Want to be kinder? Actively enjoy people more.
I've always thought “being kind” meant bestowing niceness on someone. Pastor Jennifer's definition, I think, is much meatier and way more fun. Kindness is delighting—honestly delighting—in other people. How crazy-neat is that?
I recently read a blog post on parenting tips in which one of the pieces of advice was: “Ignore your mother-in-law. She knows nothing.”
The suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, meant to be funny and all. But still, it felt like a slap. Ha, ha! Those stupid mothers-in-law—
And then, Oh CRAP! Where does this leave ME? I have four kids! At least a couple of them are bound to get married!
So I left a comment: “Lucky me, my children aren't married yet. I'm still relevant.”
Writing people off is the opposite of enjoying them. It is unkind.
In contrast! …
Back at our annual soiree, my sister-in-law and my mother were recounting their adventures from last spring when they were in Japan. Among other things, they had gone to a bathhouse—you know, the kind where all the women (men in another section) sit around naked in hot water. This was a bit stretching for my mother, but she was game. And my sister-in-law, in telling it to us women, exclaimed about my mother, “And her body is so beautiful!”
We all kind of stared at my sister-in-law. It's not every day that young women see grandmas naked and rave about their bodies.
“I'm serious!” she said. “Her skin is gorgeous!”
Her words pierced. So sharp and bold, unflinching in their extravagance. So warm.
My PMS has been pretty bad this time around. Off and on, my moodiness overwhelms and I can't stand anything, especially myself.
Two days ago my younger daughter locked the keys in the car and I had a the-world-is-ending meltdown. My daughter apologized—it was an accident—but I couldn't hear her. I couldn't see her. All I could see was my own misery and misfortune. I carried on like someone had chopped my foot off.
I do not fall apart like that very often, thank goodness. But what made the situation worse was that I felt helpless against my irrational emotions, hijacked by hormones. I could not, simply could not, cope.
Which makes me wonder about the link between depression and kindness. If depression is the absence of the ability to enjoy things, are depressed people destined to be unkind?
One recent evening, in the throes of riotous grumpiness—snapping at my husband, fussing about life, whining and bitching and generally being the most pitiful, rotten, unlovable soul in the world—I finally collapsed in a heap of despondent despair on the sofa to watch an episode of The Gilmore Girls.
My husband scoffs at my silly Netflix shows (preferring instead to read a book), but this particular evening he walked boldly over and snuggled up next to my toxic self. It was the sweetest thing he could've done. I was at my lowest—I had nothing to offer him—and yet he was choosing to enjoy being with me.
His kindness didn't change me much, but I sure felt it. Him sitting beside me was exactly what I needed. His presence was a balm. (And I don't normally describe his presence as "a balm.")
Back to that mother-in-law joke. Maybe I couldn't enjoy it because I'm pmsing and therefore unable to enjoy things. Maybe, if I was totally even-keel, it would strike me as spot-on hilarious.
Which makes me ask: are depressed people more likely to be critical? Are kind, hormonally-balanced people less likely to shake up the status quo?
And so ramble on my thoughts.
This same time, years previous: through the kitchen window, GUATEMALA!, vanilla cream cheese braids, quick fruit cobbler, cranberry relish, starting today..., ants on a log, spots of pretty, and inner voices.