A woman spoke at my school this week about a local project for spreading kindness (www.bensbells.org). She shared her story of losing a child at a very young age to a sudden death. Her project began as a way to face forward and continue to live while walking wounded. And I thought of how many people are out there "walking wounded"--and so often we can't see the wounds. It's so strange to think about the fact that a person can be broken open, but on the outside look totally "normal."
The smallest signs of humanity can be the things that save us from retreating, turning around, or simply losing ourselves again in the pain of a past experience. It's hard to keep facing forward. Hell, it's hard to live in the present regardless of how glorious our past has been. And there are so few people out there who have not had to stare darkness in the face, pick themselves up off of the floor, breathe deeply and will themselves to carry on.
I don't think there's anything wrong with honoring the past, nor do I think that taking time to mourn when the past surfaces in us is a weakness or a failing. We just need the constant reminder that the past is past, not current reality. Remembering is just that; it's not a re-experiencing. There's no truth but that exists in the present, despite triggers that launch us backward into some space in our memory. And the only person we're truly accountable to? Is us. I try to remind myself of this. When you're harder on yourself than anyone else would possibly dream of being, it's hard to remember to be gentle in this accountability. But it's necessary.
I was riding my bike up Mt. Lemmon highway on Saturday morning when a biker pulled up next to me to chat. It was a man who had coaxed me up miles of mountain a couple of summers ago, and who, through his absolute kindness during that time (and without knowing a thing about me or what I was living through) helped me face forward and move upward--literally. I remember a day when all I wanted to do was turn around and ride downhill, and his company for a couple of miles boosted me to my highest point on the mountain yet.
And there's the professor I talked with on Friday evening at yoga who congratulated me on my return to my dissertation and the progress I've made. And the fact that she had been keeping track felt like an honor. She said, "I know it was a rough time. But I'll tell you, as someone who's a little bit older...it's just life." And I said, "Yes, it's just life." And I realized there's a hell of a lot more of it to go. It's a little bit easier when we keep our eyes toward what's in front of us. And it's more than a little bit easier when we know how much more kindness exists out there. Random or not, kindness is a gift. And, I'm pretty sure, like love, it's a renewable resource. Be kind. Indeed.