January 2, 2004
kindness is necessary
After reading Shelley’s New Year’s doubts, saddened there need ever be a question in her mind of her true effect, I remembered why I quit the Well: people can be cruel, and it hurts most when you’re being real.
Right now it seems clearer: Many of us have sorrows and fears that run through us, that define us. Humans are so wonderfully, so frustratingly, frail, that our hard edges & whiplash reactions often steal the show.
But from a different perspective, it’s easier to see the pain involved in hurting others. My father was a tyrant, who wielded his verbal stilleto with an awesome precision. He could read your worst fears and say exactly the thing that fed your shame. Towards the end of his life, I saw him cry openly about it. I saw this steely juggernaut of a man break completely down and sob out his regrets for being such a bad father (he thought).
After his funeral, I put my wife on a plane (she had a wedding to sing at), and wandered out to the parking lot to find my car. I got in. I couldn’t find the parking ticket. I couldn’t find the parking ticket. I’d just put my lifeline, my love, my new bride of a month, on a plane, and had to resume my role as my mother’s defender against grieving family advice.
I couldn’t find the damned parking ticket. I drove to the tollbooth, and sheepishly confessed (I was so lost! I could hardly speak!), and this haggard troll of a woman ripped into me in a way I will never forget. Her words were like spears. They hurt unbelievably.
Now, I try to remember: we’re *all* me at that tollbooth, sometime, someday. You probably won’t know it, but the stranger that cuts you off in traffic, or the newbie that posts in the wrong way, might have just had their world crash down around them. Your callousness could have the power to rip right through their soul, to leave impossibly deep footprints .. though to you it was just “blowing off steam”, or having a good thrash.
Kindness is necessary!
And it works both ways. Many of us are, sometime, someday, my father, breaking down uncontrollably about the pain he’s caused others. We’re the way he felt inside all his life, maybe not having a name for it, not knowing a way to talk about it. Personally, I’d rather get ripped into by the troll booth lady than live as the one who causes pain without really knowing why, who feels that kind of emptiness, who never feels acceptance, who doesn’t trust.
So it’s cool. Everything’s cool. Blame is such a messy thing to be throwing around, and not nearly as important as helping each other, as sharing the joy & sorrow of it all, as seeing each other through.
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