Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kindness Challenge - Week 5
Created by Niki Meadows
#RevOfKindness @NikiMeadowsRA
Choosing Kindness
Sadly, I don't always ask myself these three questions before I respond to an angry person.  My first inclination is to fire back.  If I do repeat these questions to myself, my response is more measured.  I've found that a pause in the dialogue can defuse the situation. "I don't know what to say.  I need time to think about that."  It prevents me and the other person from spouting off something else we might regret.
This is the hardest rule and biggest challenge. Oddly enough, unhappy people usually need kindness most.  When someone lashes out, I try to learn what's really bothering him or her. I ask if he or she is okay or if there's anything I can do to help.  Sometimes, I'm met with obstinance; other times tears.  At least, however, I've tried to make a connection...instead of a disconnection.
The "turn the other cheek" rule.  I ask myself, "Is it worth it?  Most of the time, it's not, and I walk away from the confrontation--swallow my pride.  I would only persist if the person was in danger.  If it's not a matter of life and death, then whether I'm right is not important. 
I encounter many people on a daily basis.  If I offer smiles and kind words, I've left behind the best part of myself, and maybe, brought a bit of sunshine to a cloudy heart.  Life can be unkind enough, without my adding to other people's sorrows.
Kindness is a conscious choice that can become a good habit.  If I keep that in mind, I will make an effort to be kinder, even to people who seem devoid of kindness. A smile, a sympathetic or understanding word, can make all the difference in someone else's life.

Kindness is contagious.  Pass it along, pay it forward--help it spread.
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Kindness Challenge - Week 4
Created by Niki Meadows
#RevOfKindness @NikiMeadowsWA
My Role Model for Kindness
My dearest grandma Emma,

Today, I’m writing to tell you something I never told you: You were my "role model for kindness."  Yes, you loved me, unconditionally, but we shared more than a hereditary link.  We shared a spiritual connection, a bond that cannot be broken.

When I think of you, I think of roses, gently tended to by your hard-working hands.  Remember the honey bee that stung you?  You let out a yelp, and I frowned up at you.  "Why did it do that, Gramma?" Smiling, you allayed my fears.  “The little bee said ‘look out, here I come,’ but I didn’t get out of the way.”  That made me giggle, but it also taught me a valuable lesson about life and forgiveness.

You were a quiet, thoughtful woman, who never spoke ill of others. Faith shone through your light blue eyes, along with a glint of merriment.  You lost your firstborn, your only son, while your husband had gone to America in search of a better life.  Three years passed before you could join Grandpa in the United States, but your grief and your struggles never made you bitter.

I carry your stories in my heart: Your voyage from Austria to America with two young daughters; the terrible seasickness you endured.  The hardships of an immigrant family living in Chicago.  You learned to speak English, became a citizen, and cleaned office buildings in order to survive The Great Depression.  From you, I learned the meaning of courage and perseverance.  Your strong, silent message prevailed: Never lose hope.

You did needlepoint beautifully, a testament to your patience.  You baked apple pies with a dash of cinnamon and a lot of love.  We cooked together in your favorite style: a pinch of this; a pinch of that. You taught me to polka, to speak German, and to sing in your native language.  You always helped your family, lending a hand well into your upper years.

Although Grandpa could be difficult at times, you stayed by his side for six decades.  I was with you when he drew his last breath, and with you when you drew yours.  The morning your soul called to mine, and I rushed to the hospital, remains a bittersweet memory.  I held your hand and we sang, “Du, Du, Liegst Mir Im Herzen…” You, you, lie in my heart.  A part of me went with you that day, but you left behind a kinder, more caring person.

Kindness & Patience go hand in hand, Grammy.  You taught me everything I need to know about both--instilled in me a sense of compassion.

Thank you, I love you, and I'll see you in your rose garden...

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Who was your "role model for kindness," and why?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kindness Challenge - Week 3
Created by Niki Meadows
#RevOfKindness @NikiMeadowsWA
Who am I supposed to be?  The person everyone can depend on--the person who tries to help others.  As the eldest of four children, that's how I was raised.  My mother needed my support--support I wasn't emotionally capable of giving at seven years old.  Often, she expressed disappointment in me for failing to meet her expectations.  When I was older, she admitted, "You didn't have much of a childhood."
My siblings looked up to me; I was their Big Sister.  At times, I resented my parents' assertion that I should make sacrifices for the "younger children."  If I complained that something was unfair, I was told I was selfish.  The criticism worked.  I developed negative feelings about myself, which took half of my adult life to resolve.
Who am I, really?  A person who cares deeply about other people, but who seldom relies on anyone else.  People often come to me for comfort or advice; I seldom go to them.  I'd like to change that, if I could--to reach out when I need help, without feeling that I shouldn't. Sometimes, it's difficult to accept who I am when other people don't, or won't, especially family.  They view me in a different context than my friends.  We have a long history and years of baggage...
That's what I've come to understand.  I won't be defined by anyone else, nor will I be defeated.  Once I learned to accept other people's shortcomings, I learned to accept mine.  I have many reasons to love my life, to count my blessings every day.  Forgiveness and gratitude are essential to a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
I don't know about "unconditionally," but I can laugh at my mistakes and not take myself so seriously.  That's a good start!
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Suggested reading:

From Amazon:
Perhaps no book in this generation has had a more profound impact on our intellectual and spiritual lives than The Road Less Traveled. With sales of more than seven million copies in the United States and Canada, and translations into more than twenty-three languages, it has made publishing history, with more than ten years on the New York Times bestseller list.

Written in a voice that is timeless in its message of understanding, The Road Less Traveled continues to help us explore the very nature of loving relationships and leads us toward a new serenity and fullness of life.  It helps us learn how to distinguish dependency from love; how to become a more sensitive parent; and ultimately how to become one's own true self.

Recognizing that, as in the famous opening line of his book, "Life if difficult" and that the journey to spiritual growth is a long one, Dr. Peck never bullies his readers, but rather guides them gently through the hard and often painful process of change toward a higher level of self-understanding.
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Happy reading, happy writing, and happy thoughts!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Kindness Challenge - Week 2
Created by Niki Meadows
#RevOfKindness @NikiMeadowsWA
Coping with Change & Sadness

From the time we’re young, we’re told:

“Don’t act like a baby!”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself!”
“Pull yourself up by your boot straps!”
“Keep a stiff upper lip!”
“Snap out of it!”

That’s why it’s easier (and more acceptable) to show sympathy to other people than it is to ourselves.  Compassion is reserved for those who truly deserve it.  Not us, right?  We regard self-compassion as a sign of weakness.  Somehow, we’ve failed to master our emotions…

Would you soldier on through a bout of flu, when you have a fever, chills, and body aches? Would you expect your body to keep going without any self-care?
Of course not.  The same holds true for our emotional well-being.  We can’t ignore how we feel or what we need to maintain good mental health.

This week, I made an effort not to underplay how I was feeling—to figure out why it’s so hard to say, “Linda, you don’t have to be strong all the time.  You don’t have to hide your sorrow from the rest of the world.  You have the right to grieve, just like everyone else.”

In May 2016, my dear friend Lyn died from brain cancer, after a courageous, ten-year battle.  I helped take care of her the last few months of her life.  Although I’m thankful I could be there for Lyn, the experience was heart-rending.  Five months later, I found myself at my mother’s bedside while she was dying, the memories of losing my friend still fresh in my mind.  My mom lived in Chicago, and when I left to return to Denver, I knew I would never see her again.
After Lyn died, my Denver family broke up.  Her husband moved to California.  I did get to see him this past Monday, when we gathered to inter Lyn’s ashes—another painful reminder.  My best and closest friend—Lyn’s cousin—is retiring to Tennessee with her husband, brother, and mother.  I’m having trouble adjusting to all of these changes in such a short time.

My positive affirmation is: “Don’t be sad it’s over; be glad it happened.”
With that in mind, I’ll try to show more compassion toward myself during this transition and move forward with my life.  New opportunities will arise; I’ll grow closer to my other friends.
In the interim, I won’t shy away from sharing what I’m feeling or how I’m coping.  Feel free to share your innermost thoughts, too.  I’m always happy to lend a sympathetic ear…
And remember: Writing is cathartic.

For my post about my amazing friend Lyn, please click on the link:

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy thoughts!