All Kinds of Kinds

I think it’s absolutely amazing how differently wired we all are. Our tolerances, values, weaknesses, strengths… everyone is 100% unique. And even when we relate to one another on a large scale, we still harbor vast differences on small details.

It’s fascinating and empowering and isolating and frustrating- but it’s life. And I believe that life takes all kinds of kinds to work.

My mom has a heart for other people. She is so patient with older folks and weak or sick people. She can both correct and calm a child all at once. (She’s a first grade teacher.) None of those things come naturally to me.

On our recent flight there was a young guy who was drunk as a skunk sitting behind me. He even said so- plus a few f-words. An older women- who had a seat in the “extra leg room aisle”-  whom I only know as Stella, swapped seats with his original seat partner to allow that woman a seat next to her husband. I don’t think Stella knew this guy was drunk before she swapped, but she made conversation with him the whole time and even did a crossword with him. She essentially babysat him. When the flight attendant told Stella that she owed her a drink Stella laughed and said, “Oh I don’t drink.” I later heard her talk about leaving the airport quickly so she could get to church on time. I am convinced Stella IS a saint. All the travelers around this unlikely pair showered Stella in compliments once the flight was over and Drunk Skunk was out of earshot. Again, I don’t have it in me to do that. Not even a little bit.

My compassion runs deep for animals. I have compassion for humans, but it doesn’t come as naturally. And I think that’s ok because it takes all kinds of compassion to make a difference. I will pull my car over every single time to help a lost dog find his or her way home.

Emotions effect us differently, too. I am strongly controlled by fear. Some people can brush it off or enjoy the adrenaline rush, but it paralyses me. That said, panic is not something that affects me strongly. I remain scarily calm in high stress situations (like the car accident I helped with 2 weeks ago). Everyone is different and THANK GOD that we are.

I have 0 tolerance for violence. I can’t watch it. I can’t stand any entertainment to include rape or assault. I used to love Law & Order: SVU but just last week K was telling me about a show he watched and he mentioned a rape scene and I wanted to throw up. I don’t condemn people who watch shows or movies like that because I know there’s more good entertainment then bad, but I don’t have the ability to get through it or enjoy it.

I’ve seen the quotes about not judging other because we don’t know what they’ve been through or what kind of day they’re having or what lies below the tip of their iceberg. And I completely agree with that.
But it’s important to remember that we all process and handle our situations differently. We experience the exact same event differently than the person standing next to us. We process different amounts & different feelings, and we’re affected in completely different ways. And that’s so amazing, but also a tough lesson to remember.

It’s an important lesson, though. And I think it also helps us to accept ourselves (and our loved ones) in a clearer light. We don’t have to love, like, care about, etc. what everyone else does. And we can be affected different by our emotions (fear, sadness, anger, disappointment) and know that there is nothing wrong with us.

It takes all kinds of kinds to navigate and survive this world. And your kind is just the right kind.

Perspective

If you’ve been living under a rock, you might’ve missed that the world is a messy place. I can’t watch the news or scroll Twitter or listen to a podcast without feeling intense emotions.

I could rage wax poetically about all the crap going on right now, but I’m going to take a different approach.

I grew up in a mostly (politically) like-minded family, although my parents never pushed their beliefs on me or my brother when we were young. (We banter occasionally now.) I thought I went to a somewhat liberal school, but the very liberal students would’ve likely disagreed with me. Regardless, I don’t know that college shaped my actual perspective much.

But I think it’s important to recognize what does change us and shape us. And when we’re in those difficult or uncomfortable situations, it’s beneficial to embrace the moment and reflect on it later. So that’s what I’m sharing today.

I categorized this post as “spiritual” because I think that’s where these experiences have most affected me. It’s not a religious perspective or a political perspective, though. It’s just… my constantly changing outlook. And it’s something I feel needs revisited and reflected upon often.

We’re already at 200 words and I haven’t even shared yet. Sorry.

In 2012 I went to Bangalore, India for a month. It was a tough month;. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or physically prepared for the trip. I was in shock for the first 10 ten days. The country has its beauty, but there was trash & stray dogs & loose cows & tent homes everywhere. It was tough to see, but even harder when I realized that, after 2 weeks of it, I’d adjusted to it all. Our accommodations were a rough apartment in the heart of city- nothing luxurious. We walked roughly 2 miles to classes at the college and we shopped in the markets on the way home. We were fully immersed from the moment we left the airport.

After I got home I remember the moment our wealth and excess and privilege hit me. I was in church and completely floored by the intricate brickwork, well maintained pews, and beautiful stained glass. I left the sanctuary and started bawling in the lobby. It was the conflicting thoughts of knowing that our church worked/paid for and maintained those comfortable and elaborate things, but also it was PURE COINCIDENCE that I was born to my parents with my skin color in this country. And it put a lot into perspective when it came other others and their situations and how I could help them.

Those feelings have stuck with me.

A more recent lightbulb went off when my mom and I delivered dinner to the local homeless shelter one night.

When we were unloading the serving dishes a few shelter patrons approached our cars to help us. I turn to hand off a dish and came face to face with the boy I had lined danced with in 5th grade gym class. He didn’t recognize me and we didn’t have any kind of relationship outside that gym activity, but I remembered and recognized him.

A man who lived in the same town and went to the same school as me… asking for and accepting help during a vulnerable time in his life. After we finished unloading and said our goodbyes, I drove a few blocks and parked my car and cried. When you’re in 5th grade you don’t picture interactions like that 20 years in the future. I didn’t feel pity for him or anything- I just felt shocked. Grateful that he was in place with warm food and a bed, but sad that anyone ever feels so displaced.

For me, compassion comes much much easier for animals. But now and then there are moments that open my mind and heart to the human plight. And they usually hit me pretty hard and stick around for years (if not forever).

When you get smacked in the face with the uncomfortable truth, I hope you take the time to reflect on it and let it change you, too. It’s a really tough thing for me, but I know it positively influences my behavior and outlook. Today I thought I’d share some of those tough moments that have profoundly changed me.

Trying to Be Nice

Let’s get real today. There are women in this world who we’d all “love to hate.” Of course, in all actuality, we have no reason to dislike these women- they’re kind, beautiful, honest, friendly, and- in some cases- God-loving. On top of that they’re usually ridiculously creative and they always have the perfect messy bun. Their coffee is always warm and abundant and in a cute little mug that reads, “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed.” Their children are adorable and polite. Their rescue dogs are the perfect blend of Australian shepherd and husky, and their husbands bring them gorgeous white flowers on a random Tuesday to display on their Pottery Barn desk.

You have someone in mind right now, don’t you… Maybe it’s Joanna Gaines. Maybe it’s another blogger. Maybe it’s someone you know in real life. Regardless, it’s a woman who always seems to have it totally put together. And even when she doesn’t, there’s a beautiful smile on her face and she’s asking you what’s going on in your life and how can she help.

So often I wish I was that woman. I wish that I could look at my mantel and just know that a copper bucket with an old wooden spoon and two small succulents would fit perfectly. I wish that I could apply my make-up at 5am and still look like a put-together adult by 3pm. I wish that I was quick to offer grace and mercy to others, instead of the sarcasm and judgement that tend to fly from my lips.

Kind 2

I’m not trying to get down on myself today… I have quite a few qualities that I’m proud of. They could all use some perfecting, but I like to think that goes for everyone. It just seems like these “perfect” women never slip.

I know that’s not true, but when they do slip they don’t bring anyone down with them. They’re not vengeful. They’re not nasty. They’re not hurtful. Those are three things that I know I can be and have been in the past. Those are the traits I’d like to weed out. As of late, I’m consciously trying to delete the words “jealous” and “hate” from my vocabulary. Do I wish I was participating in the trip/experience/etc. that you are? Yes. But more than that I am genuinely happy that you are getting to have that vacation. Instead of saying, “I’m so jealous of you” I’m trying to say, “I’m so happy for you!” And I’m really meaning it.

Personally, my faith plays a role in this change, too. In the past I’ve never uttered or typed the words, “I’ll pray for you.” But I’ve said it a lot lately- and then I really have prayed for those people. I told K a few weeks ago that I often pray for him. You don’t have to be religious to be nice; it just tends to go hand-in-hand for me.

Kind 1

I don’t believe that I will ever master effortless beach waves. My dogs are a weird mix of under-bite boxer and scrawny whippet. (Which I wouldn’t change for the world.) I hope that my future kids will be polite, but I don’t think they’ll ever sport a top knot or keep a cardigan on for more than a minute. (It’s too hard to climb trees in a sweater.) I’ve been drinking coffee for +3 years and I still can’t figure out how to keep it warm.

But that’s ok. These things don’t bother me; I don’t feel a need to change them.

I’d like to be nicer, though. I’d like to extend understanding and grace to those who deserve it- and more importantly, those I would have formerly felt don’t deserve it. People won’t stop being rude and nasty, but I can change my reaction. I can stop that cycle of anger and judgement. I can say “thank you” to the waitress who made us wait 20 minutes to order our drinks. I can smile politely at the scowling woman in Wal-Mart who’s shooting daggers from her eyes at me for no reason. I can refrain from gossip. I bet Joanna Gaines doesn’t gossip.

I’m not in the business of comparing myself to others- really, I’m not. But when I see traits in other people that make them shine brighter (inside and out), I tend to gravitate toward that behavior or outlook or lifestyle. It’s my path to self-improvement.

Then again, if anyone has the secret to perfect hair and well-behaved dogs I’m open to that, too… Just saying.

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