There were about 25 people in the audience. I was talking about awe and they were sharing awesome moments in their lives. We were nodding and smiling and connecting and afterwards we nibbled on cookies and I signed books and it was all very polite and cheery. It felt good.
It looked like we were doing fine, all of us. Like we were happily, managing this life thing well, thank you. And I know that is the truth. At least, part of it.
Then, a few minutes later, a woman came to the table to buy a book and she shared some threads of her story with me. Hard divorce after years of marriage. The man behind her in line then told me about how stressed he was after a recent move. And a friend of mine was there too, in the audience just a few hours after receiving some very difficult news about a relative’s diagnosis. Life is challenging. That is part of the truth too.
We all have a story. And our stories are complex and vast and layered. They are filled with goodness and love and cheer and AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT, they are daunting, grief-filled, painful and challenging.
And this is how life works. We can be cheery and engaged and AT THE VERY SAME TIME reeling from the challenge of life.
Find the Better in the Bad
Often the challenges we experience consume our entire focus. They take everything. We worry and ruminate and stress and complain and then we actually have to DO stuff, like practical appointment making and work juggling and money saving to get through the things that can be so hard to bear emotionally. We are BUSY and we keep going. We keep getting dressed, and smiling, and showing up, and paying bills and doing what we must, like we always have even though it feels like our entire life has changed.
We are so busy in fact, that we forget to see the beauty and the goodness and the BETTER THAT IS RIGHT THERE TOO, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BAD.
We’ve got to go looking for it of course, the good news during the difficult, but it is so worth doing, because it keeps us sane, you see? To see the awe in the awful reminds us how good life can be too, and that helps us to ease the stress that catches us up and hang on to the hope AND THAT keeps us moving and going and believing that we will make it through.
And we will make it through. Of course we will.
Kindness All the Time
But let’s do offer each other this: Kindness. Kindness. All the time.
Even if I do something stupid and cut you off on the freeway or say the wrong thing, please be kind to me. I just wasn’t paying attention because I’m dealing with stuff. I’m just trying to find my way through. Please give me a little space. Maybe a little compassion if you can spare. I can use all the help I can get.
And I will do the same for you because I know you are dealing with big stuff too. I know you are wading through muck that I will never know about. I know you are there, like me, trying to make sense of stuff that feels so hard and confusing and big; working to find your way through difficult things.
So, if we bump up against each other, I will be kind. Because without knowing what you are going through, I know what you are going through and I will do my best not to make it any harder. I don’t want to contribute to the challenge.
Both Things are True
The night of the reading, looking out at the audience filled with awesome, smiling, smart, well-dressed people; people who drove nice cars and shook hands and smiled and acted like everything was grand – which of course it was – were also the same people who were ALSO right then, struggling and hurting and dealing with real stuff in a real world that felt hard and scary – which of course it also was.
Because for all of us both things are true in every moment – peace and pain, happiness and sadness.
So, let’s do this, can we? Since we never, ever truly know what another is dealing with, let us just lead with kindness, always. We can do that for each other. We can make sure that we are always contributing to the beauty and not adding on to the pain.
We can go gently, even when others aren’t. We can be kind, even when others aren’t. And when we do, we will be that one little snatch of light for someone in a darkening day.
I like the thought of that. I like knowing that I can bring a little light through kindness.
How will you keep hope alive when dealing with your own challenges this week? And how, can you bring the light for another?