Saturday, March 1, 2014

February in Review - Love Is Kind

Well, first of all, where did this month go?!

Secondly, I have to say that this was a very difficult month, and I wish I had more time to explore Love Is Kind. Of course, I have the rest of my life, but all month, I kept thinking "oh, there's time to implement that," and there wasn't time. It didn't happen. What really happened is that I lived my life as usual with the nagging reminder that "Love Is Kind."  It usually reminded me at my worst, most unkind moments.

 I wish I could tell you what one kind thing I did for myself every day, or what one kind deed I did for another person each day. I wish I could tell you that I picked up a new habit of smiling at strangers, always holding the door, or changing my tone of voice to "permanently kind" voice. I didn't do any of those things. I barely made it through the month.

This short month, I have been sick for about half of it. I started feeling bad about 2 weeks ago, then finally got a full-blown illness last week, and this week I'm still recovering. I took only one day off work. I forced myself to. I wasn't getting enough sleep, much less the extra sleep one might need when fighting off an infection. I went to the doctor. I consider both of those an act of kindness to myself, although there was much inner protesting. I would never treat another person the way I treat myself...why don't I take care of myself?  Why am I so unkind to myself?  Why do I feel guilty taking time for me?  Growing up, we were really poor and never had insurance. Yearly checkups with the doctor are not anything I did as a kid. I went when I had chicken pox as a kindergartner. I went maybe 2-3 times between then and graduating high school. So, forcing myself to do yearly maintenance is difficult, but it's part of self-care, self-love, and kindness that I need to do without guilt.

The other thing that happened this month is that I had a dramatic, unexpected confrontation with someone in my life. She's pretty dramatic and confrontational in general. I'm surprised I made it this long without such an interchange, but it was very stressful. I talked to my therapist about it, and she helped me navigate the waters. I can't say I handled it perfectly, but I also feel like I did okay. Could have been a lot worse, and I didn't allow it to manipulate me or change my priorities. I made peace and moved on.  A year ago, I probably couldn't have done it. I would have rewarded the tantrum by appeasing this dramatic, confrontational person, but this year, I just don't have room for that. Ain't nobody got time for that. I wasn't especially kind or unkind to her. I believe I was seen as unkind because of her interpretation of me, and I did apologize for that. I do think that standing my own ground (even if it was just barely), that I was kind to myself.

One other giant thing that happened this month is that I found out someone VERY close to me was unfaithful in their marriage. It was shocking. They are already divorced, but the ex-spouse who was cheated on is absolutely devastated. In related news, the cheater also lost their job, due to misconduct at work (related to the infidelity). And now, the whole family has no monetary support. This is a really hard time for all of them. I was told this all in confidence, which has made it even more difficult. I guess, as an outsider, it's a lot easier for me to see (and say) that G-d wants to give BOTH of them healing. I grieve for the spouse who was betrayed. I also grieve for the person who makes poor decisions that lead to adultery. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I'm not excusing the behavior, I just know that only a broken person does this stuff. The cheater hurt him/herself just as equally as s/he hurt the ex-spouse and the third party ("the other lover.") When will we all know that we are loved perfectly?  When can we stop hurting ourselves and others?  When will our brokenness stop overflowing and helping us lash out at others?  Since I'm not the direct victim in this case, it's easy for me to pray for healing for both parties. God loves the perpetrator and the victim equally.  I should be so kind to those who have hurt me.

So, in this Love Is Kind month, I have learned that I am very unkind, just like I learned in January that I'm very impatient. And I'm still impatient. And, yes, like last month, I know God is kind and God is kind to me, but it didn't hit me as hard as the realization that God is patient with me. I have a long way to go. I am selfish and brutal in my words and thoughts. I am arrogant and unkind in my judgments and assumptions. I am rude and unkind in my gossip and words and self-righteousness. But I'm going to keep going.  I'm going to lean in.  I'm going to attempt progress. 

The Hidden Power of Kindness by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik is a wonderful book I have read. It really goes through all the types of unkindness. It's like an extended examination of conscience with practical suggestions. It leads me to nooks and crannies of my personality and thought-life, and it reveals many an unkindness. I am going to add "unkindness" to every confession I make from now on. (I was advised by a catholic psychologist to go ahead and add pride and selfishness to each confession because it's something we all struggle with.)

Life is such a journey.  I am trying to find the balance between being good to myself and challenging myself to move to a higher level.  As Gretchen Rubin says, accept yourself and expect more of yourself.  

Lord, have mercy on us all, and in Your kindness, hear and answer us.

Stay tuned next month for Love Does Not Envy.  

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