More of a thought process than an update this time…
Eight months into the year, and nine of these updates so far (if you include this one). I’m choosing to see that as a win — after all, I haven’t given up on writing these posts, even if it’s not as often as I’d hoped — instead of failure. This is the time to go easy on ourselves, to celebrate the accomplishments instead of beating ourselves up over what isn’t done yet. Find joy in the fact that we’re still here, still striving and surviving, still holding on to hope, because so many aren’t. And so many more can’t.
Step one is always survive. Surviving is always first, and of course, there are going to some days where it’s all you can manage. That’s okay, for a while. For short periods. Everyone struggles. But eventually, you have to do more than merely keep breathing. (And if you think you can’t, for months or years, but somehow you’re paying the bills and taking time for yourself and working toward your goals, then friend you’ve selfishly confused “surviving” for “getting everything I want” and those are not the same things.)
Step two is to be kind, to yourself and everyone around you.
Step three is to dream. To want. To hope. Having goals is not the same as having dreams, because too often goals are rooted in fears. You can be afraid of not achieving, and chase that as if it’s going to solve all your problems, but it’s not letting yourself imagine a better life based on being genuine and happy. Chances are pretty good that when you’re chasing your fears instead, whatever you “achieve” feels hollow, and no matter how much you keep moving those goal posts, you never feel like it’s enough.
It’s not to late to change, though.
Step four is to plan. Make a budget, enroll in a class, practice something until it’s perfect. Whatever you need to give you the foundation to turn your “want” into a “got”. Wanting isn’t enough, but you can learn almost anything, if you put in the work.
Step five is to act on those plans to achieve your dreams. We can’t always live in that last step, because life is hardest for those of us with the least, and the universe isn’t fair. But we have to do steps one and two, always. One, because otherwise we’re not surviving, and two, because otherwise we’re not living. You can’t dream if you aren’t kind to yourself. You can’t act on those dreams if you don’t have dreams, because being motivated by your fears is a quick way to harden your heart and eat away at your soul. You get bitter, and selfish, and you accomplish very little that actually makes you happy.
What a waste of this glorious opportunity for life.
So be kind to yourself, friends, and if you can’t manage that every day, at least be kind to the other people around you. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. Practice kindness on them, until it’s a habit, and you’ll eventually find you’ve learned how to be kind to yourself too.
Need some suggestions? Start by thinking about the people who take care of you. Who does the work that supports your day-to-day? Maybe you live with people who cook for you, clean, or do the shopping. You might have someone who bakes, who brews the coffee, who changes the light bulbs, who makes sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom. If not, do you have kids or pets? Think about who helps you to take care of them (teachers, day care working, bus drivers, the vet). Or what about the people outside of your home who lend a hand? The neighbor who watered your lawn or shoveled the snow off your walk last winter. The barista who always remembers your favorite coffee drink. The friend who sent you a handwritten letter, just because.
Start by finding ways to help them. Put aside any thought of how to get them to do what you want, or how to get something for yourself. Real kindness isn’t selfish. You give to be kind. Small things, a few minutes of your life: take out the trash or load the dishwasher without your spouse or roommate having to ask. Send an email thanking your child’s teacher for all the work they’ll have to do to keep educating during this stressful time. Give the barista an extra large tip. Leave cookies on your neighbor’s porch (bonus: buy them from a local bakery and you can support the economy while also giving away tasty treats). Reach out to a friend, just to let them know you’re still here. Give compliments more often than you criticize.
And if you think you’re already doing all that, ask what someone needs from you, and then do it.
A few minutes a day to be thoughtful and support those around you isn’t going to take away from anything you wanted to do for yourself. Failing to be kind is going to cost you far more than you’ll ever spend on showing others you care. Really, if you’re not being kind to others, are you happy? Do you wake up feeling good in the morning, knowing you’re a part of a community or a family or a neighborhood? Probably not. But if you keep at it, I promise you, your heart gets a little softer, and your life gets a little brighter. Everything will feel a bit more real than it did before, and you just might figure out how to live.