As we roll into the week of Thanksgiving, I find myself in a moment of reflection. The past two weeks have been exhausting. I won’t go into too many details here, but suffice to say that there were moments this last week that I wanted to crawl into bed and hibernate through the rest of the year. But that’s life, isn’t it? Ups and downs. Highs and lows. Calm and crazy – all aligned as one continuous timeline until it’s done.
I think too often we expect that our timeline is supposed to be good – calm – easy. That if we’re doing it right, then life is supposed to be good times with reward and satisfaction. The truth is life is bumpy. Life is hard. Life is the day to day slog of work and food prep and bill-paying and searching for something that doesn’t suck on Netflix. The problem is this; we expect it to be good and calm and easy – if we’re doing it right, and it’s that expectation that’s the problem.
Remember this. You’re doing it right. It’s just hard.
That’s right. After 47 years on this planet, it’s become clear to me that I’m going to experience far more moments of frustration, boredom, tedium, and even anger than I will of pure joy or complete happiness. After 47 years, I can tell you that even in those moments of pure joy and complete happiness, that there was always that next thing that took my legs out from under me and knocked me down a notch or two.
But that’s life. It’s a string of wins and losses. Good and bad – and here’s the thing. That’s what makes those moments of pure joy and happiness so joyful and happy. Revel in them as they come. Soak them in like the summer sun.
And yes, I know it’s hard to remember to do that sometimes. I absolutely get it, and I, too, find myself wallowing in my frustration, anger, and disappointment. It’s just easier sometimes, but luckily my experience says, “Get up. Dust yourself off. Suck it up, and get moving – one foot in front of the other. You’ll get there. It will get better.”
Now, I won’t presume to tell you how to live your life. I won’t presume to know what’s best to make your life and the day-to-day struggle of it better. What I can and will do, however, is tell you one thing that works for me when times are rough – what makes it just a little better – for me.
Show love and kindness – expect nothing in return.
It sounds simple. It’s not. Show love and kindness. Tell the people you love that you love them. Show people that you love that you love them, even when it’s hard – even when they don’t seem to care. When someone you love is in need, do everything you can to help. Put aside your “things” and demonstrate kindness – demonstrate love, even when there is no benefit to you – especially when there is no benefit to you.
It doesn’t matter whether that person is a close friend, family or even a stranger. Be kind. Show love and expect nothing in return.
Sure, I’m as guilty as the next person of being upset when someone doesn’t show gratitude for my actions. But, I’ve found that if I can leave off the expectation of a return – if I don’t worry about that part at all, then I get the most joy out of these interactions. Let me explain with a simple example.
If I’m returning a cart in a store parking lot, I try to be aware of others around me in the same position. If I see they are done loading their bags, I’ll ask if I can return their cart as well. It’s a simple act of kindness that almost anyone can do, and frankly, it makes me feel good every time I do it.
Now, I could change how I feel about this quite easily based on the reaction of the person I’ve helped. I have to remember that I’m not doing this for any other reason than it’s kind, and it makes me feel good to do it. I have to remember that it doesn’t matter what the person I’ve helped says or doesn’t say.
If I eliminate all of my expectations from others when I demonstrate love and kindness, then I get to feel good about it without any interference. If I dwell on the fact that they didn’t say thank you when I did it, then I’ve eliminated both the good feeling I got and the act of kindness I demonstrated.
The act is good enough. The gratitude is a bonus, but completely unnecessary. Hold open a door to be kind, not to be thanked. Don’t worry about being thanked. It’s not important.
Show love. Be kind. Expect nothing.
In the last two weeks, I’ve tried very hard to do this. It hasn’t been easy. In the last two weeks, this has been done for me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain – but I am grateful for both. Yes, It’s been an extraordinarily exhausting two weeks, but there were moments in that time when love and kindness – and even gratitude made it better. And again, next week I’ll get up and put one foot in front of the other. Life will move forward, and I’ll try to remember to enjoy the love and kindness that shows up in my life and that I give – however big or small it may be. I hope you do the same.