Fearless Friday: Learned Empathy

This morning I did my best to avoid a particular cashier lane at the grocery store. My local grocery store proactively employs people with differing abilities, whether physical, learning, or social. There is a young woman who bags and likes to have loud, occasionally inappropriate conversations with anyone, anywhere. I am a jerk in the morning. I don’t want to talk to anyone, anywhere. I tried to pass by unseen, but the cashier called out to me. “I can help you here!” I smiled weakly and turned back into the lane.

canstockphoto3618060She yelled down at me from the end of the conveyor: PAPER OR PLASTIC? and I silently handed her my cloth bags, already feeling the irritation grow. WHAT’s YOUR NAME? MINE IS _____. I mumbled something about not being awake yet. NOT AWAKE YET? THAT’S A FUNNY NAME. I could feel my face grow hot as people in the lanes next to us turned to look. I’m simultaneously ashamed of my self-consciousness, lack of compassion, and growing hostility towards this woman, who obviously could not read social cues. Where was my empathy and understanding? I suspect it was in a cup of coffee and a few hours of silence. In the moment, it completely abandoned me. I could hear her yell as I exited the store. BYE NOT AWAKE YET!

I think about empathy a lot and how a true master wouldn’t ration it. Wouldn’t pick and choose who was deserving of engagement based on whether or not I’d had my morning drug of choice. Empathy is a skill that, like any skill, grows with practice. And practice is sometimes uncomfortable and forced and against all our inclinations. Empathy allows us to flip the script. I wouldn’t have been doing her a favor by engaging – she was not the one with the problem. I saw in a flash, that I was both insecure and petty and it made me less empathetic and kind than I like to believe I am. Next time, I have a chance to do better.

I think we all have empathy.

We may not have enough courage to display it.

Maya Angelou

Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

One of the gifts of reading is increasing empathy. Hearing or reading about another person’s experience and perspectives, letting them sink in, without preemptive judgment, is a gift to oneself. This is the wonderful thing about the blogging world – so many worldviews being shared. Opportunities abound for us as readers to expand our world, understanding, and empathy for fellow humans. So today I’m sharing some of the blogs that have expanded my worldview.

Robyn at Blog Woman! Life Uncategorized is a citizen of the Cree and Michif Nations. She is passionate about indigenous peoples issues in Canada. I’ve learned a lot from reading her blog and now, her Twitter feed as well. “What’s Under the Fight to Do Right?” encapsulates why she does what she does.

RJ at RJsCorner describes himself as “an Independent thinking highly functional person who is deaf and has some Aspie traits.” He has himself on a rigorous blogging schedule, with each day covering a different theme and a wide range of subjects. His post “Never Stop Learning” is part of his 10 Pillars of life – not only has he continued to learn, but he is unerringly, a teacher as well.

Randall at Midlife Crisis Crossover blogs about traveling, comics, and movies. Here’s the funny thing – I’m not particularly interested in comics or movies, but I really enjoy reading his blog, which is often a breakdown of exactly those things. But strong writing and his obvious enthusiasm for his subjects are a winning combination. As someone who likes to keep up with things a bit, I especially enjoy his roundup posts like “My 2018 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best“.

Torey Richards, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida, writes at LMHC: Sharing Information and Exploring Human Behavior. The blog is a hybrid of clinical information, case information, and the writer’s personal experiences, which makes for interesting reading. Sometimes the posts are about intense, potentially-triggering issues. But blogs like these, about mental health conversation and information, are part of the antidote to the stigma and silence that have plagued our society with regard to mental health issues.

These are just a few of the blogs I follow that have broadened my perspective. Thank you to those bloggers and the many more who open windows to their worlds.

What’s your empathy look like? And where do you go to broaden your world view?

Blogging in the New Year

When I have time, I go through the list of followers to see if there are new blogs that catch my interest. There is always an influx around this time of year – resolutions are in play and people have a little extra time on their hands. On a side note, I have always loathed the word “Follower”. It sounds like one is starting a cult. If I were to start a cult, it would be one where no one is allowed to make eye contact or conversation, hugs would be banned, and every book would be THE sacred book. Apparently my cult is a library. But that is neither here nor there. At least once a year, I like to do my version of a blogging advice post. So here it is for 2019:

There is no one-size-fits-all blogging advice. Have at it. Have fun. The End.

Just in case you were reading this post for ideas, I can only share what has worked for me, where I find value, and what my own resolutions are in terms of blogging. I’m soon entering my 8th year of blogging, which in digital terms makes me an old-timer. I’m just about to cross the threshold of 19K subscribers and while I recognize the imprecision of that stat, it’s still an indicator that I’ve attracted a little attention. Even if it’s only a cabal of spam bots.

The About Page

canstockphoto37956792Here’s what happens to me frequently. I see someone has followed the blog, I click on the link and it takes me to a template. I’m a little disappointed. I’m always interested in what people are writing and what they are about. But I get nothing.

If you really want to get things going, have that About page done. I know it’s tough. I’ve seen all varieties of About pages: the third person authorial page, lengthy explanations that gave my scrolling finger a cramp, the dating page (my likes are long walks down the hallway and pistachio-colored slippers), the abrupt “I write for me” scoff, and sometimes, awkwardly, pages that make me wonder if I should comment with a suicide hotline number. I go to the About page to find out what kind of writer you are, what topics you might be writing about, and if you care about your reader.

Caring about the Reader

Caring about the reader is considered a no-no for those writers who truck along on faerie dust and high-minded art mantras. I care about my reader in that I want to do my best work. I want my writing to be relatable and just smart enough so that the reader comes away with something to ponder. I care about my reader by using proper grammar – checking spellings and punctuation. I care about my reader by not spraying universal certainty and opinions. I recognize that my own shit is my own shit and may not apply to anyone else. I care about my reader, because those are the writers I want to read.

Tagging and Other Etymological Plot Points

canstockphoto45824701.jpgI originally wrote this section title as Tagging and Other Mumbo-Jumbo. Then I thought, where does the phrase “mumbo-jumbo” come from? From a language perspective, I began to wonder if it were another one of those racist phrases that came into popular use and that I needed to check. I did – and white people were at it again. It can be tracked back to 1738 when a European went to Africa and mispronounced and mischaracterized an African god and tribal language. A century later, it came to mean nonsense words. The linguist in me is both irritated and embarrassed.

The point of that little story is that blogging can be a learning experience. I don’t think that I’d have kept at it this long, if I didn’t learn something each and every time I wrote a post. There is some learning that is very useful up front. Learn how to write tags, how to add links, and how to link your Gravatar to your blog (so your comments are linked to your blog). These things will help your traffic right out of the gate. WordPress has a fairly good reference forum, but a simple search will dig up a lot of people who have written posts and even made videos explaining how to do those things. It’s a good investment of time.

Blogging as a Gateway Drug

One of my own intentions for 2019, is to write more frequently. I fell down the rabbit hole of comparison when I read about one blogger celebrating her 500th post in under two years. This post is my 471st post – in 7 years. Once I stopped hand-wringing over that, I reminded myself that we have to work at whatever pace we’re comfortable with – and for me, it’s simply a slower pace.

canstockphoto37956766What is different in 2019, is that I’ll be learning how to be a working writer with a schedule, deadlines, and actual submissions. So I’m going to up my game on social media as well – posting more frequently with potentially shorter pieces. It’s an experiment on my part – to balance between social media and offline writing that I’m submitting for publication consideration.

People blog for a lot of reasons. And those reasons can change over time. I started off just because I wanted to get over my fear of writing publicly. Then it was about the habit of writing. Now that I’ve fairly mastered both of those things, my next phase is learning how to keep doing this thing I like doing, while taking my work commitment to the next level. For you, it might forever and always be about wanting to get your thoughts out, or a lure for your YouTube channel, or just a connection to the world. And that’s just fine.

There is no one-size-fits-all blogging advice. Have at it. Have fun. The End.

Wishing You Happy Blogging in 2019!

My Year in Writing

This is the time of year when everything comes under scrutiny. Too much chocolate. Check. Not enough exercise. Check. Too many episodes of The Office. Check. Writing? Another slow year, but some progress all the same. I look at the past writing year as the Year of Scaring Myself or perhaps the Year When It Finally Made Sense to Scare Myself.

As ever, I write this more for me than anyone else. But I put it on the blog, because somebody always has a good idea, some good news about their own writing, or they’re of the misery-loves-company ilk and we can just nod our heads knowingly before we get back to work.

Blogging & Social Media

In a few weeks, I’ll have been blogging for seven years. Normally, I’d do the will-I-or-canstockphoto14933208won’t-I-continue-blogging evaluation, but I’m skipping it this year. Each time an anniversary rolls around, I look at the blog’s stats, think about engagement, and all the other metrics that I’m supposed to care about. Then I willfully ignore it, because it’s highly unlikely I’ll change anything. It’s just an exercise in self-flagellation.

Blogging is an odd little art form. It’s like that middle-aged person who keeps showing up at college parties, head bobbing, trying to look cool and fit in, but everyone else gives side-eyes and smirks. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and WhatsApp stand around exchanging witty zingers and astronomical stats while the Blog laughs in the background like it actually gets the jokes.

Twitter and I will never be friends. In the last couple of months, I’ve developed an impressively long block list as a way of curating out people who don’t understand word definitions or whose profiles are either bragging, threatening, or so loaded with hashtags and emoticons as to be eyesores. Nor am I going to look up the pretentious Latin to find out if you’re a complete wanker in more than one language.

I am not well-suited to the medium, but it’s useful for keeping up on the dismantling of democratic norms. Last week I again reported the President of the United States for targeted harassment against news reporters. Happy times.

Facebook is such rubbish aesthetically that I don’t have the patience to read feeds for long. I use it because an organization that I volunteer for needed a page. And I can now answer in the affirmative when people ask if I’m on the damned thing. I keep getting friend requests from people I’ve never heard of and I wonder at the pathology of it all.

I haven’t yet bothered with LinkedIn or Instagram or tumblr (for the lack of capitalization and shitty spelling) and it’s unlikely I’ll ramble any further afield in social media unless I hit it big and can pay someone else to do it.

So I continue to write blog posts, mostly because I don’t fit in with the cool kids. I’m not capable of snappy one-liners and photo editing on the fly. Blogging is just the right speed for me and there are still a lot of people sharing my lane.

Shifting from Playacting to Action

If there were ever a case of How To Be a Writer By Doing Everything But Writing, I’d been that for years. I’ve done workshops, conferences, read how-to books, designed business cards, etc. I was doing more peripheral activities than actually writing. On the plus side, I am a fount of writing knowledge, have great editing skills, and recognize good writing when I see it. On the down side, I’m in ongoing recovery from the imposter syndrome.

canstockphoto35901016The last couple of years have been about putting meat on the bone. Writing more, playacting less. This has also meant getting a painful reality check. Recognizing the gap between my skill set and what kind of writer I envisioned myself being. It meant cutting the daydreaming and fantasies out and looking at what I was actually capable of – my bucket of cold water moment as a writer. Awareness is the first step apparently.

The shivering, stripped-of-delusions writer arrives at the crossroads. Give it all up, contemptuously shoving drafts away and picking up watercolors or stamp collecting. Awareness is giving way to courage or perhaps simply bullheadedness. I don’t know anything else I’d rather do. I don’t know if I’ll ever “make it” as a writer, but I am still breathing, so I will continue.

I am easily discouraged in one moment, but barrelling forward in the next. I’m in my fifties, I don’t have an MFA, I don’t have connections, I don’t have a platform that anyone cares about in particular. I haven’t been published. Every morning I get up and I still write. I wasn’t doing that ten years ago.

I submitted work this year, even though each time I hit the “Submit” button, I wanted to vomit. My work was rejected. It didn’t bother me (I really thought it should). So I have learned what I have control over as a writer and what I don’t. I read work out loud on a weekly basis in front of people, through heart-pounding anxiety. I wasn’t doing any of these things a year ago. It makes me look forward to wherever writing takes me next year.

canstockphoto293181In talking with other writers and doing some mentoring, I’ve discovered a passion beyond just spitting out my own words. I love working to help people improve their writing and I know a lot about how to do that. It’s also forced me to review grammar, sentence structure, and the rhythm of language (why one phrase or paragraph reads better than another). Editing has become a discovery process and it is pushing me to be more experimental with my own writing.

The Year Ahead

I don’t have concrete goals at the moment. Those are in development. I have nebulous intentions: be more brave, work harder at writing. These things go hand in hand. It takes a certain kind of bravery (or obliviousness) each day to wake up and do a thing you love, that may never be anything more than what it is.

How was your year? What do you look forward to in the upcoming year?

Building an Imposter’s Life

My intention has been, over the last few years, to build a writer’s life. I had to figure out what it meant to me, beyond all the myths I’d built up in my mind.  It is important to establish from the outset that I will never feel like what I’ve always imagined a writer to be.

canstockphoto2656709It occurred to me that how I feel about what it means to be a writer or not is completely irrelevant to what I do as a writer. The drill sergeant within says Write, dumbass. But writing is what I’ve been doing. How do I get beyond my computer? How do I improve my skills? How do I feel like writing is woven into my day?

Writing Out Loud

Over six years ago, I began to write blog posts. I felt sick to my stomach each time I hit “Publish”. I got over that, got hooked on and unhooked from Stats, and eventually hit a pace with which I was comfortable. I’ve spent hours writing and re-writing blog posts. The key lessons I’ve learned from that are:

  • Keep it in perspective. It’s an unpaid labor/writing practice and that is important to remember when setting writing priorities. As I have ambitions towards publication of a novel and short stories, writing blog posts cannot account for all my writing time. It seems logical, but it’s easy to rationalize any writing as being productive, regardless if it actually gets you closer to a personal goal or not.
  • canstockphoto56234840Building a community requires generosity, patience, and boundaries. I like to share links of other people’s work, but I generally don’t re-blog or write guest posts. Since I read other blogs because I like the writer’s voice, it sets the expectation that when I go to a blog, I’ll hear the writer’s voice. I also learned after the first year, that blog awards, while flattering, are chain letters with homework. The biggest lessons are that patience and courtesy are the name of the game – and don’t obsess about stats.
  • Review, re-commit, and sometimes, just take a break. Burnout is something I’ve experienced about 263 times in the last six years and a few times I considered giving up blogging altogether. But I’m still here. I regularly review why I blog (firm up that mission statement), recommit to better writing, or take a break. The first year, I took the summer off. Since then, I’ll take 2-4 weeks off at a time, with a notice on the blog of when I’ll return. Too many blogs drop off and never return – I’d like to stay on your reading list!

Taking Chances

canstockphoto15646582In my experience, there is no growth without fear, so I’ve been doing things I’m scared to do. I’m an introvert/perfectionist/procrastinator – so yeah, the things I’m scared to do as a writer comprises a very long list.

  • I wrote a novel over 5 years ago during NaNoWriMo, revised it over and over, and then let it go. I’ve started a second novel.
  • I went to a writer’s conference and pitched my first novel to agents.
  • I went to a book club. That really didn’t work out, so I’m trying to start an online one of my own.
  • Another writer/blogger contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to mentor her. Me? She had a great plan and caught me on a day when I was feeling confident. I said yes. Thinking about what she needs as a writer has reminded me that I know things, some of which are useful.
  • I submitted my first piece of work, despite making myself panicky-ill and mangling the submission. I’m not waiting 50 years until the next submission.
  • This month I’m applying for a highly competitive writing fellowship. My stomach tightens into a pit at the thought of it. My odds are slim, but they’d be zero if I didn’t apply.

Each step is practice for taking the next step. Failure is victory, because it means I’m doing something.

Improving Writing Skills

canstockphoto10374745I wanted to be a writer because of what I read, so it seems logical that if I wanted to elevate my writing, I needed to elevate my reading. I started digging into more challenging works and learned to take assiduous notes. I subscribe to World Literature Today which diversified my reading lists, as well as learning about translated works at Asymptote.

My reading is more directed and less whimsical. Sometimes it’s hard to read great writing and not get that sinking sense that I may as well be writing with a crayon in a dark corner somewhere. But that’s the nature of reading above one’s level of skill. Skip over the discouragement and the negative litany, right on over to practice, practice, practice.

The Absence of Motivation

I’m rarely ever inspired or motivated, in the moment, to do what I need to do. It’s this magical thing that other people apparently experience. Accepting this fact has been very useful. I can’t wait until I’m in the mood to write or exercise or until the stars have aligned to create a zen time and space for me to work.

Inspiration and motivation come in small ideas. This week, I’ve been thinking about the Mel Robbins TED talk I listened to – the idea that productive impulses are often overrun by autopilot because we don’t act on them right away and our habits take over.

canstockphoto6297403I’ve been practicing, acting on that annoying “should” dialogue. I am trying two things: 1) re-framing the should into a want. I should workout = I want to workout because I know it will make me feel better. 2) Practicing the five second rule. Positive impulse? 5-4-3-2-1…do it. I’m not giving myself time to stomp down that change in behavior, in favor of habit/autopilot.

The little habits are a great place to start. I should have herbal tea instead of coffee = I want to have herbal tea, because I’ll feel better with less caffeine. 5-4-3-2-1…grab an herbal teabag. It seems silly in the scheme of things, but as I’ve learned over the last year, the smallest components of a life, the minutiae at the margins, shape our lives and it is in those places that we have the greatest ability to make changes – to be what we’re pretending to be.

Fearless Friday: Renaissance People

It’s been a rough week at The Green Study. Its injured denizen (me) was extremely grumpy. Knee injuries take from 2-4 weeks to heal. I’m in week two and severely out of sorts. I broke my ceramic tea kettle and when trying to repair it, managed to Superglue a couple of fingers together. Limping and lumbering about also caused my Kindle to fall off a shelf and hit me in the head. It was like being taken over by the spirit of Mr. Bean.

I’m shaking it off and this week, the theme is Renaissance people – people who cultivate a wide range of interests and practice skills in multiple areas – people who will never utter the words I’m bored. Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

New Readers

When I have time, I go through this blog’s follower list and try to visit as many blogs as possible. I’m giving a shout out to a couple new readers this month who exemplify the theme of Fearless Friday.

canstockphoto1323495Jamison Hill at Jamison Writes. One of the things that will keep me reading a blog is the author’s voice. Jamison has a clear and authentic voice with a compelling personal narrative. I had to make myself stop reading his posts, because I wouldn’t have gotten anything else done today. Check out his Bio and Bylines for articles he’s written for a variety of publications.

canstockphoto46705839Cheryl Capaldo Traylor at Giving Voice to My Astonishment is a writer, yoga teacher, and gardener. She opens her page with an Annie Dillard quote that sets the tone for her blog. Her About page is what you’d expect from someone who cultivates curiosity just as much as she does her garden.

Karen has a concert card!

canstockphoto8525201She’s a neuroscientist, goes geocaching, plays the violin and viola, practices photography, writes, and juggles (I made that one up). K.L. Allendoerfer at A Thousand Finds is the perfect example of a Renaissance person. She writes about her music, geocaching, and neuroscience, as well as posting book reviews and photos she’s taken. You can read her music blog and bio at violinist.com.

Over ten years ago she began to play violin and then viola after many years of not playing. This is something that I connected with, the idea that it’s never too late to learn and to excel. You can see her playing with a quintet here. Despite all of her experiences and education, there was one thing she hadn’t done before – had her face associated with a concert. Congratulations, Karen – wishing you an appreciative audience and a stellar performance!AllendoerferConcertCardFlight of the Dilettante

canstockphoto10628495My resume and personal history reads like the life of someone who is very…confused. It wasn’t until I read Margaret Lobenstine’s The Renaissance Soul that I began to re-frame my aspirations. She defines a Renaissance soul as a person who thrives on a variety of interests and who redefines the accepted meaning of success.

I think that’s a very cool thing to think about. When you’re like me, a jack-of-many-trades, master of none, it’s easy to feel like a failure, because it’s hard to explain at the family holiday gathering that you gave up Chinese painting because now you’re learning Swahili and woodcarving. Flighty. Dilettante. Hobbyist.

Now I just say I’m a writer and call it research. And run away before they ask me about my work.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Fearless Fridays: A New Feature at The Green Study

These days a person can wake up feeling small and anxious. I often do. This morning was a good example. I’ve been nursing a hamstring injury for over a week and the first walking hours are the worst. The sky is dark and cloudy and it is predicted that we’re getting 10-14″ of snow tomorrow. My daughter has been sick the last few days. Those are local issues. Add all the political turmoil and malevolence in the world and it’s a quick spiral to the bottom of the mood barrel.

It’s my nature to go dark. I have to resist it on a pretty regular basis. I am a practiced skeptic and cynic, which has served me well in many ways, but sometimes it shuts out the joy and the gratitude. Now, if you’re like me, gratitude feels like a trigger word, having been beaten to death by the Pollyanna meme-making journalers of the world. I feel gratitude in a hundred small ways, but talking about it feels like bragging. What doesn’t feel like bragging is talking about the great things that other people are doing.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about what happens when we don’t let anxiety rule our lives, when we stay open to the good things in the world, and take time to recognize them. On Fearless Fridays, I’ll talk about the awesome things other people are doing. If you just got published, or you witnessed an act of kindness, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

To kick off the weekly feature, I’m sharing some good news and giving a shout out to a couple of friends.

Congratulations to Lisa Ciarfella at Ciarfella’s Fiction Corner: Writing Fiction Now

LisaCiarfellaLisa recently earned her MFA from California State University, Long Beach. Her writing slants dark, towards the Noir, crime fiction and hard-boiled, channeling inspiration from greats like Jim Thompson, Paul D. Marks, and Paul Brazill. She’s been featured on PulpMetalmagazine.com, Nowastedink.com, Ashedit/.com, and will be soon at OutoftheGutteronline.com. By day, Lisa shepherds high school kids with their daily grind, and on the weekends, likes throwing Frisbees around the beach with her pups and catching ball games. canstockphoto4927438

Lisa has just published a couple of stories – congratulations!  Check out her blog or one of her published pieces at “Last Night’s Lift” at Near to the Knuckle.

Thanks and Best Travel Wishes to Sandy at A Mind Divided

I met Sandy through blogging. Over the years, we’ve met for coffee and emailed and texted. Sometimes more than others. She is one of those people who I admire for her tenacity of spirit and her persistent dedication to creativity. My favorite thing about her is her laugh – it’s an honest laugh that makes you feel like you earned it.  Several of her gorgeous, quirky handmade cards grace my study.

canstockphoto1542595She decided to take a big step and move to Oklahoma to be near family after living in the Midwest for many years. For most people, this is a life stressor, but for Sandy, who has lived with literal ups and downs of bipolar disorder, this is a leap of faith. Sometimes those journeys that seem so ordinary are really these amazing feats of courage. I wish her the best in her travels and that she finds great joy in her new home.

Sometimes You Just Have to Be Kind

One of my best friends has been having a really tough last week or so. I thought about her today while running errands. I was feeling very grumpy and yelled at least once at no one in particular Get off your goddamned phone and drive! These days I recognize not only how toxic my anger can be, but also how frequently it arrives. I pull myself back and try to imagine the person I’m yelling at – what kind of day are they having?

canstockphoto34597907It’s funny how we’re all sympathy and light for those closest to us and can be so unkind to strangers. I had the weird thought of what it would be like to see that person’s day, to be in their body with all its twitches and pains. What was their work like? Was it backbreaking or soul-crushing or a little bit of both? Was one of their parents or children ill? Is their spouse cruel or indifferent? We become so incurious as to they and them, when they are us and we.

Kindness is not only something we extend to others, but also to ourselves. My friend is a widow with a 14-year-old son who has autism. He is nonverbal. He bites her sometimes and has a laundry list of triggers and compulsions. She knows them by heart. She has built a life for the two of them with a lovely home and routines that comfort her son.

canstockphoto53672507Sometimes she berates herself for not doing more, for not being a better parent. But she doesn’t see what I see. She doesn’t see how amazing she is to get up each day, taking care of his needs while trying to meet some of hers. She doesn’t see how persistent she is – that even after weeks of the flu or one of his meltdowns, she plows forward. She doesn’t see how very capable and loving she is, despite the challenges of the day. I see it and I wish she would, too. It’s the oddest human quirk, how we can easily see in others what we don’t see in ourselves.

So that wraps up Fearless Friday. Share your stories, thank your friends, be kind to strangers. And drop me a line so that I can share your stories here.

Wishing you all a Fearless Weekend!