The big bowling ball of life just seemed to keep knocking us over.
My husband was immobile with a broken ankle and surgery on his knee. We had just rid our house of an infestation of almost invisible mites. Yes, mites—the kind you don’t see so well, but can definitely feel crawling all over you in the dark of night. It was also at this moment in history that my son decided to be two.
I trotted in a speedy haze through the grocery store aisle. I was there to pick up Vicodin, some milk, and a few things for dinner. It was already way past my son’s bedtime, and he had since turned into a monkey on acid strapped to a cart who squealed every time one of the raisins he was eating hit me in the head.
I imagined at that moment that if aliens really did exist and were monitoring us, my life was probably very much like an episode of I Love Lucy—so disastrously hysterical.
I almost laughed myself, except I was too tired from not having slept in over twenty-four hours…
and I was hungry…
and in a hurry…
and there was a big pile of pudding on the floor.
Yup, vanilla pudding. Someone must have knocked it off the shelf and it exploded—I don’t know, but I stepped over it on my way to the milk.
Then another woman walked briskly past us. She seemed deep in thought, and was making small faces like she was having a conversation with herself in her head. My first thought was, “Thank God there is someone else just as crazy as I am in the store.” My second thought was, “She doesn’t know about the pudding. She’s heading right for it.”
I actually took a breath to tell her about it, but then… didn’t. Maybe I was too exhausted, or anxious to get back to my injured husband, or didn’t want to bother her, etc.
She stepped right in it.
She seemed physically okay, but looked horrified.
I stood there, thirty feet away, completely paralyzed…
as she flopped like a fish trying to stand up.
The cold tingle of guilt washed over me quickly. It would’ve taken me all of two seconds to point out the pudding. Why didn’t I do it? Was I just too busy drowning in my own life waters at that moment?
Okay, I was also a little scared of the human interaction. Being nice involves sharing space with someone for a second, and what if they’re not nice back…or what if they ARE, and are extremely chatty about it?
Being kind—truly kind to someone, means giving up something. It could be my time, effort, money, words… something, and often times I feel I have nothing left to give. I was out for myself in that grocery store. I wanted to get what I needed and get home as quickly as possible.
I was overwhelmed.
I was selfish.
I also just didn’t care.
When our lives are thick and difficult, it’s hard to be kind to others. It feels uncomfortable and unfair. “My life blows, why should I be nice to you?”
I got into the car knowing I wanted it to be different—that I wanted to be able to be uncomfortably kind. I started by going home, and pretending not to be able to open a jar, so my husband could feel useful. Okay, I might have done that regardless of my epiphany, but there are plenty of other uncomfortable opportunities every day.
It’s funny the moments in life that make us want to be better.
Sometimes it’s tragedy.
Sometimes it’s a look from our children.
Sometimes it’s pudding.