Random acts of kindness and generosity make my day. Doing them for others, receiving them out of the blue, those things make me smile and renew my faith in the goodness of humankind.
But there are things we should think twice about before paying them forward. For instance, if someone steals our parking spot and we get angry, we shouldn’t take it out on the clerk in the dry cleaners. Or if we have a really lousy day we shouldn’t walk into the house and rain misery all over the kids or the dog. Well, maybe the kids… Kidding!
I had one of those crappy days recently and I honestly couldn’t wait to share it with my mom, get it off my chest, hear her advice, feel better and then, what? Leave her with my crap to feel awful about for the rest of her day. Nope. Didn’t do it. That’s not the kind of thing I want to pay forward. It happens though. Nobody’s perfect. And while I’m all for being “cool” with my flaws, that’s one I’d like to be rid of.
Brene Brown, the international best-selling author, TED Talk queen, and shame researcher, is spot on when it comes to vulnerability. But before I go into that, let’s all take a moment to react to the word “vulnerability.” Join me, will you?
Eeeeek! Being vulnerable? So not doing that! Put myself out there? I’d rather put pins in my eyes! Open myself up to judgement, share my “stuff”? Oh no. Not happening. I shall keep my shit to myself, thank you very much!
I’m right, right? That’s where we go when we hear the word vulnerability. I recall watching Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the topic with my hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers. That’s how freaked out I was. But I watched, and watched again. And here’s the bottom line about being vulnerable: it is the key to moving forward to joy, to true happiness.
But first, the hard part. We have to dig deep, listen to what our body is telling us, and look for the clues to why we feel a certain way or are suffering inertia in some aspect of our life. Scary stuff, I know. I’m a master at putting my head in the sand. But ignoring whatever is stopping you from moving forward in your life doesn’t make “it” go away. It makes it worse.
So first, you dig deep. Don’t set up camp down there or anything, just look and acknowledge and accept. Have tissues, because the final part of that sentence is “and cry.” Then muster up all your courage, hit the store for more tissues and several bottles of wine, and share your discoveries with the person or people you trust most in the world, and only those people. At first your tribe, aka the people you trust most in the world, could be a little surprised, maybe scared. (Eek! She’s being vulnerable! Quick, where are those pins for my eyes???) But because they’re your tribe, that stuff passes in an instant, and then there’s nothing but listening, support, and love, and being absolutely blown away by your courage.
Any time we have the courage to pull the monster out from under the bed, hold that sucker up to the light and see it for what it really is, we begin to heal, get stronger, put that beast in perspective, free ourselves from its grip, and move forward.
And when we have the courage to do that in the company of those we love and trust? We give the gift of courage to them, too.
Nice right? It ain’t easy, but nothing really worth doing ever is.
Today’s thought of the day is simple but significant. Live In The Moment. I remind myself to do this almost constantly. Stay in the moment, Susan. Be present right now. Don’t let your to-do list or anxiety or unruly adult ADHD take your brain racing off to some imagined future place or worse, some place in the past. Life is short. Don’t miss it. Stay in the moment. Sometimes it’s tough. I could be having a conversation that’s bothering me, setting alarm bells off in my belly, and my mind wants to run away to the beach or go over my grocery list or whatever. But I need to pay attention to the alarm bells. They are, as my friend Marianne Clyde says, information, and I need that information. Whatever it is my gut is trying to tell me I need to hear. So being present isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. Don’t miss a minute of today, my friends. Live in this moment. It’s not coming around again.
We’ve all got something that makes us different, thank God. Can you imagine a world of cookie cutter, Stepford people? Beam me up, Scotty, ’cause I’m not sticking around for that. But we all have things in common, too. I always wish we’d look for the common ground in dealing with people. And believe me, I’m not perfect. I remind myself constantly to do just that.
For example, my eldest has autism. I have anxiety. These are just two things that make us different. There are dozens of others. He remembers everything, I haven’t held a memory in my head for more than 20 seconds in years. I think. I can’t really recall. He’s incredible with computers, and digital thingies like getting Amazon Prime linked to our TV. It’s a miracle! There’s a beam , bringing cool shows and movies – like magic – into my little house! His focus is enviable. It should be patented and sold. We’d make millions. And then there’s me. My adult ADHD has me writing this, responding to work email, and Googling “best cameras for youTube” at the same time. Is it any wonder I’m always tired and he’s so chill?
We are different. And we are alike.
The other night over dinner, completely out of nowhere, he says to me, “You know what kind of days I like the best?” I said, nope. He said, “The days where I don’t spend any money!” I was floored. The kid’s a clotheshorse.
The folks at Amazon and Hot Topic send him birthday cards, for Pete’s sake. But you know what? That’s my favorite kind of day, too. I had no idea we had this in common. We both love Tostitos, can’t add, can quote Tropic Thunder line for line (not something to brag about, but still), and more, so much more. But this new common ground cracked me up and comforted me. He’s not going to put himself – or me! – in the poor house! Praise the Lord!
More importantly it reminded me to see past his autism, and to push our conversations away from the countless soccer videos and Star Wars memes he wants to show me in lieu of talking. Those things are within his comfort zone but clearly, it’s expanding. I need to encourage it. Remind myself of all the common ground my kid and I share and reach for topics that pertain to them.
He is so much more than his autism. I am so much more than my anxiety. We are all so much more than we appear to be. We all need to reach for the common ground that connects us. It isn’t always easy. We may not always feel like making the effort. But when we do, it makes a world of difference. For us, for others. For the world.