Thoughts for Today – Inspiration

I found this quote by Albert Schweitzer. “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Kindness is inspirational.

It was very hard on my mental health seeing how much judging others were doing at the beginning of the pandemic. As someone who’s depression suffered from the isolation, as someone who couldn’t “just wear a mask” because of my extreme anxiety I felt the need let others know how difficult this time was for those of us with mental illness and that things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Their hate and anger did nothing to inspire me. But kindness did.

When I found out I would have to wear a mask when I went back to work at the end of summer, I panicked. The first time I even tried to put a mask on I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I’d have to find a new job—one I could work from home where I wouldn’t have to wear a mask. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. I opened up to my coworkers about my anxiety, and they were so loving, accepting, understanding and kind. They all started suggesting things I could try and ways they might be able to help. Their love, support and kindness is what really inspired me to find my own solution so I could keep my job. That’s what led me to the silicone mask inserts that I wear beneath my mask. It is the only reason I can wear a mask.

Similarly, my daughter also struggled to wear a mask because of her anxiety. We tried so many different kinds of masks. We tried the same inserts I found, but nothing worked. Then I saw a coworker with a mask I’d never seen before. I asked her where she got it, and she told me she’d made it. She told me about her claustrophobia, and how these were the only masks she could wear without panicking. I told her I’d been looking for something for my daughter, and she volunteered to make her some masks. Pure and simple kindness, but such an inspiration!

Kindness, understanding, love and open-mindedness inspire, help, build up and allow “hostility to evaporate”. I think the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to see beyond our own perspective. We don’t have to change our beliefs, but we do need to try to understand each other and understand that we are all different. We have different experiences that have shaped who we are. We are not a one size fits all world. No matter how much we might think we understand someone else, until we really are walking their shoes we don’t see the whole picture. That’s why kindness is so important.

Advertisement

Slim Hope, But Still Hope

It’s easy to feel like my efforts to educate people on mental illness isn’t making a difference. Yet I keep trying because I keep hoping—somehow—that it will make a difference.

Just the other day I saw a post from someone I know about how angry she is that not everyone where she lives is wearing a mask or taking Covid seriously. She posted a parody on a song from Beauty and the Beast that used harsh, shaming, judgmental language about people who don’t wear masks. Things like how simple it is, it’s just a piece of fabric and just wear the f***ing mask. It broke my heart—not so much for myself, but for other people who have depression, anxiety and PTSD. For some of us, seeing something like that could be what finally pushes us to the brink of utter despair and even suicide.

Even after all this time, it’s not always that simple. If someone isn’t wearing a mask it doesn’t automatically mean we’re not taking Covid seriously. For those of us with anxiety masks are more than “just a piece of fabric”. Masks are claustrophobia that literally do make it so we can’t breathe and can’t function. For those of us with PTSD masks are the face of someone who assaulted or violated us. We are already struggling, while trying to do our best, without being shamed, condemned and judged.

This is a difficult time for so many people. Can’t we reach out in kindness and love instead of anger and hatred? I started, and continue, this blog in the hopes that it would help someone, in the hopes that it would educate, in the hopes that it will inspire. We can all have different beliefs and different struggles while still helping, educating and inspiring each other in love and positivity. As slim as my hope is, it’s what I’m hanging on to.

It’s Not Always That Simple

coronavirus-5184783_1920

I really liked this article about how it may not be as simple as “just wear a mask”. I think a simple life is a good life, but things within life aren’t always simple.

I never thought I had claustrophobia. I’m still not sure whether I do or not. I do know that most of my adult life I have had an incredible fear of something—anything—covering my face. It’s something that triggers my anxiety. Even just thinking about wearing a mask is terrifying for me. Some time ago, I decided to practice. Sounds stupid, right? But I thought maybe if I practiced I’d eventually be able to wear one. I didn’t have the mask on my face for more than five seconds before I started panicking, hyperventilating and feeling like I was going to die, so I ripped it off.

My autistic son also struggles to wear a mask. He did wear one at outdoor capoeira recently, but refused to have it up above his nose. I know that’s not the proper way to wear one, but it was all he could do.

So again, during this time, I urge kindness and understanding. Understanding that, for some, it’s not as simple as just wearing a mask and kindness for people who are struggling in all ways during this time.

A Rant

This is going to be a selfish post. A rant. Because I have to get it out or I might explode.

Every year I tell myself I’m going to help my daughter make a creative Valentine’s Day box for school. And every year I put it off and put it off until it’s too late and end up buying some generic one from Target. It’s her last year in elementary so I actually got with the picture this year. I hadn’t heard anything about Valentine’s parties yet, but every year my daughter has been in elementary she’s made her own box and had a party so I assumed it would be that way again for her and my son who is in first grade. I thought about what they liked then looked up ideas. My daughter loves dragons and my son is really into Sonic. So I found pictures online of Valentine’s boxes of Toothless and Sonic then asked my artistic ex-husband if he’d be willing to make them with the kids if I provided the supplies. He said yes, so over the weekend he made them with the kids.

20190205_154515

So cute, right? And I was so proud of myself for actually doing it this time and in such a timely manner!

So yesterday, when I picked my kids up from school, my seven-year-old was in tears as he told me he’s not allowed to bring his box to school, that his teacher said if anyone brings a box they will have to keep it in their backpack because they are decorating sacks—sacks!—at school. I understand doing this for preschool, but everyone knows that once you get into elementary school you decorate your own box to bring to school—at least around here! I told my son I would email his teacher to see if there was any way he could bring it.

I sent the email this morning telling her how every year my daughter had been at that school (since kindergarten) she had brought her own decorated Valentine’s box to school, how my son had made the box with his dad, how excited he was about it, how disappointed he was when he found out he couldn’t bring it, then asked if he actually could bring it. The response I got back was that as a first grade (meaning the teachers) they decided on bags so it wouldn’t become a competition with the boxes. Cry me a freaking river! What first-grader even thinks of making it a competition?! I bet you all the money in the world that the majority of kids that age are only thinking of the excitement of dropping Valentine’s and goodies into their classmate’s boxes and then thinking of all the yummy treats they’ll be getting!

The whole situation frustrates me not just because my son is sad and disappointed that he can’t bring the special box he made (he’ll get over it, and hopefully it will teach him some resilience, which I’m all about) but because it’s the whole mindset of the world these days that everyone has to be the same or “equal.” What frustrates me beyond that is the hypocrisy of it at my kid’s school. It is an immersion school. The whole concept of immersion schools is inequality and the “uneven playing field” because not everyone who wants their kid in an immersion class gets it. Priority is given to those who already have kids in it and then it’s just luck of the draw—and if you’re unlucky, too bad! And students who aren’t in immersion aren’t given any other opportunity to “level the playing field.” It drives me crazy that they preach one thing, but don’t follow it.

Now, if it’s actually a matter of low income, that I understand. As someone who has lived at times wondering if I was going to have enough money to buy groceries that week and was only able to afford that generic box for my daughter because of the generosity of kind people who randomly brought us dinner one night or left a box of groceries on our doorstep, I get it! If that’s the case, why not send an email out to parents asking if they’d be willing to donate materials that those kids can take home? I’d be the first to jump in line to help with that!

It’s also ironic that in a couple of weeks the school is having a “kindness” week. Well, give people the opportunity to be kind! Let the students prove that they are kind rather than assuming they’re all going to be mean and make fun of each other’s Valentine’s boxes. I even asked my sixth grader if anyone ever made fun of her boxes and she said no. I asked her if she ever heard anyone making fun of anyone else’s box. She said no, that she only ever heard people compliment and say how cool someone’s box was.

And yet, they’ll stick to their guns. They’ll force the kids to use as little brain power as possible and force them to all be like each other rather than allowing them to use their own creativity and be proud of something they have made.

Okay, there’s my rant. Maybe I’ll feel a tiny bit better now. Maybe.

Kindness Really Does Matter

kindness-1197351_1920

Being kind has almost become cliché these days. There are t-shirts, billboards and posts throughout social media, so I wondered if I should post about it, but it really, truly is important. One of the things I love the most about my eleven-year-old daughter is how sweet and kind she is. That is what people always say about her, and I would rather have them saying that than that she’s competitive, smart, talented, etc. Those are good things, too, but I love that she is kind.

Several weeks ago a teacher friend brought up a parent who had said some pretty harsh, unkind things. Sometimes I think people expect professionals to be immune. But we’re all human, we all have emotions, and we’re all affected. It made me think of times I probably hadn’t been as considerate or kind as I should have been. It reminded me of my daughter, and I decided to make an effort to be more kind.

The next day I was at a mall/shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City, about 20 minutes from my house. As I came up the escalator from parking I saw this huge Christmas tree already set up (it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet). A man was attempting to take a selfie with his daughter who looked about 4. I smiled and continued walking until I noticed his wife, with a toddler, go up to them. I had a thought that I should offer to get a picture of all four of them in front of the tree. I almost dismissed it. What if they thought I was weird? What if they didn’t want one? It’s not like I was walking right past them—it would mean curving around, out of my way. Then I decided to just do it. Even if they said, “No thanks,” at least I was attempting to do something nice.

When I asked them if they wanted me to get a picture of all of them they both looked so grateful as they told me, “Yes!” The mom got the toddler out of his stroller and they stood in front of the tree. I took an adorable picture of this cute family. When I handed the phone back the dad, again, looked so grateful and told me, “Thank you,” like he absolutely meant it. It made me so happy! Several minutes later I realized I was still smiling. It was such a simple thing to do something nice for someone, and I was the one who was happy, smiling and feeling great. That’s what kindness does. It makes others happy, and it makes you happy, too. I know it might sound cheesy or cliché, but I really do believe this world would be a better place if we all practiced a little more kindness.

Focusing on the Blessings

I was going to write down all of the bad things that have happened to me in the last few weeks. Perhaps it was about justification for why I am, and should be allowed, to be so depressed. Then I realized that doing so wouldn’t solve anything. It wouldn’t make me happy, but would, if anything, give these problems and difficulties more power over me.

Instead, I’m going to write down the blessings I have received through this hardship. That is what I should focus on because that, in all of this, is what really matters.

heart-1318850_1920

First I want to write what a blessing my ward (a local, Latter-day Saint congregation) has been. I’ve never felt like I mattered as much as I do in this ward. I’ve never felt so loved or cared for in any other ward I’ve ever lived in. The people here have been absolutely amazing.

So many people—ward members, friends, near or far, family, acquaintances—have messaged, texted, called, commented to see how I’m doing and to offer encouragement and support.

Friends are a big blessing. I have one friend who has let me cry and vent to her about so many things. We were roommates in college, and she has stuck with me through all of my struggles. I know she sees me for who I really am, and I can always be myself with her. When depression and anxiety make it so hard to make and keep any kind of relationships, this has meant so much to me.

A close friend of mine who lives in another state sent her mom to bring me flowers. After having just gotten home from a traumatic experience getting the oil in my car changed, I broke down and just started crying. (I know it sounds stupid, but on top of everything else going on I had reached my breaking point.) My friend’s mom hugged me and told me she was a good listener and very bad at gossiping if I wanted to talk. I didn’t feel like I could at that point, but knew she was being genuine and honest, that if I did need to talk she would listen and not judge.

One night I was feeling particularly bad and felt like I need some company, that I shouldn’t be alone. I texted a friend and asked if she would be able to get a drink (as in a diet coke!) the next morning. She said she could, so the next morning we went for a walk where she listened to me, but didn’t pressure me to say anything I didn’t want to say. She then bought me a diet coke before we went to pick our kiddos up from kindergarten.

Another night when I was down I felt like hurting myself—because yes, that is still where my mind first goes when I’m that low. I had been texting a friend, and he could tell something was wrong. When I told him how I was feeling he kept texting me until I got to a place where I felt well enough and in control enough to know I wouldn’t hurt myself. I was incredibly grateful that he didn’t judge me or tell me it was stupid that a grown woman would want to do that. He just talked—or texted—me through it. Definite blessing.

Another blessing was a friend who brought lunch one day, then sat and talked with me—or more like listened to me. I sort of spilled all my guts to her about everything that’s happened the last few months. Yet again, I broke down and sobbed through much of it. She just listened and gave quiet encouragement and support. By the time she left that day the load I had been carrying for so long felt lighter. I felt more like I could keep going, that I could do this, than I had all week.

I have to mention some individuals in my ward, as well. My Relief Society president (the Relief Society is an organization of all the women in a ward) stopped by one day with some beautiful tulips that are in full bloom right now! She also came in and cleaned my kitchen for me. It was simple and quick yet made a huge difference.

The second counselor in the Relief Society presidency also dropped by one afternoon with pizza and some of my favorite breadsticks to have for dinner! Again, such a simple gesture, yet it meant so much.

A woman in my ward reached out to me, and I told her how Sundays were hard when my kids were at their dad’s. Despite having her own struggles right now, she invited me over for dinner with her family on Sunday. While there we discovered our birthdays are close together, so she and her mother-in-law told me I should go over to celebrate with all of them—have dinner and cake. Her mother-in-law doesn’t even know me! We had just met, and yet she was inviting me to her house for dinner and cake—chocolate cake! Sometimes I am amazed, saddened, shocked by all the bad in the world. So many horrible things happen, people do terrible things to each other, yet there is still so much good. The world is full of everyday people living simple lives full of love, kindness and service. What a blessing to be reminded of this!

All of the prayers and people who have put my name in the temple—I have felt it. It has made a difference.

I was thinking about how I didn’t feel as though I should be receiving so many blessings. It’s not because I think I’m worthless or anything like that. It’s much more complicated, but not something I feel I need to go into here. It just didn’t make sense to me. Then I realized that maybe it isn’t about me. Maybe it isn’t for me. Maybe it’s for the sources of all these blessings—the people who have done so many good things for me—giving them another opportunity to serve. Service is one of the best ways we can become like our Savior. It’s what He spent His life doing. When we serve we are following His example and coming closer to Him. No matter the reasons, whether there be any or not, I am extremely grateful. Blessings are definitely the more positive thing to focus on!