What do you do when someone treats you kindly? How do you react to the “nice” person in the room? How do you treat your closest neighbors? These questions have been on my mind since October 2020. I’ve noticed how sometimes my acts of kindness, my greetings and my cheerful smile are met with suspicion; I’ve experienced how my joy hangs in the air like an unwanted odor instead of being met with generous reciprocity. When this happens, I retreat to the safety of long-time friends and marvel: What will a person get when they rebuff kindness, goodness and friendship? It’s akin to inviting a nightmare.
Sadly, it’s human nature to repeat patterns and expect a new outcome. This is partially attributable to mindset and habituation. When we do something long enough, it becomes comfortable, familiar and we form an attachment, possibly even perceiving a behavior or habit as an extension of ourselves. So we must first break out of these mental formations. We do this by recognizing that all of us, from the oldest person to the youngest, has something to learn. Embracing learning from a growth mindset will facilitate working and moving toward change. I taught myself to hang about the so-called nice people in the room and to avoid the dreaded pinch faces who populate every sector of society. It turns out that nice people really are kind. Like many of you, these lessons were so slow to come–a great fog obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the more I practice reciprocating kindness, the more I attract good and kind people into my life and let the others go their own way.
Over the years I’ve observed how my husband and i approach so many basic activities differently. As an observer of human nature, I’m fascinated by how often I judge (Okay, I’m an INTJ) these diverging behaviors as right or wrong. Some years into our healthy relationship, I’ve learned to drop that judgment and move toward a value system that recognizes contribution over process. The end result is itself the goal, not how we get there. On the other hand, my husband is cool as a cucumber most of the time. He smiles and waves at everyone. Sometimes I imitate him, because I fell in love with that quality. I do this when it matters, with the people I see regularly at work, school in my neighborhood. These shifts in behavior allow me to focus on what I need to change in and for myself rather than on external elements of my life, which brings me to 2021 and all that I want to leave behind, and a few things I wish to pick and cultivate along the way.
My 2021 Resolutions:
- Reduce alcohol consumption (I’m human.)
- Proactive stress reduction (Avoid chaos and toxic people.)
- Increase eustress: Go back to school for my PhD (Embrace challenge.)
- Adding a few good friends to my inner circle (Good people are good.)
- Take care of the children in my life–all them, even yours.
- Earning a living wage.
- Create jobs for people in my community.
Make 2021 the year you smile back. Take a moment to return the salutation of a stranger or casual acquaintance. There really is enough time for this. In times of crisis, your neighbors–like it or not–will be the people upon whom you may have to rely. Don’t wait until there is a need. Cultivate a community of people who will nod back at you, give you ride in a pinch or leave a gift when you need one. People look for quick external fixes to their problems; someone to blame for their unhappiness; an excuse for why they keep doing that thing, whatever it is. This year try getting uncomfortable and extend your kindness everywhere you go. Your smile won’t open every door, but you will gain a few more friends and be welcome where they do.
Edissa keeps a mask handy at all times to answer the door and protect neighbors, friends, family and herself from COVID19.