What’s Holding Us Back?

“My greatest fear has always been that I would be afraid—afraid physically or mentally or morally—and allow myself to be influenced by fear instead of by my honest convictions.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

DSCN3281In earlier posts, we talked about how both kindness and unkindness are contagious—literally—and how in every encounter, we have a choice of which contagion we want to spread. And we talked about all the benefits of choosing kindness—improved health, professional success, reduced stress, better sleep, more creativity, more satisfying relationships….

It would seem to be a no-brainer: with all this evidence for the rewards of kindness, who but the most depraved or deprived among us would not opt for kindness and civility? Well, it’s not that simple. There are factors that get in the way of our choosing kindness, and others that provoke us to behave unkindly even if we would wish otherwise.

Today, let’s look at the biggest barrier, and we’ll examine some of the others in future posts.

Fear is #1

Among the many factors that prevent us from extending kindness and receiving kindnesses, or that sometimes cause us to behave unkindly, the biggest one is fear. And fear comes in a lot of flavors:

Fear of having our kindness rejected or misunderstood. Have you ever extended a kindness and had it spurned. Perhaps you offered a seat on the bus, or asked someone if you could carry their packages and they responded as if insulted by your insinuation that they needed help. That sort of response makes us wary to try again. We have no control over how another person will respond to our kind gesture. Maybe they aren’t ready to receive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Continue reading

The Wonder of a Giving Heart

“Give, give, give—what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don’t give it away? Of having stories if I don’t tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don’t share it? I don’t intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and with the divine.” ~Isabel Allende

True kindness is rooted in a sense of abundanceWe all know people who withhold their gifts. For whatever reason, they choose not to share a favorite recipe, contribute their expertise, bestow a compliment … or extend a kindness. Too often, they die with the gift they were meant to offer locked away in a drawer or clutched tightly in their fist.

Such miserliness may come from a sense that our talents will not be fully appreciated or compensated. So we hold back, waiting for just the right time—which never comes. Or maybe our offering isn’t perfect yet—thus, we hesitate and wait, afraid to admit our imperfection, or see the trap that’s always shrouded within the illusion of perfection. Still others of us were raised to have a sense of scarcity: if I give what I have, there will be less for me. I must hoard my treasures, otherwise I will somehow be diminished.

It took me a while to learn that this isn’t how life works. Continue reading

New Anthology Benefits World Central Kitchen

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)

I’m honored to have had an essay (“What We Do with Words”) accepted for publication in this lovely new anthology, published last week by She Writes Press.

Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis was conceived as a response by women writers and artists to the cataclysmic events of the last few years. Writing about the pandemic, Ukraine invasion, political and societal unrest, and more, authors address the vast range of human response to crisis in all its forms. They explore how we can find beauty, hope, and deeper interpretation—even when the world seems to have been turned upside-down, inside-out, and shaken.

The book is also intended to make a tangible difference. All royalties from book sales will go to support the tremendous work of chef José Andrés, his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, and their Ukrainian relief efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the book, or purchasing a copy, here’s a link to it on Bookshop.org, the wonderful discount retailer that supports independent bookstores. Of course, the book is also available through other online booksellers, and can be ordered through your local indie store. (As of this writing, the price is lower on Bookshop than on Amazon.)

Seattle Area Friends

If you happen to live in the Seattle area, please join me and seven other Puget Sound-area contributors on Thursday, August 11, at 7:00 p.m., at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Continue reading

Countering the Floridation of America

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” (Harry S Truman)

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Florida Sunset

No, I’m not talking about fluoride, the naturally occurring mineral added to local water systems to fight tooth decay. I’m talking about the southern state whose governor and legislature are bent on promoting truth decay.

A few years back, under a different governor, the lawmakers of the great state of Florida banned the use of the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sustainability” in any official communications, emails, or reports. Now, they have passed what is being called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary classrooms.

In recent days, the Florida legislature has also passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” designed to protect its sensitive residents from being made uncomfortable by the truth. Thus, it prohibits the teaching of history about race, identity, events, or circumstances that some might find unpleasant. Further, it restricts private corporations or businesses from offering diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings, as well, potentially, as sexual harassment trainings, if they cause discomfort.” Wounded employees could actually sue their employers for the distress. (And they call us snowflakes? Just sayin’.)

Having nixed critical race theory, and surely turning their attention now to Covid denial and sea-level-rise repudiation, conversational topics in the Sunshine State are becoming limited.

Pretty soon, Floridians will find approved conversation limited to orange juice (a wholesome breakfast beverage, as long as it’s made only from Florida oranges, and not those progressive California upstarts) and Mickey Mouse. Actually, they’re on the fence about Mickey. Despite his ambiguous voice, he is almost certainly a heterodent, Continue reading

Not the New Year Message I Hoped to Write

I haven’t posted on this blog for three months. There are multiple reasons—none of them good. I’ve been busy … I’ve been at work on other projects … I’ve been frustrated by WordPress’s new editing format … I’ve been discouraged by the state of the world. All true, but each insufficient.

There is something I am burning to say that will not coalesce into sentences with verbs and nouns and proper punctuation. Instead, I sputter and rage. I seem to have traded my Pollyanna tendencies for those of Nostradamus, or perhaps Eeyore.

Prophet of doom is not who I am. Yet I shiver to think of where we may be this time next year. And two years after that.

Over the last five years, I’ve realized just how much I took for granted about my country. How much I failed to see—whether from ignorance, naïveté, or because I was looking in the wrong direction. I knew my country was imperfect—that inequality and injustice were far too prevalent—but I believed enough of us cared and wanted to work together to build a more perfect union.

I wish I could say I still believe that.

Continue reading