KINDNESS


kindnessToday, I simply need to give a shout out to my good friend Claire who has committed herself to spreading kindness in every way possible.  She started a wonderful blog in January, setting her intention for spreading kindness throughout the year.  She’s gaining some traction and I can feel the impact.  I have found myself reflecting on my own actions and behaviors, using her stories and her efforts as a barometer of sorts.  I am inspired by her passion and commitment to create a society of kinder, gentler people.

One of my great pleasures in life comes from helping others as  I am so moved when I can connect with another human being and provide them with something – even if just a nugget – to help them propel themselves forward.  My passion for giving back and supporting causes that resonate with me is part of what brings me joy and satisfaction.  But, kindness is much simpler and far more complicated than that.  Kindness is a core value.  It is a deep-rooted commitment to shifting behavior and focusing on putting good into the world.  It is about the small stuff.  It is about courtesy and consideration.  It is about selflessness.  It is hard to sustain.  Listen, I am a hardcore New Yorker – cynical, snarky, sarcastic and sometimes down right obnoxious.  Most of the people in my life love that about me and, frankly, so do I.  Nonetheless,  my intentions and behavior are all about goodness, kindness, sincerity and integrity.  It is all about balance and sometimes that is not easy to maintain.  But I make the effort every.single.day.  It requires hard work and effort because life is challenging and our daily struggles often disrupt our intentions.

Ultimately, I simply love the concept of paying it forward and this blog post today is intended to do just that.  Yesterday, I wrote a very personal and very honest post about my own struggles with trust and forgiveness.  In response to it, a good friend complimented me and supported me in an extremely kind and generous way which nourished me and propelled me forward.   And that right there is kindness in action as I was inspired to do the same for someone else.  The act of writing and putting your thoughts and feelings out in the world for others to read can be very risky.  People interpret things through their own lenses and they don’t always understand your intended meaning behind the words.  But, I guess, that is often the beauty of writing.  It allows the reader to travel with you but on their own voyage and bring their own perspectives into play.  The connection you can develop through finding commonalities, regardless how remote, can be powerful and extraordinary.  For me, the ability to write and share my history and, often, the pain that has accompanied my journey is an act of kindness for me as I try to share these experiences to reinforce that we are never alone.  There is always someone else on the road with you – sometimes a bit further ahead, sometimes much farther behind.  We are all alike in many ways.  As different as we may look or as varied as our backgrounds might be, we are still a bunch of cells that have formed to create our unique DNA.  There are overlaps in so many ways.

So, today, I hope I can inspire and encourage you to find a way to spread some kindness.  I am going to continue my quest to do so because, in the end, it feels really, really good!

BE THE CHANGE


I believe intensely in the power of the small moments of our lives and how they shape and inform how we move forward.  I also believe that nothing happens by accident.  If you pay attention closely enough, you can fit together the pieces of your life and complete the complex jigsaw puzzle picture that is being formed.  It’s kind of funny that my husband and I are often diametrically opposed on this topic. Being an engineer, he believes that randomness is part of our existence and coincidences are just randomness collisions.  And, ironically, I believe he is one of the pieces of my life that most certainly did not happen by accident.

Along with my deep belief in fate, I also believe in the power of intention.  However, this is a relatively new way of thinking for me.  To be intentional, you need to trust that you can follow through with your intention.  You need to believe that you can regulate your life in such a way to live by your intention.  This is no easy task because it forces you to be present, conscious and accountable for your actions and behaviors.  On the other hand, being intentional creates an ease in your life because it provides you with a compass and barometer that immediately indicates if you have gone in the wrong direction or if you have fluctuated away from your focus.

Being intentional has never been a defining characteristic for me.  Because of the chaos in my life – chaos that caused me to be reactive and protective – I have never had the space or latitude to decide what I wanted.  I managed.  I survived.  I tolerated.  I never chose.  The idea of being able to choose the pathway I wanted was luxurious like cashmere and caviar.  I trusted no one – most significantly myself.  And, while I was blessed to have the gift of introspection which allowed me to constantly challenge myself and force myself to explore new ways of thinking and behaving, I failed to notice the magical connections that pulled my personal puzzle together and, ultimately, lived my life with same chaos that was foisted upon me for years and years.

I often talk about the blessings of people in my life and I firmly believe that I have been gifted with individuals who have come into my life to help me find my path, to help me along on my journey and show me the way when I could not do so myself.  Nonetheless, I have struggled to understand how to embrace these guides because my inability to trust would get in the way.  My aversion to vulnerability and fear of admitting that I need the assistance to find my way – or the acknowledgment of the fact that I might simply be lost -has prevented me from extracting the beautiful gifts bestowed upon me.  In recent years, though, I have much more consciously tried to change that.  I have tried to be courageous and test my limits, challenge my fears and consciously and intentionally accept what is being offered.  This is such hard work but the payoff is greater than any lottery bounty.

I want to tell this story in so many ways.  I want to share how this has paid off in work, how it enhances my relationships, how it makes me a better mother.  In reality, the only way I can honestly and authentically share the power of intention is to talk about how it has changed me – in the deepest aspects of my being.

When I have talked about vulnerability, I have shared that the environment I grew up in was one I would compare to a battle zone.  The enemy always had its weapon drawn and was ready to fire the moment they happened upon a vulnerable or open target.  I had to learn how to wear protective armor and shield myself from the oncoming attacks that happened far too frequently.  This was my familiar lifestyle.  A small voice inside me constantly begged for safe harbor.  I searched for someone, anyone who would be protective and would let me drop my guard.  I wanted to simply be.  I did not want to overthink things.  I did not want to be afraid.  I just wanted to be.  I wanted to luxuriate in the mundane.  My need for an ally removed any level of conscious intention and forced me to try so many people on for size – many of which resembled the initial enemies but did a wonderful job of masking their true identity.  I was hurt again and again and the callouses grew harder and thicker.  I trusted only to be betrayed and I never seemed to learn anything because I kept returning to the same enemy over and over.

I began to develop a level of consciousness in my 30s right around the time my first child was born.  Suddenly, as a parent, I knew instinctively that I needed to be intentional about mothering.  I knew that, without this intention, I could not possibly raise my children in a healthy way, offering them love, consistency and order.  WIthout clear intentions I would be replicating a level of chaos that defined my life.  However, I had no idea that I was even thinking any of this.  I did not have a vocabulary to define my behavior and actions.  I had instinct.  I had fate.  I was exercising these new muscles with my children but the rest of my relationships – particularly the one with myself – still suffered because I did not understand that trust and intention was what I required to begin a full transformation from that unarmed child.

There was no magical a-ha moment.  I did not wake up one day and burst from my bed with the answer.  I did not have a grandiose epiphany.  Instead, I worked really, really hard and tested everything around me.  I continued to try people on for size but I developed an acute awareness for what did not feel right and was able to extricate myself from unhealthy relationships much faster.  I took little baby steps towards a reality that included me possibly liking myself enough to invest the time and energy into trusting myself.  I grew older, I went to therapy, I battled through, I got hurt.

Then the universe kicked in and I was ready to listen.

Yes, I have had some extraordinary relationships.  FIrst and foremost is my husband.  For over 20 years we have struggled together, confronting our own scars and committing ourselves to let love prevail.  We are both very complex people with lots of emotional baggage and, often, our relationship has been so hard yet so worthwhile.  And the journey continues.  I have had friends – many of which have come and gone but who have left an imprint on me that I only now can look at and understand the significance.  I have risen from a family that suffered from mental illness, alcoholism and deep dysfunction – and I would not have chosen any other family because they are part of who I am today.  The good, the bad, and the ugly have helped to shape and inform who I am right here and right now.  They have helped me to struggle and forced me to confront my demons.  I could certainly have chosen to not do this but, for me, there never was an option.  I may not have set out to do this with intention but the universe intervened and made sure that I eventually paid attention and found my intention.  Today, I am surrounded by a beautiful tapestry of people I have chosen to be in my life.  Each of them enriches me in a way and I am intentional about my purpose in their lives.  I don’t always know right away what the purpose is but I am always committed to learn.  I still struggle with trust because that little person inside me looking for safe harbor also knows that the waters can be very dangerous and we need to be very careful.  But, for the first time in my life I have found myself in trusting relationships that continually prove themselves to be worthy and authentic.  And I am so moved, emotionally impacted and overwhelmed at how powerful the trust is.  And, when that trust is ever questioned or challenged, it rocks my world.

I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world.  I am trying to be intentional and give out to those around me exactly what I want in return – love, respect and trust.  It defines the me of today and I know, without any shade of doubt that the payoff is there.

I have found myself ending each of my blog posts recently with a thank you and acknowledgment to the people in my life and I will continue this practice because it is the people – always the people – that make the difference.  Without them, I stop learning and loving and growing.  Without them, I have no audience, no support system, no purpose.

The other day, while strolling through Manhattan with a dear friend I was sharing some stories of my early career days and I lamented about some choices I made.  He pointed out to me that, had I made different choices, he and I would never have met.  That thought stopped me in my tracks and I can still smell the air and hear the noises around me when he said it because I knew that would be a terrible eventuality.  Perhaps he was right.  But, given the power of our relationship I suspect the universe would never have allowed that to happen.