Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Notes from a year named Kindness: March

There's a conversation happening among people I know regarding kindness, and I have things to say about kindness—but I don't want to hijack someone else's conversation to say them. This is more a cumulation of conversations that have been happening offline.

You see, I named this year Kindness. One of the things it has taught me so far is that I cannot get out my sword and fight in every battle. Because before I can support anyone else—before I can offer them kindness—I have to ensure that I have enough for myself.

Kindness isn't a right; it's a gift. We choose who we are kind to, and that's what makes kindness mean something. Because it's not the same as being civil or polite or compassionate. Kindness is not something that can be demanded of others.

There's a line in the prologue of Maggie Stiefvater's Blue Lily, Lily Blue that's rolled around my head for the past couple weeks: "Blue was kind but she was not nice."

Being kind is most certainly not the same as being nice. We're told a lot as women to be nice; we're told it's a high compliment to be considered nice. (Nice is furniture. Nice is forgettable. Nice is—as a friend pointed out—an empty space waiting for other people's opinions to fill it.)

Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Say any word enough times and it stops having any meaning. We ought to be careful about stripping the meaning away from a concept like kindness.

Kindness isn't nice. Kindness is fierce. Kindness is defiant, because the world would like us to believe it's easier to be nice. Being kind suggests the self-awareness of deciding when you will—when you are able to—give more to others. Kind is powerful. So when we demand kindness be a given, we are diminishing that power in others and removing their agency over it.

I am not advocating being cruel; I feel treating others like they are also human is a base-level human decency. You get that from the beginning from me. Kindness—in any way I would define it—is not the same thing.

Could the world use more kindness? Yes. But perhaps it could also use more compassion or respect or civility.

That's the problem of reducing things to a hashtag: It leaves out the context. Our challenge as users of social media, as those who have selected that medium for communication, is to imbue context when we have a limited capacity to do so. (This is the difference between someone who tweets and someone who is good at Twitter.) What do these concepts, these words, mean to each of us? How do we negotiate those meanings without a failure of empathy—without demanding the world be a more simple place than it is?

I don't know. I can't change other people and how they react to things any more than I can swing a sword—metaphorical or literal—at them to make them stop. I used to think I could—that if my argument was the most passionate or the most articulate, that it would somehow win. But when it's only about winning, I still lose. Yes, I can express why I feel a certain way, but the other person choses whether they agree with me or not.

What I'm also learning during this year named kindness is that my community is not the readership of a book I enjoyed or the viewership of a show I watch. It's not even those who work in the same industry I do.

My community are the individuals I have chosen to have a genuine interest in as people. Who have a genuine interest in me as a person. It's constantly evolving state—people can come and go as they want/need to. It's not defined by an interest or restricted to a location. And the people in it don't always have to agree with me.

They don't even have to be nice. I prefer if they weren't. But I hope they can be kind.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Love like breathing

It is glorious to have found the part of a draft when it feels easy because bits of it grow together—all those idea previously rooted reach for each other—and there's an ecosystem on the verge of being.

It's the moment before the middle, when it all goes a little wild and I have to fight it into shape for the end. A moment of flow. A perfect afternoon, all green and good, that smells like spring.

Because in these moments, there's nothing but love for a story. Love like breathing. It's so easy to do, so easy that I forget all the times it felt difficult. Forget why I put the story aside. Forget what ever made me think it wouldn't, one day, be finished.

And it doesn't matter if it's good, because it's fun and the making-it-better can happen when it's time for it to happen.

Story, you're so weird. Weird wrapped around truth and full of things I love. We're going to have a conversation, you and I. One I don't share with other people.

It's not about a fish, but its playlist is full of dangerous bass. And I am so fiercely protective of the way I love it like breathing.

I forgot writing could be like this; I know the feeling doesn't stay. Because craft takes effort and time and focus. It's not unconscious. The time will come when I'll have to apply that conscious force to take something-ok-with-moments-of-good to great and then better.

But this week, for now, it's all reaching shoots. Growing tall, fast, strong.