Tiny Acts of Love

FullSizeRender

Happiness isn’t always in the big moments, the huge family gatherings, the proposals, the long-awaited visit from your childhood friend who now lives half a world away. These are all amazing thing, things to be celebrated for sure. But every day gives us so many chances to connect with others.  We have countless opportunities to send tiny acts of love out into the world. We can smile at the person stuck next to us in traffic, leave quarters on the gumball machines in the grocery store, move a shopping cart away from someone’s car in a parking lot. I leave rocks and love notes for strangers. We each know what kind of kindness suits us, what kind of goodness we’re most able to send out into the world.

Sometimes people will know you’ve sent love their way, and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will be able to see and accept it, and sometimes they won’t notice it at all. That isn’t your concern. Your only job is to send the love out there, to see the tiny chances to do something lovely and just do it. You don’t save a kitten from a tree so the kitten can thank you. You save a kitten from a tree because it just feels right in your heart, because you’re happier knowing you saw an opportunity to do good and you took it.

There are days when the world can seem too cold, too angry, too filled with hate. There are things that happen that are almost horrifyingly wrong. It can feel overwhelming, and the harshness we see can threaten to break us. But remember that the hateful ones do not outnumber those of us who want a lovely world, the hateful ones are just louder, and get more attention sometimes. So let’s love louder. Let’s make our acceptance and kindness and genuine desire for goodness be heard. Let’s start small, because that’s where all good things begin.

The tiniest acts of love and kindness can send ripples through your day. With that kind of goodness pushing you forward, there’s really nothing that’s ever going to be out of your reach. With that kind of mindset, each of us can take tiny steps every day towards changing our lives and changing the world. And even on the ugliest days, I think we can all agree that a kinder world is something worth fighting for.

 

.

.

.

***If you’d like to see more of what I’m up to in the world of kindness, check me out here:  instagram

Advertisements

The Things That Break Us

IMG_3842 (5)

When you’re in pain, you can’t see a way out of it, can’t envision a future when the weight isn’t pressing down on you, crushing you, sucking the air out of your lungs. In that moment, it can be hard to imagine that the hurt you feel will ever hurt less.

A week ago, my thigh was an angry purple bruise. The very real one hundred and twenty five pound metal weight that had pressed into my skin had left it sore and ugly. I marveled over it in the shower, ran my fingers over it every time I changed my clothes, showed it to friends who shared my disbelief that such a quick incident could leave such an intense mark on me.

We never know what will mark us, what will leave us sore and bruised, which things will pass without notice and which things will leave us reeling for weeks, months, years. We are masters at pretending and protecting. We excel at thinking the things that break others will surely not break us.

And then, inexplicably, something comes along that brings us to our knees. A person, an event, a loss, a truth we weren’t prepared to hear. One minute we’re coasting through our days and the next minute we’re counting our breaths and wrestling with the unimaginable, doing whatever we can just to stay standing.

I won’t try to talk you out of that feeling, would never try to tell a drowning person to just relax and wait for help to arrive. When you’re in it, you’re in it, and there’s something to be said for allowing yourself the space to feel whatever you need to feel, as intensely as you need to feel it.  Be sad. Be angry. Be jealous, frustrated, confused, disappointed. Let it soak in, let it settle, feel the weight of it. Because you can’t expect to ever heal from something until you’ve allowed yourself to feel it in your bones.

If you love yourself enough to put in the work, someday, somehow, you will come up for air. You’ll laugh at something that tickles you, have a conversation without feeling distracted by the big, ugly thing, enjoy a quiet moment without heavy thoughts creeping in. The thing that was blocking out the sun will slowly become a shadow at the edge of your vision.

My bruise has faded. It isn’t tender to the touch anymore. And I can’t help but notice that it’s taken on the rough shape of a heart. The thing that once hurt me now looks like the thing that keeps me alive. The things that break us allow us to heal and grow in ways that shape us for the better.

That’s the choice we have to make over and over again. When things are hard, when life hurts, when moments threaten to crumble everything we’ve worked so hard to build, will we lean into it, or will we try to ignore it, bury it, wish it away? Our brains tell us to avoid things that hurt. Our hearts, if we listen, will tell us something very different. Our hearts will remind us that if we can make space for the uncomfortable and impossible moments, we’re creating space for the unbelievable and lovely days that lie ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Wasn’t Your Train (On The Quiet Strength of Giving Up)

It’s an honorable and agonizing thing, waiting. Waiting for a job opportunity, waiting for a relationship with a family member to settle, waiting for the person we love to finally and truly love us the way we want to be loved. Sometimes we put so much energy into hoping and waiting that it can exhaust us for all other things, blind us to all the goodness that’s just around the corner.

It’s a lovely thing to hope for something. To put your faith and trust in a situation that you can’t really know the outcome of, to want something so badly that you’re willing to work towards it even when the world is telling you it’s an impossible battle. Courage can look a lot like craziness to the people watching.

But here’s the thing, there’s got to be an endpoint. You can stand on the platform of the train station at the exactly perfect moment, ticket in hand, craning your neck to look down the tracks, certain that all the pieces are about to fall into place for you, and still that train might not show up.  Because the truth sometimes is this: That wasn’t your train. You can pack your bags and plan your trip and dream of all the lovely things you’ll see, but that wasn’t your train. You can imagine conversations that will finally happen, new experiences that will be open to you, even sweet little naps you’ll take along the way, and still, that wasn’t your train.

Sometimes the reason the thing or person or relationship doesn’t show up is because it just wasn’t your train. And that’s such a hard thing to recognize and accept when you’ve been waiting so long, working so hard, hoping and wishing and praying with everything you’ve got. We’re taught to not quit, that hard work pays off and dreams are meant to be chased. We’re told that if we love people enough, they will feel that love and reflect it back to us. We’re told that the best things in life are worth sacrificing for.

This is all so, so true. But it’s also true that sometimes, we have to let go. We have to realize that we can want something with all of our hearts and it still just isn’t in the cards for us. At some point, we have to stop waiting for that train.

It’s a sad and sickening feeling that washes over us when we know it’s time to go, but I promise you we all feel it. We feel it in our hearts, in our brains, in our bones. We each know on an almost genetic level when it is time to walk away. So why do we work so hard to ignore that understanding, to try to bargain with facts and slip out from under the truth?

There’s a moment in any relationship or situation that has gone sour when you have to ask: Will I leave now and begin to heal, or will I stay longer, and hurt for longer? Those are the only two options. Try to remember that. There is no magical third choice where things become all you had hoped for. It’s ugly and it hurts, but it’s true. Sometimes, things are just over.

Maybe today is your moment. Maybe today is the day that you take one last look down those tracks, and send out one last bit of love for the thing or person or situation that you wanted so badly. Maybe today is the day you take a deep breath, pick up your carefully packed bags, and leave the station. It’s so hard to do, and you might have to take slow steps and stop to rest and ask for help from friends and strangers and pet some dogs to make yourself smile when it hurts too much. But the thing is, you have to leave. You have to turn away from the thing that wasn’t yours so that you can move towards all of the things that can be yours, all of the people and places and situations that are waiting for your love and time and attention.

Maybe there is no train for you. Maybe there’s a bus or a plane or a bicycle or maybe you’ll walk on your own two feet for years and years. Maybe you’ll slowly see that the bag you’re carrying that’s full of memories and old dreams is no longer comforting, but just a weight that’s holding you back. Maybe you’ll be brave enough to set it down, to keep moving without it.

Maybe you’ll meet other people who waited for their trains, people who are walking around damaged and raw and sentimental for the things they left behind. Maybe you’ll see that in each other, see the hope that glimmers beneath the surface, the hurts that still need soothing. When you see that, when you recognize those people, reach out to them, connect with them, be present with them. Whether you know them for five minutes or five years or five lifetimes, these people will become your tribe, your salvation, your hope for whatever comes next. And you will be theirs. You will be able to encourage and support them, to listen to and really hear them, to know that your energy is going into someone that is ready and able to receive it. Feeling that acceptance of your love and time will heal your heart more than a thousand therapy sessions, more than a million inspirational quotes.

So, go. Make today your day. If something is hurting you, if someone is not showing up, if that opportunity is just not going to materialize, turn around and walk away. This is real life, not a movie, so there’s not going to be a dramatic scene with perfect background music and one silvery tear slipping down someone’s cheek. Nope. This is just everyday life, and today is the day to just walk.

Walk away from what isn’t and towards what could be. Allow yourself to feel the hurt and know that it’s sad and cry if you need to, but walk away. Remember all the work and love and hope you put out there, recognize that it was not wasted, that every time you give time and love and energy it changes you for the better. See that whether that time and love and energy was received or not has no reflection on you, and is only a sign that you need to move towards people and places that can accept what you are offering.

It’s ok to take a quick look back if you need to, to wave a little goodbye to the things that weren’t, the future that isn’t. But remember, just one quick look. Don’t linger, don’t hold out hope for a surprise happy ending. Just say goodbye and keep on walking.

Because, honey, that wasn’t your train.

We The People

I was too nervous to watch the election coverage last night. I turned my phone to silent, put on my coziest pajamas, and went to sleep. I woke once or twice, and fought the urge to check on the progress. What would be would be, and I somehow felt that my faith in the good, paired with my refusal to look at results would protect us all. I was so wrong.

I wept this morning when I saw what had happened while I slept. Sobbed, actually, unable to make sense of what I was seeing. Today is my youngest child’s 3rd birthday, and I am terrified of the country he will wake up to.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it?  To not see this as a reflection on our country, on the people we will walk past and talk with today? The trick is to see this as the delusion of the group who was somehow able to turn out in larger, louder numbers. To remember that the most publicized voices are rarely the ones we should be listening to.

We are a good people, we are a loving people. Look at the ways our country has changed and grown in the past few years. Look at the people in our lives – friends, coworkers, family members – who now have rights and protections they were denied for so long. I have to believe in my heart that the love and courage of the many can still drown out the hatred and fear of the few. And I have to believe in my heart that this is still the truth: there are more of us than there are of them. We are stronger. We love harder. Our faith in the good cannot be shaken even in the face of darkest evil

I’m thinking this morning of all the photos I’ve seen in my life of dangerous places, war torn nations, ghettos where children still played in the streets, friends still sat with heads tipped together and spoke of big, impossible dreams. We have been fortunate in recent history to live in a country where our leaders, for the most part, tried to keep us together and safe and happy. There are countless people in countless places who have never felt those things, but who work towards happiness anyway.

That is what I have to do, what we all have to do in this terrifying time. Work towards happiness anyway. Love one another anyway. Fight for what is good and right anyway. The test of a person, a family, a people is not what we do when the road is smoothly paved for us, but what we do when everything around us has crumbled. We show our true colors and make whatever God we believe in so very proud when, in moments like this, we stand together and refuse to let fear destroy us.

Please, do not let fear destroy you today. Cry your tears, wrap up your tender little hearts, and go out into this beautiful world. Smile at strangers. Over-tip the person who makes your coffee. Call your mom or your dad or your sister or your friend from second grade and tell them how very very very much you adore them. Hold the door for the person behind you, even if you think they might be one of them.  Especially if you think they might be one of them. Because that’s what he wants, isn’t it? To scare us, to divide us, to build a freaking wall between us. No. Not today, not in my life, not in my country. I will not let the hatred of some dampen the love of many. I will not let fear crush my sense of community with every single person around me.

Today is not about that one man. He is not us and we are not him. Today is about you and me and all of us, rising together to show the world what we are truly made of. We are made of love. We are made of courage. We are made of strength. And nothing can tear that away from us.

His Delicate Secrets

shoes

The first time I heard about him, I had a feeling I would fall in love with him. They told me he was 5 1/2, and seemed very bright, although he had never spoken a word.

The day I finally met him, I wore the shirt with the buildings all over it. They told me that he liked to build things, and I hoped it would help him to see me as a friend. I knew he had trust issues. I would, too, if I had been bounced around from home to home for so many years.

He looked at me with serious eyes as I walked toward the table where he was eating. “Peanut butter and jelly, huh?” I asked, smiling. “I like mine with strawberry jam, cut diagonal with a glass of milk.”

I could see him considering this, looking at his own grape-jellied sandwich that had not been cut in any way. He looked up at me, quickly, and I could see the question in his eyes.

“I like grape jelly, too,” I said, softly. “Maybe I can bring one with strawberry jam tomorrow, and we can both share.”

He smiled, so fast I almost missed it, before he stood and quickly walked away.

Salt of The Earth

photo - hand on map

In his rearview mirror, the cab driver saw the girl pull a handful of tiny blue packages out of her orange backpack. He heard crinkling as she tore one open, and realized by the smell that they were peanuts. Lots of little airline bags of peanuts. She took one peanut at a time and nibbled it slowly, like she was really considering the taste and texture of each one. More likely, he thought, she was rationing them.

Jaheed had been driving his cab for long enough to recognize a kid who wasn’t just on her way home from school, or taking a trip to visit grandma. No, this girl wasn’t on her way to anywhere. She was just on her way away from something, or someone.

Feeling a tinge of pity for her, Jaheed spoke. “I have an extra bottle of water if you want it. Hasn’t even been opened yet.”

The girl looked up, hope flashing across her young face, before quickly looking back down. She had learned that accepting help meant you might be obligated to someone, and she couldn’t afford that kind of risk. “It’s ok,” she said softly. “You keep it.”

Jaheed picked the bottle up and passed it back to her anyway. “No, really, it’s yours. Peanuts always make me thirsty.”

For a second, the girl smiled as she met his eyes in the rearview. She saw only kindness before she reached tentatively for the bottle and muttered a quiet thank you. Then she drank like she hadn’t had water in days.

This is an installment in a series of short stories, as I play with the wonderful world of fiction.

Like what you read? Profess your love, and follow me to see more!

A Long Way Down

building photo for A Long Way Down.jpg

It’s really only terrifying until you let yourself tumble over the edge. One minute, there’s cold concrete under you, and you tip forward until suddenly there’s nothing but air. Up until that moment, it’s all fear and nerves, panic and nausea. But once your body is weightless, surrounded by wind and sky, it’s actually exhilarating. Like being in the ocean and feeling your body both moving in and moved by a force larger than you could hope to name.

I open my hands wide, feeling the air force its way between my fingers, and I wiggle each one in turn. I wish I had thought to take off my shoes and socks. I bet this would feel great on my toes.

I feel thankful for this sense of calm and joy that is washing over me. You hear stories of people who do something like this, or just try to do something like this, only to feel waves of regret. I’ve had enough years of regret already. My life is a book filled with page after page of bad decisions, things and people so lost to me that there’s no chance of return. This choice is the one that will finally set me free.

The atrium windows are open as I fall past the 28th floor, and I hear the phone ringing for a quick second before the sound is sucked away with the air above me. I know the receptionist will answer it in that same warm but hurried voice I’ve heard so many times.

Funny, in all these years, it never occurred to me to walk down and say hello. Would only have been fair, as many times as she said hello to me. Gloria? No. Gladys? I should know this. Why don’t I know this? Do I really take people for granted so easily? All this time, and I’ve just been one more asshole in a grey suit.

I look back up to those windows and send up a pitiful prayer that I survive the fall, just long enough to tell one last person that I appreciate her. That she matters.

This is an installment in a series of short stories, as I play with the wonderful world of fiction.
Like what you read? Profess your love and follow me to see more!

Skin Deep

woman's back photo
He had a scar across his ribcage, thick and raised. She noticed it the first time he took his shirt off, and she quickly looked away. It wasn’t that she was bothered by it, just that she knew scars could stand for lives people would rather forget.
It had been months now, and she could sense that he was expecting her to ask about it, or at least to mention it. But they couldn’t have that conversation. She had had it before, and it always turned to her own body, her own scars.
She had decided years ago to hold that secret in her heart. Hold it there until it eventually faded to a memory that she could pretend was a dream, or a story from a book she once read. No matter how he got his scar, he wouldn’t be able to accept how she got hers, or why there were so many of them.
This is the first installment of a series of short stories, as I play with the wonderful world of fiction.
Like what you read? Profess your love and follow me to see more!

Magical Wolves and Colossal D-Bags

A billion years ago, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and found myself at a quirky little party in a quirky little neighborhood on New Year’s Eve. I don’t really remember much specifically about the party, other than it was the first home I had been to where they had taken to hanging their bikes on the ceiling to save space.

Oh, and there was that guy who told the magical wolf story.

I’m not sure how I ended up chatting with this guy, but we were sitting on the floor with one other guy, having some beers, and mentally counting down the minutes until we could eat the cupcakes that we had been told repeatedly we may not eat until midnight.

So this guy starts talking about a book he wants to write, or maybe has already started writing, about a family of magical wolves. He had asked if I wanted to hear about it, and I said sure, and off he went. He was clearly really into this wolf story, and I could see how excited he was to be telling us about it. I don’t know a lot about wolves, or magic, or magical wolves, but I tried hard to follow his meandering plot line, nodding where appropriate and asking questions to help keep myself on track.

We were maybe 3 or 4 minutes into his talking about the book when the other guy Just stood up and walked away without saying a word. Maybe he had a terrifying encounter with magical wolves a few years back, and the story was making his PTSD kick in. Maybe, against his friend’s advice, he had eaten the week-old oysters in their fridge before coming to the party, and his stomach was performing a series of unfortunate events. Maybe the mention of the magical wolf mom made him think “Hey, it’s New Year’s Eve. I should go give my mom a call!”

Any of these are totally plausible reasons for his sudden departure, but I have a feeling he got up and left because he was just a colossal douchbag. The kind of douchebag who does the mental math, realizes the story he’s listening to doesn’t involve keggers and the chick listening isn’t going to whip out her boobs anytime soon, so he might as well cut his losses and go off in search of a keg. Or some boobs. Or a magical keg with boobs. Maybe he could write a book about that.

I’m not going to say that I was personally particularly interested in a story about magical wolves. I also am not personally particularly interested in a story about the coming of age of a teenage wizard with an awesomely ridiculous facial scar, but half of the reading world would say that’s the coolest freaking story EVER. I get that not every person is interested in every story.

Here’s what I am interested in: I’m interested in people with passion. Enough passion about anything – wolves, wizards, widgets, or wallabies – to want to painstakingly create a storyline around that thing. Someone with enough passion to turn that story over and over in his mind each day, adding little notes to the margins and creating whole chapters when he sees that there’s a back-story that needs to be told as well. Someone with the kind of passion that compels him to corner a total stranger at a New Year’s Eve party and try to convey every last wolfy detail in all of its wolfy glory, on the off chance that that stranger might also get swept away in the whole wolfy wonder that is the story that is the passion that is his life. That kind of passion is magic in and of itself.

When you’re telling a story about magical wolves, or regular wolves, or something entirely non-wolf related, you’ll realize that there are a few basic kinds of people in this world:

1. People who listen, engage, and support.
2. People who pretend to listen, or at least graciously excuse themselves, because they want to seem polite.
3. People who just roll their eyes and walk away.

The thing is, you never know which kind of person you’re talking to until you start talking. Until you take the amazing leap of faith to start telling your own magical wolf story. It’s an almost revolutionary act of self-love and self-support to share your passion with others. And it totally sucks that sometimes those others are just going to be colossal d-bags.

I wonder where the book-writer is today. I wonder if he wrote that book, and is enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing a project one holds dear. Maybe he met a girl at a coffee shop, and told her about his work in progress, and she had tons of amazing magical wolfy ideas herself, and they found that in writing the book together, they also wrote the first chapter in their own personal love story. Or maybe he left that story half-finished and moved on to another passion, another project that made his heart scream “Yes!Yes!Yes! This is how you should invest your time!”

I love that this admittedly weird guy put so much focus and energy into telling a complete stranger a completely absurd story because he was just so in it. It’s an almost tangible thing when people are so passionate about something, and I can feel their excitement and energy just pushing at me, inviting me to feel it and get excited by it, too. And that’s awesome. So freaking awesome.

I feel sorry for the d-bags in stories like this. I feel sorry for them because they probably don’t have a lot of nurturing, supportive people around them, because nurturing supportive people generally don’t invest a lot of emotional energy into d-bags. But mostly I feel sorry for them because they get up and walk away from moments like this. They don’t feel the push of energy. They can’t feel or recognize it because they have never felt that push come from their own heart.

I wonder what that’s like, to not feel that kind of passion about anything real. To have your excitement and energy all wrapped up in tiny little things that just feel big because you make them big. I wonder what it’s like to feel so content with who you are and what you’ve done that you don’t want to do more, be more, create more. To think that the money you have and the things you own are the sum of your wealth. That’s gotta suck. And I just don’t think any amount of words about magical wolves could fill up a life that empty.

F*@#ing Facebook

I don’t have a Facebook page. I’ve never had one. I disagree with so many things about Facebook, and it’s just such a huge time suck that I don’t need on top of all of the other time sucks I already give in to. Plus, the whole thing just seems like a huge vomit of “Look at me! Guess how many times I worked out this week! My kid is more awesome/adorable/advanced than yours! I’m having a rough day, but am going to be intentionally vague about it so that people will feel compelled to ask me how I am!”

Ugh.  The whole thing just reeks of self importance and self pity to me. Which is why I don’t have a Facebook page.

Except that I do. Kind of.

A few years ago, I was taking over the administrative functions for the Facebook page of an organization I was working with, and you can’t do that without a personal page. So I built a dummy page with a mostly fake name and refused to send or accept any friend requests except for the one person I had to so that I could do my job. (As a funny aside, that one person is the one person with whom I now share this blog. We are indeed intricately linked.)

So I was sitting on the couch today, fairly trapped by a contentedly napping newborn. Happy to have a few moments where his nap coincided with his older brother’s, I was averse to moving and spoiling the silence.  IPhone in hand, I proceeded to look up dumb things – on Pinterest, then etsy, then buzzfeed.  And then my brain whispered “Hey. Hey! Pssst!! Remember that guy you were friends with when you lived in that state you used to live in? The one you haven’t talked to since you left? Wonder how he’s doing.”

This guy, who I’ll call Michael, was indeed a great friend of mine. I met him while I was dating a guy I had no business dating, and who I dated for far longer than I should have dated him.  I’ll skip all the blahblahblah about that whole romantic situation, and just say that Michael was one of the best things I found while in an otherwise pointless relationship. He was one of my silver linings.

Michael was one of those rare folks that I just felt immediately comfortable around. He would inevitably end up at our apartment after a long day of work, and would just sink into the place, like he had been there the whole time. He once seamlessly pulled off what was possibly the best practical joke anyone had ever played on me, involving a fake scratch off lottery ticket that had me convinced for a few shining seconds that I had just won $10,000.  He was just an awesome human being, and a fantastic person to be around.  I can honestly say that my feelings for him were similar, although less strong, than the feelings I have for my big brother. When I moved away from that state, all of my friends there held a huge party in a lovely park for me, and Michael cried his eyes out when it was time for me to go. We had been close. We had been like siblings in that time of our lives, and I think we both knew we would never see each other again.

Fast forward ten or so years, and I am on the couch, sleeping babe in my arms, wondering if Michael’s life turned out well, if he was happy.  Enter the dummy Facebook page. It took less than a minute to find him, since he has a not entirely common last name. There he was, fuzzy beard, huge smile, holding a baby of his own.  I felt joy – real and big joy. Michael was doing well. He had a baby, he was happy. Hooray for facebook!

I should have left well enough alone. Should have taken a last look at his smiling face and round-cheeked baby and closed the tab. But I scrolled down. I checked out his posts. And my joy was gone.

Somewhere in the years between the party in the park and today, my dear friend had changed from a happy-go-lucky welcomer of all into a crazed, right-wing gun nut.  Not to be confused with a conservative Republican who happens to strongly support Second Amendment rights, this friend of mine now believed that every man, woman and child should be packing heat at all times. He believed that Sandy Hook was an intricately woven lie constructed by the liberal media to deprive honest Americans of their guns.  He believed that Obama was a terrorist, or Satan himself, or (gasp!) maybe even a Muslim.

His whole feed was just picture after picture, meme after meme, that let me know that aside from that round faced baby, he loved his guns more than anything.

And just like that, Michael was gone to me.

Since I moved away, I’ve remembered him from time to time, a dear friend who had been there with me in some of the more confusing years of my early adulthood.  We had not kept in touch, but I always felt that he was still my friend, was still the person I had forged such a valuable connection with.

I wish that I had kept Michael as he was in my heart. I wish that I still had that unbruised image of the friend he had been, and the person I hoped he had become.  If I had never moved away, I imagine Michael and I would have slowly grown apart and gone our separate ways as we each developed into the people we needed to be.  And I think I would have been ok with that. But this. This sudden loss of the picture I still held onto, it was just too much. It hurt my heart. In a way, I lost a friend today.

F*ck you, Facebook.  And f*ck me for being there in the first place.