“I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
– from LIFE ITSELF, Roger Ebert
It is a rainy Saturday morning. My clouds have lifted a little. I am out of bed, dressed and sitting here sipping tea and tapping out my words. I am grateful that they come one by one, spelling out my story, easing my pain and lighting my way. What a gift I have been given! At least I can express myself, warning others that a woman has fallen…momentarily. But she will get up again.
What I have learned lately is that I am not a kind or generous person. My kindness and generosity only extends to others. And that is a false thing. It has surprised me to hear patients telling me that I am so kind and so gentle to them. Can’t they tell I am just boiling inside? It surprises me they take my sourness for humour.
Yesterday, I was confronted by a neighbour in conversation, even though I tried hard to avoid her. I felt my unkindness then. I felt my heart constricting in meanness, no generosity coming forth. I kept my eyes downcast, answering politely. It was very difficult but I did not want to listen to her woes. I did not want to see her tears. I did not want to be her keeper – when it suited her.
That was yesterday. Today I realize that I was being kind and generous to myself. I am a nurse, a caretaker. But I don’t have to take care of everyone. I can’t. I don’t have the power. I feel my meanness coming out when I neglect myself. And without kindness, there cannot be generosity.
To myself I have to be true. I am doing the best I can. Perhaps I can do better tomorrow.