Revisions.

I have not written much fiction lately. I am buried in editing, busy with freelance work, chin-deep in raising two inspiring children.

I enjoy editing, but not over and over again. I have cycled through nearly every emotion toward my work, been somewhat destructive, and come through on the other side to make repairs and start to love it again.

What has also happened, is that I edit a huge percentage of random things in my daily life. It feeds well into my habit of overthinking.

The latest victim has been the “Golden Rule.” For various reasons, the “do unto others as you would have done unto you” is popping up all over my universe. It is a beautiful lesson, one that I embraced whole-heartedly back in my Catholic youth.

Now? Passing that message on to my kids? I couldn’t help but think to myself, “No, this isn’t quite right.”

So we revised.

I asked them what they thought about the original. They saw the same issues. My son called out an endless cycle of perhaps seeing how someone treats you, treating them the same way (assuming that they are acting on the same principal – when they are not), and so on.  No one feeling treated particularly well. My daughter thought about random things that make her happy, like yarn, and how giving others yarn would not bring them joy.

“Treat others as they wish to be treated?” I asked them if that was closer. They lit up and joined in.

My son thought adding “or should or need to be treated” could help those who don’t know how much they deserve.

My daughter remembered seeing something similar on a bulletin board at school, years ago. “Treat others as you wish to be treated – or better, how they wish to be treated.” It was nice to know we were not the only ones contemplating the rule.

In the end we decided that nothing had quite the ring to it, or the simplicity as the original. We also concluded “ring” and “simplicity” were not as important as bettering our interactions.

We are excited to test our new theory out. Maybe it will help them continue to develop awareness, compassion, understanding. Maybe it will promote conversation.

Maybe it will simply remind us all to be more active in our respect and kindness to one another.

Kindness in small spaces.

I’ve ducked into a store twice in the last week, to pick up things forgotten on actual errand runs. It has been like that lately, where I think I am doing awesome, until I realize what is still on the list.

The first time I ended up behind two rather rugged gentlemen with my daughter. These men filled my writing mind with their obvious patriotic, biker, veteran nature . . . and their gentle kindness toward one another.

While one loaded bags into the cart, the other smiled apologetically at us as he began a dance of adding and removing groceries to maximize the use of his pre-paid card. “Don’t worry about it,” I tried to reassure him.  “It has been a hard month,” he told me looking ashamed.  The dance continued, and he chatted more.  He had served in the Navy for most of his life.  “I wish I had gone to college, but I needed to serve.”  His regret and pride filled the space.  “Stay in school,” he urged my daughter and she glowed.  “I love school.  I have big goals.”  He was genuinely proud of her.

I wished in that moment, that I had some cash with me, to pay for the last bit of his lunchmeat and beer. I didn’t.  Instead I tried to extend my patience; I tried to show that he mattered.  His friend quietly waited for the next bag to sort itself out, somewhat protective, in a gentle and formal way – contradicting the stereotype of his large tattoo-and-leather-covered presence.

“No, I need the bread for sure,” he continued to trade items out, “and at least one of these.”  He pulled the case of beer to the cart and looked at me, perhaps waiting for judgement.  I have known alcoholics, he was not.  He simply wanted a cold beer with his dinner, to sit with his buddy, to relax at the end of a long day.  “It has been that sort of month,” I said.  He nodded, “It always is.”

Then, purchase finalized, they apologized again for how long it took. “We aren’t in a hurry,” my daughter said.  He tossed the card back to us, a dollar and some odd cents.  “You gals have a great day.”  His friend scolded him knowing that it would have helped on their next trip. I handed the card to the cashier, knowing it wasn’t much, but that it would help someone else later in the line.

The two rough-edged, burly men disappeared. My daughter and I went on with our day.  Sometimes I wish I could do big random acts of kindness.  Sometimes I think I miss opportunities.  That time?  I think the conversation, compassion, and respect might have mattered more.

On the second trip, the lines were cartoonishly lagging. The people in front of me were gruff, eyes forward, impatient.  Behind me several came and went, ducking from line to line in hopes that their momentum would carry them through the doors faster.  Eventually three young men settled in behind me.  Overly aware of the darkness of their skin, they left me ample space.  One said, “This line seems okay.”  “As good as any,” I turned and shrugged, hoping my smile would allow them to pull into the line, out of the traffic.

Grateful for the welcome, they came closer, towering over my short frame. I had only a few items, and they held a small cake “Happy 39th” swirled in icing. The couple in front of me turned and scowled at the men, their loud voices, their imposing size.  The couple was not listening.  I tried to smile at them, reassure whatever discomfort they perceived, but they did not look.

It became clear, that two of the men were escorting one. One of those large imposing men was struggling to put his thoughts together.  He was excited about the cake, but had lingered in the bakery.  “I like the red velvet cupcakes,” he said.  He tried to convince them that he had money on a card, that he could come back in and get them, or a soda.  They had obviously been having the conversation for a while, as they reminded him kindly, firmly that he in fact had only 30 cents left on the card and that they were not coming back in, they had only come to pick up the cake.

I made room on the counter as soon as I could, placed the divider, and smiled nearly-directly upward. The cake was placed carefully down, and the men continued their circular conversation after each said a genuine “Thank you,” for my insignificant gesture.

As other customers continued to glare, scowl and give them wide berth I struggled. I watched these kind and careful men get judged, over and over again. All I could do was smile, welcome them into my space so that they could give others space.  All I could do was say “It looks delicious,” and enjoy the wide grin of the young man who wanted to buy his own cupcakes. I could feel their tension on my side ease, and their guard rise behind them as people avoided our line.

These were two little moments. Echoes of things that happen daily.  They illustrated something, though.  How helpless we can all feel, how unkind the world and her people often are, and how little it takes to make things just a little better – how we are not actually helpless when it comes to being kind.

People seem to have grown wary of everyone around them, but rejoice in the chance to remove the barriers and fear. I will continue to be one of those abnormal people in line, not in a hurry, enjoying chatter to break up the monotony of waiting, to remember that we are all people, to share a smile.

It makes me happy to see my kids doing the same, extending their kindness wildly, as they have always done.  They have always openly complimented others, something I have gotten used to.  When they were little, new to the world and her variety of people, I would often hold my breath as they pointed wildly before speaking.  Nervous until I heard them, until the people they pointed at heard them and smiled. “Wow, look at his beautiful skin!  It is so dark and shiny, like the night and the stars!” “Mom!  Did you see the artwork on that person?  They have a whole museum on them and only have to look in the mirror!” “He doesn’t have legs, he has wheels!  He gets to drive everywhere!”

Judgement-free, kind and human. We are all stuck in the line at the store.  We are often miserable there.  But we don’t have to make it harder.

 

Mini Memoir

I sat cross-legged, carefully balanced on edge of my grandparent’s mottled brown couch. My grandmother tucked her legs to the side, neatly folding onto the floor in front of me.  “Make me beautiful,” she whispered.  I replied, “You already are,” and teased the pick through her curls; bouncy, full and perfectly done.

At home, my father took his time untangling my hair. His affection traveled with each gentle tug, erasing childhood worry and young adult stress.

My mother often sat behind me as we watched an evening show. She tested new braids, played, and wondered if anything would ever keep my hair in place through an entire gymnastics practice.

In the dorm, missing our families, we sought to fill the voids becoming an adult created. When a friend braided my hair, I flooded with joy.

My husband tucks a loose strand behind my ear, so he can see me clearly, or sweeps it aside and kisses the back of my neck. My son brushes my hair as I read to him in bed, knowing I will lose track of time.  My daughter pets my head, she is a cat person.

When I am older, I will still wind my long hair into a bun. I will sit on the floor in front of a grandchild and smile.  Generations of love will be in their small hands, unwinding my hair.  Untangling me.

Mostly contained.

 

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I decided to make an omelet for lunch. I have three glass measuring bowls, not that I ever measure, but they have such functional pour spouts. As I lifted the small measuring bowl I was gifted with a “what the . . . ” explosion. I must have torqued just right and the middle size shattered. I stood still for a moment, afraid to lift further, as the glass crackled and clinked.

As clarity resumed, I realized the large bowl held the majority of the debris, only a handful of shards escaping, and even fewer jumping far enough to find the floor. Never has a broken dish provided such easy clean up. Yet, as I stood there – honestly not having the best day anyway – I couldn’t do it. I closed the drawer. Granted, I needed to clean the floor for the safety of feet and paws, but not the rest. I closed it away, employed new bowls and plan on leaving that mess to fester for a day or two.

It was that one step over the edge, the too much, the breaking point. It has been a gorgeous day; peppered with constant almost contained explosions. And sometimes I just need to tuck the mess away, realize that everything is functional enough without picking up every single lost fragment. So I did. I closed the drawer, and every other “not quite” that was humming in my brain was shut within, because it was necessary.

Later, I can open the drawer and be amazed that clean up will be so simple. I’ll be grateful for the unique circumstance. For now, I’m grateful not to deal with it. I’m thrilled to sit and type with a dog at my feet and a cat warming my back.

Oh, and that omelet? It was delicious.

Thoughts.

At times the harshest corners of our world feel too sharp, too hard, too crushing . . . too much.

We placate our being with a breath, something to soothe the senses, a reminder of the love and kindness that exists in the space between.  A shuddering gasp, a shallow want, a deep and bellowing weep of air.

Annoyances seem bigger.  Their trivial nature triggering reactions unwarranted for their hassle.  They build up, merge together, beat on the door.  The “big things” keep us awake, line our cheeks with tears, rip chasms in our lives – but even as we stretch to touch those “big things,” we are unable to reach far enough.  Our grasp is unreliable, small, weak.

We break.

Then, we break again.  And again.

We feel selfish, self absorbed, unwarranted, and insignificant.

Powerless and thoughtful.  Exhausted and buzzing with an energy that has no focus.

Perhaps, it is time to look within . . . time to look around.  These are the moments to allow ourselves time to find our solace, our peace, our hope, our light.  Moments to sit so deeply that our legs rest for our entire being.  Moments to stand with a new-found solidity, that grows roots. Roots that wind and bind the very ground below us.  Roots, that stop the quaking and close the gaping space.

The pain is real.  Local news piling upon global news.  Personal struggles and the struggles of loved ones.  It is all so very, very much.

But, no matter how much it is.  It is not all.  There are the bits that make us smile.  The happy, joyous, laugh so hard, hug so deeply, fluffy, shiny, outrageously good parts of the world reminding us that those harsh corners, sharp edges, hardened or bleeding wounds are not the “most” of it all.

We might not know what to do on our own.  But when we find our space between.  When we feel our roots coursing and pulsing within and without.  When our beats join together and the tendrils of our roots hold hands.  We will stand together.  We will ask more than assume, learn more than know, and grow bigger.  We will figure it out.

Doubt be damned.