These last few years I‘ve had the time, and inclination, to reflect on many aspects of my life.
My days practicing law were often rewarding, exciting and certainly pressure packed. But to me it was ‘good pressure’ and I functioned and thrived with deadlines.
Looking back, I wonder what kind of a person I was then. I think I was similar to who I am now. I was certainly “busy” which is so commonly used as a measure of success. As busy as I was, I always made time for family and certain friends. I thought of others before myself. But I would learn that was also my depression taking hold. I didn’t take time or do for myself, the kind things I did for others.
I tried to be a “kind lawyer”, which could be an oxymoron! It was difficult to be kind and also represent a client well in an adversarial system. I remember one case in particular. In the middle of a 5 day trial, I knew that my asking certain questions of one witness would likely make the witness emotional, and perhaps even breakdown in tears. But as a lawyer, I had to ask. I delivered my lines of inquiry, and yes, tears and heartache occurred. We were successful at the end of the trial, but at what price? So kindness was sometimes absent. That troubled me.
In my personal life, I believe I was kind. At least, this I was told. But my “lawyer thinking” seeped in at times, especially during intense discussions or arguments. I was told that too!
Since my depression and mental breakdown, my life has changed. One aspect is how I now see myself and others.
Kindness has become an important aspect of life that I now recognize more readily. I have a more complete understanding of myself and the world around me. Being kind is so important. It’s the most powerful way to have a positive impact on people. And it’s readily accessible to all.
Since my new-found awareness I hear more often that I am a kind person. One “special person” even says “sweet”. Hey, I will take that! It’s a kindness returned.
After my breakdown, I learned firsthand about people being unkind. Of all my friends, only two came forward to provide some help. Acceptance and understating of mental illness wasn’t part of my friends’ thinking. No one even offered to learn what to do to help. Stigma ruled.
But be careful of false comfort. After so many friends abandoned me, I found myself quite anxious to meet new people, or even to rekindle old friendships. I thought anyone would be great to have around. I was wrong. Not all relationships are good and healthy. I now choose my circle with great care.
Of the people in my life now, my family is the kindest, most supportive circle providing limitless acceptance and understanding. They’ve been with me since the day I was diagnosed.
New friends have been wonderful to meet. Most are connected in some manner with mental health awareness. So they “get it”, well, most of the time!
My current life is full of kindness. I am still learning too.
I was recently on a trip with the “special one”. Our first trip! The first afternoon, we went for a walk while we waited for our hotel room to be available. We were approached by people with flyers offering everything from a bus tour of the city to a visit to a club. I simply, and quickly, brushed past and said curtly, “no thanks”. My friend noted I could have been kinder. She was correct. These people we simply doing their job, trying to have a better life. During the next few days, we stopped to talk with some of the flyer people and actually had conversations that were full of interest and humour.
Most times kindness doesn’t require a great effort, perhaps no effort at all. Smile to a person you pass on the sidewalk. Hold a door open for someone. Help someone with luggage on a flight. Slow down and enjoy the people around you, even strangers.
We have such power to help or hurt people, by what we say and do, and what we don’t say or do.
Also, and this may be a difficult one, be kind to yourself. I wasn’t for years and I still have to acknowledge this and make it a priority. I used to confuse being kind to myself with being selfish. They are not the same at all.
Don’t make it perfunctory kindness though – make it meaningful for both yourself and the other person. Your smile will get a smile in return. Now that’s kindness that can change the day.
A simple text from the “special one” saying” I miss you” makes my life brighter. Even at 3am!