this is a word that is both meaningful and hard for me.
meaningful, because i hold kindness in high esteem…value it greatly. aspire to it, try to embody it, cultivate it, and live it in my daily life. i fail often, of course. but i won’t ever stop trying, because i know its profound impact, and i believe in it, am a devout follower.
and yet, hard, because there was a bit of a shortage of kindness in my household, growing up. my parents were purposely unkind fairly often, but even when they were not, i would not describe them as especially kind. things at home felt very particular, all sharp edges and expectations and discipline. measured responses. a lot of impatience. it is difficult for me to recall spontaneous cuddles or affection or praise. when i think of kindness in my childhood, it is not their faces i see (but thankfully, i can think of other instances of kindness. kind eyes and kind faces and kind hands and kind acts, and i am grateful to have those.)
many times, even a stranger unexpectedly calling me ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart’ invites a massive lump into my throat, floods my eyes, even before i can control it. it is so so embarrassing, how a correctly-timed kind word, or a loving glance, or someone speaking gently can entirely do me in. i used to say to my therapist that my idea of torture would be to have someone say a bunch of loving, positive, things about me to my face. like in a row, one after another. it makes me squirm even now, ugh, where would i look, what would i do with it all, when would it stop ugh ugh ugh. but tie me to a chair and criticize me, withhold praise, shrug at me or otherwise act indifferently for hours, and i’d snuggle in like i was home.
speaking of therapy…yesterday, i had an appointment and we were about to do some work that i had been avoiding. my therapist was asking me to check in with my little one inside about something, and i didn’t fucking want to, i just didn’t want to hear about it. i crossed my arms, pulled faces, fidgeted in my seat. she waited, and watched, patiently, and then, right in the middle of my huffing and puffing and eye-rolling, surprised me with a snort and a belly laugh. you’re so, so cute, she said. i could just see her in you right then, that sweet wee girl. i could’ve laid in her lap and cried just from that, for hours and hours and hours. my face is wet just remembering it. why is she like that with me?
and why weren’t they?
the most pride i feel as a mother is when people say our daughter is kind; we’ve heard it from her teachers, our friends, her friends’ parents, her grandparents. she is kind, so kind to nearly everyone.
and when i am reminded of that, when i see that and hear how mean she is to her little self, how intolerant, when she makes a simple innocent mistake and is sobbing and telling me that she is the worst kid, she is a rotten person, she doesn’t deserve to be here, it is the most desolate i ever feel as a mother. it is hard not to just quit, right then and there. did i do that to her? is it just in my blood, something i can’t help being and giving to her? is it a cultural affliction, or just a genetic one?
years ago, i remember hearing about amma, a woman colloquially called ‘the hugging saint’ from a province at the southern tip of india. i don’t remember where exactly i heard of her, or read of her, but i remember seeing a picture of her and being struck by her kind face. and also recall a video of her, quietly but meaningfully hugging people, hordes of them, one by one, for hours on end. searching out their eyes, and holding them close to her, smiling gently as people dissolved into tears in her arms. when asked why she did it, she responded simply that we all deserve love, no matter who we are. at last count, she has apparently comforted over 34 million people…that amazes me. how much love she gives, but also how much she gets back. she must be brimming, all of the time.
this is not really finished but it’s all i’ve got for tonight…sorry it’s just trailed off in the middle, i’m overcome by sadness and tiredness and the kindest thing feels like burying myself in my flannel sheets and succumbing to sleep.