Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Who does this quote belong to? I’ve heard sources from Plato to Philo of Alexandria to Anonymous.
But it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not who said it or who said it first. It’s the message. In these 10 words lie not merely a gem of truth, but a boulder. What would happen if we made ‘kind’ our default? What if, instead of judging, we cut people a little slack and let them have a bad day every once in a while? Or even a bad year.
Because sometimes stuff just happens.
Life can change in an instant. We are going along just fine and bam. Life knocks us down. We find ourselves on the ground looking up, puzzled. And after we pick ourselves up and clean the mud off, we are left to wonder about what the important stuff in life really is.
In the whole scheme of things, is dropping a jar of pickles on the kitchen floor, with exploding shards of glass everywhere, a life-changing event? Does missing the ferry because of a dawdling car in front of me have the power to ruin my day?
Last December, right before Christmas, I went to ER with a bout of severely painful (9-hour long) calf muscle cramps. It turned out to be a rare but debilitating reaction to a preventive drug my primary doc had prescribed just three months earlier. The tests revealed muscle damage that, despite physical therapy, appears to be permanent.
I was just recovering from that when I developed patches of numbness and burning in my legs. Turns out I also had a bulging disc that was pressing on nerves in the spinal cord. The medical gods must have been thinking, “Well, we haven’t given Judy a lot of stuff to deal with lately. Might as well give her a couple of things.”
Two-for-one day at the pain store.
The secret blessing is that none of this stuff has affected my brain, which has always been quite crazy anyway. I may not be able to sit at the computer for long periods of time, but I can think and create at will and for that, I am deeply grateful.
I have learned that some of my friends are fighting their own hard battles. One has breast cancer and is awaiting surgery. Another is bravely facing Parkinson’s. Another is using her MS diagnosis to help others navigate the waters of this disease.
Or maybe someone is going through a traumatic divorce. Or having problems making their mortgage payment. Or caring for a parent with dementia.
Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Can personal pain and suffering make us better writers?
I have thought a lot about this lately. In working on my memoir and my life story vignettes, remembering the emotional pain of my childhood helped to fuel my scenes with authenticity and sensory detail.
There was an underlying layer of emotion.
But what about physical pain? It’s a part of life, too. If it, too, is stored in our memory cells, can we call it up when we need it in our writing?
I think so. If anything, it can help us write with more empathy for our characters, who might be going though physical challenges themselves.
It feels good to be back. I realize that I might have lost some of you because of the serious time lapse since my last post. But I am ecstatic to have my blogging legs back and have greatly missed our conversations.
Are you still there?
In my absence from this blog, I have been guest posting at my other half’s site, bobWP.com. If you want to sample some of my my long-form pieces of content, here are the links to those posts:
Here’s to writers and resiliency. And summer. Definitely, summer.