On Kindness

I believe in kindness. Sometimes kindness does not believe in me. I put my everything into being kind as I can to others. I used to expect the world to then be kinder in return. It took me a surprisingly long time to accept that life is not fair and it is immensely unreasonable to expect it to be. There is no point in wasting time and energy in complaining and grousing about the state of humanity, it won’t change anything, anyhow, when that energy could more properly be put into surviving the onslaught of sheer insanity, immense cruelty and downright hostility that is life on this planet for me, and many others like me.

I think of it as being ‘down here with the rest of us’. I am not saying that those of us who suffer all suffer in the same way. We each have our cross to bear, and bearing it makes me very cross indeed sometimes. It is too much to hope for that others who have suffered in similar ways have empathy or even plain good old fashioned sympathy for their peers. Instead it becomes a morass of the worst of human nature. In short, we all want to prove that we did it ‘our way’ and ‘our way’ is the best way. We all want to be blameless. We all want the big cigar. We all want the pat on the head and the reassurance that we did it right, that we did it the best, that the path we took is the right one. We all want to know that we were not wrong.

I used to be the same way, because I used to care what others thought of me. I used to care if people judged me to be unfit, to be wrong, to be bad, to be a terrible person, and moreover, not the ‘right kind’ of victim and a bad woman to boot. It has only been in recent years that I have let go of the need for other’s approval. I used to secretly not want to be hoisted upon a communal pitchfork and torn to pieces by the strict and unforgiving Dogs of Law. I feared it, and what the bite of the judgement of society upon my actions could do to me. I did not want to be held up to the magnifying glass and found to be lacking.

I suppose that is a little odd for a creature such as myself to care about such things. I should ‘not give a damn’ like Rhett Butler. I should be au fait with rebellion without a cause. Except my rebellion had reason, and the great secret that I always fear others will uncover is that I care very much indeed. I care about you. I care about your life and suffering. I care about what you think of me, because I am not a pathologically insane person. I have had to learn to care a little less, otherwise it would drag me under and leave me unable to function, frozen and incapable of trusting anyone.

Ruth’s relationship with me is akin to a kind person, seeing a wounded fox, tempts it closer with gentle words and a scrap of food, to help, not hurt. But that bridge of trust is so wide, and the risks so great, that I know I often come across as feral and afraid. That is because I am. I am scared of what trusting can do to me and my child. I am not merely scared. I live in terror.

Today when I explained to someone who should have understood, that I was afraid that my husband would kill me if he ever found me, I was greeted by that person laughing. Giggling. Guffawing as if I was insane or unreasonable, or that the prospect of my funeral was somehow amusing. I don’t often say anything to such happenings, I merely note and proceed with caution. This time I firmly requested to know what was funny about the abuse I suffered or my very real and very reasonable fear of becoming a victim to my husband’s uncontrollable violence. They had no response. I am still smarting. I don’t find what happened to me to be funny, and anyone who does should not be anywhere near me. The fact this person is female just about made me want to give up on humanity.

No. I believe in kindness, and when confronted with unkindness I am still momentarily stunned, temporarily defenceless, and set into freefall, like Achilles. It is my fault, a quirk of personality. I can’t quite believe it when I am confronted with cruelty. It still strikes me as unlikely for a nanosecond, generally before it strikes me in a wholly more dangerous way.

I am not ready to believe that kindness is a fault, though it is sometimes a dangerous affair. I am not ready to give up on it and become one of those uncaring, cruel people I detest, even if it were possible to rewrite my soul and become that person. I would rather live life thin-skinned and vulnerable, accused of over sensitivity and cautious, than I would moving through this world without the empathy, kindness, and gentleness towards each other that should attend earthly existence. Forget golden rule biblical admonishments, of promises of heavenly reward. There is only one reason that any of us should have to be better to one another: because if we don’t we all suffer in the long run. Because if we don’t our cruelty bites us on our own sorry asses. Because if kindness doesn’t reign, then what hope is there for happiness?

As I walked down the road yesterday I saw Old Glory flying proudly in the San Francisco breeze, inviolate. I don’t know why, but for a moment I felt choked up, a sense of deep emotion, of love for this country that is based around the pursuit of happiness, however wrong we still get it, because in that simple statement, there is the endorsement of kindness, and any country striving towards such a lofty goal is somewhere where even a sorry soul like me has a hope of being ok, of being free, of receiving mercy and succour and possibility and, yes – against all odds – happiness.

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