Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Kindness Project: Finding Strength with a Shovel and a Pail

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.

Recently I started running again. This may not mean much to you, but it's pretty huge to me. I've never been the kind of person to whom running came easily, and I often dismissed it with a snort. But a few years ago, everything blew up. I was so anxious all the time, edging in on my 30s with so many unfulfilled dreams, not understanding how much I'd truly given up when I'd given up writing. I was looking for a change in my life and to lose baby weight, so I started running, even going as far as lifting weights and attempting to get healthy and fit. I'm talking de-toxing sprees, too. And one day I started writing again after years of hiatus. Not that it took away all the stresses, but it was something, and I was proud of myself.

And then summer of 2011 I got thrown into the harsh tumult of publishing in a number of ways. Then I got sick. And slept all the time. And I got sad. And I had to stop running and working out. I stopped caring about a lot of things, slipping into survival mode. Eventually, doctors figured me out and set me straight. But I'm not sure I ever got out of survival mode. I had no idea how fragile I was. So when I went to Haiti? Well.

I shattered.

This is the part of the post where I sit and stare, because it's hard to know what to say next without feeling like I'm cracking my body open and putting myself on display. So. Suffice it to say, it's been a tough 2012.

Now do you understand why it feels so big that I'm running again?

Life is nothing but shifting sand. Sometimes it cushions our fall and gives us a soft place to lie. Sometimes it blisters our feet and blows into our eyes. Gets grit into our mouths and into all the soft creases. But so often we build these castles out of it, hoping they won't get washed away. We try so hard to believe in those castles. So hard. How many hours we spend sitting in that sand, digging and scooping and shaping with our fingers. That's my castle, my dream, my life, we say. Please don't sink.

But always, it seems like the tide comes in eventually. More often and harsher for some of us. And some must stand by as jackholes knock their castles down and stomp them back to dust.

That's when you have to decide: Will you lie there mourning in the ruins, sifting the remains of your castle through your fingers? Or will you build your castle again?

All runners know that there comes a point in every run when you hit a wall; the pain gets too intense, your muscles are straining, and you're so tired, struggling to even breathe. At that point, I'd say 98% of your body and mind wants to quit. But you also know, having run before, if you can just keep going and break through that wall, you'll be able to run forever. When I hit that point, I always change my iTunes to Pitbull's "Castles Made of Sand." Not because there's some magical quality to that song that sprinkles me with super dust. But because it reminds me I can turn my pain to strength. It reminds me that I already have. And it reminds me to keep believing in the castles made of sand. Not because they're everlasting and unsinkable. But because they can always, always be built again.

Be kind to yourself. Believe in your castles. Don't ever stop building them.

Here's your shovel. Here's your pail.

Be sure to check out all the inspirational posts for THE KINDNESS PROJECT. Want to join us by writing your own inspirational post on kindness? Sign up in the Mr. Linky widget below, grab the button in my sidebar and post. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say.