to her through it. And why not? It's so much easier to say yes than to try to push the river into our own idea of what our lives should look like. I so enjoy seeing how others are coping during this difficult time in the history of the world. Many of us are continuing to support and love each other, choosing kindness instead of meanness, choosing love instead of hate: we can do that through every breath we take.

And now it's time for me to finish up this post so I can publish it and see what you, my dear virtual friends, have to add to it. I always look forward to each one's "take" on my Sunday morning musings. And I do hope you will find some way today to add a little kindness to the world around you. I'll do the same and we will have made a difference.

My tea is gone, my dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, and the world looks so much brighter right now than it did when I sat down to write. Be well, dear ones, and I look forward to the coming week, with light and love in my heart.


gigi-hawaii said...

That sounds like a very good book to read. Your life would have been very different had you not taken up sky diving and met your husband because of it. Awesome post! Yes to love and kindness. No to hatred and meanness. Amen.

Rian said...

Midnight Library does sound interesting, DJan. However, I'm in the middle of reading one book with another already in the queue. But I'm with you on actively searching out ways to find joy in our lives these days when the world seems to be in turmoil and ways to be... "agents of good today, that we will find ways to make someone else's day better". Even if the acts of kindness are small. Today I will make some home-made granola to send to my oldest granddaughter who is off at college in a care package that will include face-masks (some I've made, some KN95). And I will gently encourage her to wear them. She is 19 and I do worry...

Anvilcloud said...

Of course, I have nothing to add.

Except that instead of starting each day with the idea that we will be agents of good, I start with coffee. :)

You weren't expecting a serious response from me, were you? :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Do you know how hard it is to be kind in a hostile world? Some people are downright NASTY...especially the anti vax people. I try to be nice...but even I have my limits. I should try harder but some people are just not worth it...so I am kindly not speaking to them ever again. My unique kind of kindness:)

Linda Reeder said...

I went to a farmers market yesterday. I left each vendor I spoke to with a smile or a grin on their face. I like doing that. It makes us both feel better.
There is much beauty in the world, including on your front porch. I know that you are one who looks for the beauty.

Elephant's Child said...

A big hooray for kindness - whether it is given or received. Mind you when I receive acts of kindness my eyes when I am in difficult time my eyes tend to leak.
I am very happy that you finished this post in a better place than when you started - as I did after reading it. Thank you. Again.

ApacheDug said...

I don't know if it's the same thing, but I feel I've always gone out of my way to not be unkind--but I must admit, the older I get, the more I wonder if it's been worth it. (Oops, I think I'm just in a cranky mood today.) That book sounds very interesting, as up until a few years ago, I wondered a little too much how my life would've turned out if I had done this instead of that, or gone back long enough to hand my younger self a letter of my mistakes. I always assumed things would be better, not just different. I can now say I'm glad I didn't get the opportunity to undo things. :^)

Arkansas Patti said...

Ah you were the one that mentioned the Midnight Library a while back. I did get it, finished it and enjoyed it. It did make me do a little "what if-ing" also." Decided I was kind of pleased with the choices I made. Thanks for recommending it.
Lets make "kindness" more contagious than Covid. That would be wonderful.

Unknown said...

In the week we have been living in our new "retirement" city we have found people to be far more pleasant and it is so refreshing. We left a big city (DC Metro) to move to Raleigh. Everywhere we go the service has been like something from 1973. So personable and kind. After getting some freshly roasted coffee beans at our new coffee shop, we remarked upon leaving how nice everyone was. Then we headed to a sherwin williams store and immediately upon walking in everyone was saying hello, can they help me. This was so foreign I looked around to see if they were talking to me. Then we went to a restaurant and my goodness you would have thought the waiter knew us. It's been a joy and as my husband said when we got home, that all that niceness made his day and he didn't feel the stress of what it always felt like to run errands" Oh and people thank you when you allow them to cut in front of you in traffic. It made for a delightful day and no rage by the time we got home that sometimes happens when out in the world. Kindness.

William Kendall said...

Very well said.

Gigi said...

Your flowers are so very beautiful! I wish I could do some annual pots on my porch. Unfortunately, I always forget to water them since we don't use the front door as our main entrance.

I love the reminder to be agents of good.

I'm in the market for something to read and this is the second positive review I've read, so into the cart it goes.

Have a great week, DJan!

Red said...

The positive goes a long way to help us get more personal satisfaction out of life and in so doing help others to see the world in a better light. Some day the meanies will have to see that kindness is the way to go. I wonder if covid may just push people to their sense.

Star Forever Young said...

Like you, I enjoy a good read and the book you recommend sounds very interesting, so thank you for that. I really enjoyed the film, Sliding Doors, which had a similar theme. Also like you, Larry and I are becoming more careful as we age, being content with less vigorous pastimes and taking pleasure in the smaller things of life. I learned a long time ago that negative emotions like anger and bitterness only upset ourselves and have no effect whatsoever on the targets of our anger so yes, kindness is much more powerfully effective in its outcome. Thank you for the reminder. I’m glad you’re keeping well and Smart Guy too. Star

Mary said...

Oh how I love your attitude, but I admit I find it difficult in today’s world with some people and the meanness is overwhelming at times. I have my hobbies and a few dear friends and that helps greatly.
Every decision why might have made differently would have changed everything from that point on maybe for the better, maybe not. Unfortunately I think I made a couple of wrong choices. I’d like a redo just to see the what if…
You are an inspiration.

Marie Smith said...

Nature is such a beautiful distraction from the news cycle these days. Gratitude for that beauty and everything around me helps. Kindness as an action plan gives me focus as well.

As I age and am more limited in what I can do, I adapt as best I can and enjoy the ride. Yesterday we walked two beaches at a snail’s pace, the sea was rough, the clouds were threatening, but I felt fully alive, dodging along rather than that pace of an active fifty old I once enjoyed.

Every age has its challenges. I understand your comments about the hiking you have enjoyed for years. You adapt and continue. You inspire me to do the same. Stopping to enjoy the journey, the roar of the waves, the sun breaking through the clouds, the sound of the gulls, is everything. Kindness is an extension of that peace I feel from nature. They go hand in hand.

Have a great week, Jan.

Rita said...

I am not a "what if" type of person. I try to make the best decisions I can with the information I have at the time--and take some proper thought about that decision because I have to live with it. I have made some decisions in my youth that weren't as thought through, I guess (how I learned to pay closer attention--lol!), but I own them and wouldn't change them for better or worse because they all taught me and have made me who I am. A present moment type of person at heart, I guess, accepting the randomness of life...good and bad. So much is out of our control that we can only kind of point ourselves in a direction, hope for the best, pay attention to the steps you take each day, enjoy the journey, and be grateful for this brief life. And kindness is such a precious commodity...especially these days when people are afraid and angry. It's a healing balm to be spread around lavishly. Love your flowers. Love your Sunday posts, my friend. (Sorry to go on--contemplative mood lately--lol!)

Tabor said...

Glad to be back reading through my long list of blogs I read. Yours is always upbeat and uplifting. Saying yes or even maybe if far less work than saying no.

Linda Myers said...

I find that, most days, I have a conversation - face to face, via Facebook or email - with someone, where I listen. Since I have limited mobility right now following a hip replacement, I am not so likely to be out there. But I have found that one good listening conversation each day will send a bit of kindness to the other person. I can do that, one on one.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, as time has passed into life's decades, I've come--as have you--to the awareness that gratitude must be woven into the tapestry of my life. Gratitude for all those who raised me, those who educated and taught me, those who have befriended me. And with the threads of gratitude come also an awareness that kindness was offered to me by so many throughout my life.

And so, given that the legacy of others has been kindness and that has shaped my life, I, too, want to embrace it. Want to thread it through all my actions. Words. Thoughts. Lately, I've been musing/meditating on my life and find that often I've been the Pharisee in the biblical parable of the "Pharisee and the Publican Praying." That is, I've looked at what someone has done or is doing and instead of just thinking--"that's not really going to help build community"--I've added the thought, "but I don't do that." Yes, I've fallen into the trap of thinking myself better than others. Of thinking and then always inserting myself into the equation of the thought. This awareness has troubled me and left me feeling weary of myself. But I've decided to be kind to myself and simply say, "I'll do better." You do that all the time. It's one of your great gifts. Thank you for sharing your being with us. Peace.

Judee said...

This is my second time visiting your blog and I know why I came back- I must say that I find it extremely inspiring. This post today is so beautiful and I needed that reminder about kindness. It's probably the most important thing we can do for others and for ourselves. I am excited about your book suggestion too. Sounds like something I would enjoy reading. Thank you

Mary said...

I’m about halfway through Midnight Library and I love it! Love the premise and it sure makes you think.
Thanks for the suggestion. Also plan on reading a few more of his including How to Stop Time.