Trying to come up with a single small kindness to write about today for Fiona’s blogsplash has been one of the more difficult writing assignments I have been given in a while.
Some of you know me, and so know the story of our family. If you don’t, I’ll just say that ours is not a traditional family, and in the last few years, our life has been filled with uncertainties, imbalances, and a great deal of waiting.
Negotiations and Love Songs
One of the hardest parts of this experience has been the process of negotiating someone else’s love. In this case, the negotiation was over the love our kids had for a family we didn’t really know or understand.
I think we can all agree, over the course of any life, we make our fair share of stupid mistakes. Some of them are just that — dumb mistakes, which we remember and maybe feel badly about and perhaps learn from.
Others, however, can only be defined as life shattering. This is the kind of mistake (or series of mistakes) that we make — acknowledged or otherwise — that completely dismantle our life as we know it.
You know the kind. The kind they invented the metaphor “burning bridges” for. There is no going back.
I’ve made this kind of mistake. You know you have, too.
What Holds On
In the last few years, we’ve had a permanent campsite inside someone else’s universe, watching their bridges burn, and feeling the heat. But also, feeling the warmth of their love, and that unmistakably desperate realization that, really…
… there is no going back.
What do we do with that pain and heartache? We were so close to it. The little hearts that are becoming fused to ours are also fused to that heartache.
During this time, we received SO many kindnesses, as I said. Family came to our rescue. People made us dinners.
They praised us. They thanked and admired us. And of course, Colin and I were always grateful.
But I always felt a little sick about it. Even though I could do nothing to fix the damage I saw, I still felt bereft of that pain.
As time went on, I felt my hardness toward the other family melting. Mind you, I knew there was nothing I could do to “fix” them. I knew they’d burned their own bridges.
But I felt the unmistakable invasion of love and empathy, in any case.
I was not the only one.
Do you see the flower here? This orchid was a simple gift, not expensive, but it was a gift from her to me. From their other family to me, with a short “thank you” note.
After all the blindness, I felt the kindness. I felt relieved.
Keeping Kindness Alive
In the ensuing year, though, the orchid dried out and lost its blooms. As I focused on the kids and schools and activities, the plant got ignored. Time passed, and pretty soon it looked awful. I was on the edge of throwing it in the trash.
Then my daughter asked me if it was dead.
“I’m not sure. Let me find out.”
That was last spring. Colin took the kids to pick out a special new pot for it. I took the weak little roots to the porch. The twins watched as I carefully repotted it in orchid mix and gave it food.
Then, I started watering it regularly. I bought a special stand for it, and placed it in a sunny window in the bathroom, so it could keep damp from the shower steam.
Yesterday, my daughter came down at breakfast to tell me: “Mom! The orchid has another shoot!”
I am Sure
Everyday, I am sure I am not doing things quite right. I am sure there are things getting missed and overlooked. I am sure that a Big Mistake is waiting for me in some dark corner.
Most of all, I feel sure that I am not quite kind enough.
It’s nice, though, to know that, regardless, loving kindness endures, despite our fears. It endures in the heart of chaos, messiness, and complexity.
And, sometimes, because of it.
This post is part of the “Small Kindnesses” blogsplash. Thank you to Fiona Robyn for her loving kindness, for supporting me always as a writer. You can download her book “Small Kindnesses” free today on Amazon, UK and U.S.