Mistakes Have Been Made and Random Acts of Kindness

A few months ago someone typed into a search engine – “how can a 56 year old make a mistake” – and they were led to my blog.  Which is either a great relief or pretty horrifying, I haven’t decided.  I read those words and my first thought was, Why are they being led to my blog?  I am NOT 56 years old!  But when I am, I will undoubtedly still be making mistakes.  Do any of us stop making mistakes?  Isn’t that part of being in the world, being human and being alive?  To err is human and all of that?  None of us get out of here doing this perfectly.  So yeah, I’m okay with the fact that someone was led to my blog who may have been incredulous that a 56-year-old or even a 52-year-old (my actual age) could make a mistake or, as is my case, many, many mistakes.  I have, I do, no doubt I will continue to make mistakes.  But the wisdom of years is that I don’t need to pretend I’m doing everything perfectly, I don’t need to hide from my mistakes.  I can look at them, see them for what they are and hopefully, move on.

Which brings me to Emma.  I would really like to not repeat a great number of the mistakes I’ve made when it comes to my daughter.  Some I can’t even call “mistakes” because I kept repeating them and at a certain point repeated actions get pushed out of the “mistakes” category and into the “bad decision” category.  (It’s kind of like when someone says they’re going to go take a nap and then disappear for four hours.  That’s not a “nap”, that’s going back to sleep!  It doesn’t matter that it’s in the middle of the day.)   So yeah, I’ve made plenty of decisions I really wish I hadn’t, decisions that affected my daughter.  Decisions I don’t feel happy about or proud of.  There are others I am even ashamed of and feel tremendous guilt over.  It would be dishonest of me to say otherwise.

But here’s the thing, beating myself up over those things doesn’t make me behave better, it doesn’t make me a better parent.  I used to think that if I just punished myself enough I’d stop doing whatever it was, but that never happened.  Punishment just led to more feelings of guilt and shame.  Punishment meant I felt worse about myself not better.  Punishment and self-criticism make me exhausted and keep me firmly rooted in my ‘self’.  There are two things I know to do when I’m feeling this way (but still forget to do them, so this post is equivalent to putting a string around my finger.)  I need to do both these things at the same time, or within close proximity to each other.  I need to be specific about what I’ve done that I feel is unforgivable.  I need to list these things and then I need to tell on myself. I have to be careful with this part.  I have to find people who I’m pretty sure will not condemn me, but instead will be kind and loving.  I need to admit what I’ve done and then I need to reach out to others and “be of service”.

The concept of being of service has saved my life.  I don’t mean to suggest that I think of myself as a martyr or Mother Teresa or Gandhi.  I mean that it is crucial for me to reach out to others and not just when I’m in self punishing mode, but every day.   Random acts of kindness.  I had to learn how to do this years ago.  It was something I had to practice, because it didn’t come naturally to me, particularly when I was in self punishment mode.

I will never forget when both the children were young.  I had Nic in a backpack and Em was a baby in a sling.  I was waiting for the light to turn green on our way home from a day spent in the park.  Both kids were tired, I was tired and feeling grumpy.  I was obsessing over how I’d spoken crossly to Nic and was exasperated with Emma because she wouldn’t nap.  I began beating myself up.  I wasn’t a good mother, I should be more patient, I shouldn’t be so easily annoyed.  And as I was ruminating about all of this I noticed there was a blind man waiting on the corner with us.  I had been practicing random acts of kindness for several years by then so without thinking I said, “Would you like help crossing the street?” and the elderly man said he would.  I offered him my arm, he held it right where my elbow was bent and the four of us crossed the street.  As we were crossing Nic began to coo and Emma was making gurgling noises, the man turned his head and said, “sounds like you’ve got your hands full!”  So I told him about how I was carrying my baby daughter in a sling and my son loved being in a Kelty backpack and the man just thought this was hilarious.  We ended up walking with him for several blocks beyond our home and when he was close to where he lived we parted.  I no longer felt grumpy or tired, I felt exuberant, in love with the world and all its inhabitants.  I bet that man doesn’t remember us, but I’ve never forgotten him.  He gave me a gift that day, something I hadn’t been able to give myself and it was beautiful.

He gave me kindness and forgiveness.

Emma & Nic – April 2002

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33 responses to “Mistakes Have Been Made and Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Just lovely… and now I’m all misty. ((Ariane))

  2. Awwwwwwwww, me too misty. And plus the pic, double Awwwwwwwwww. ((((((((Ariane and also the kids too when they know me well enough that this is cool. But not Richard, because I know he’s not into that.))))))))

  3. random acts can help just about all moods. 😉 Glad that one stuck with you!

  4. “. . . once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes. I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience . . .”
    — Sadi author of The Gulistan, Story 19 written in 1258

    and so it seems that to feel sorry for oneself is a condition of being human, and cannot be avoided until one discovers that little acts of kindness to others who have even less is the true road to happiness. You are traveling that road, and it may be hard, and it may be long, but in the end it always pays off.

  5. I will bet the gentleman had not forgotten. Kindness lingers as little fingers of hope.

  6. Ariane–Dearly you deeded others with your points of kindnesses. I each time think you’re powered by options of ordered here to peace your sweet-pointed self by peacing others. Tread you to greet your perfection by replying imperfection reassurances loom in all. You are lit by being kind; my words are lit by your freed kindness to I. Each person greeted kinder will greet others kinder, readying the worry-fretted, wepting, well-not world to operate with more kisses that reply, “I’m pointed to kind.” It points to nurturing each other is what we need. I’m retuning my pity wedded to each kinder kiss I read poignantly sweeted by operated others. There I want to kindly try kiss persons with my kinder responses. Rest I, rest they.

  7. So sweet,
    Being of service brings so much good into my life, I need to get out more, I need more opportunities to be a good human being.
    One of the things I love about my fiancée is how dis-inhibited he is about being of service. He grew up in country churches and it seems that he sees helping each other as the natural way to be. Every time he grabs the door for an elderly person I fall a little more in love.

    • I’m always so surprised when I meet people like your husband. This stuff comes naturally to people?! I think that’s why I fell in love with New York – I saw all these grumpy people in a hurry and thought, I’ve found my people! Actually New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most generous, most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. 😉

  8. I really, really love that pic! And, your post was great, too! 😉

    I think the word “karma” is overused, but I like to think that there is something to the fact that you get back what you throw out into the world. Then again, there are just some people who fend for themselves and expect others to do the same. I like to think of myself as a kind person, both towards those I love and strangers.

    In other news, I threw out my back! I don’t even know what I did – but I likely won’t be around much for awhile. I have to go to physical therapy for the next two weeks (I started today, they think I have a herniated disc) and it hurts to sit for any length of time! I’d never abandon reading here, but don’t want anyone to worry!

    When I get mobile again, I need to get some priorities in order. Unfortunately, one of those is less time on the computer! My days need to focus on exercise, housework, homework, projects around the house, and getting my business going. I’m trying to use this as a wake up call that perhaps if I’d been in better shape, it wouldn’t have happened!

    Anyhow, I’ll be around. Just not as much. Hope you guys have a terrific Thanksgiving!


  9. Angie, that is so awful about your back! Take good care of yourself. Sending you love and Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Adorable babies!!! 🙂

    “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

    • We’re trading quotes today, but you have to admit, the one I sent you was better!! 💕

      • Girl, you got me beat on your choice of quotes hands down!!!! 🙂

        • Hehe! Every now and then I get it right! 😉
          And just so you know, “snarky” is not a word I would ever pair with you, ever. Passionate, strong opinions, kind, generous… those are the words I think of when I think of you, dear friend. (Just so you know…)

          • 🙂 Thank you for that. I felt so badly, like there I went opening my big mouth. You made my day. 🙂

            • 💕 I had no filters that day, too close after the storm, too many feelings, too upset by the enormity of the devastation… it was NOT my best moment. And now it is passed and has no bearing on anything. You are my friend and friends we shall remain as long as you are willing and able! 😀

            • Water under the bridge my dear friend… I never understood the Elton John song, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” I rather like sorry and the ability to say it and receive it for I believe its use strenghtens, not degrades… but that’s just me, being weird ole me! 🙂

  11. Pic is so cute! My hubby always teases me that if I won the lottery one day, I would have it all given away within a week! :O) I will admit that helping, doing, giving, sharing are all important words in my vocabulary and I too strive every day to do something “nice” for someone….it may just be a passing Hi or a smile…something simple but it is important to me to be the best ME I can be daily. It always helps me out of any grumpy vibe too. It feels good to do good! 🙂

  12. elizabeth hamilton

    dear ariane, just know that i appreciate these posts – your ‘practical practice’ is a wonderful example of how ‘meditation alone is not enough’ – we have these wild and wooly daily lives, & they’re the monastery! i’m glad you’re blogging and that it makes it to huff po – not all blogs catch my attention (everyone i know blogs …) and i’m grateful that you’re trying to make your daily family life part of the path of awakening – i’m doing ditto out here, with not only the usual zcsd stuff, also hospice – which had a ceo m.d. who retired about 6 years ago, after interpreting medicare rubrics generously – and now, it’s payback time – and layoffs – and we do what we can, to help the staff that’s disappearing see this as ‘the path of awakening’ – love to richard also – and glad we’re in touch –


  13. I so appreciate your honesty and willingness to share the side of ourselves we just don’t want to see. You make it okay to admit our imperfections. Thank you.

  14. I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your imperfections. It makes it okay for the rest of us to do so without guilt. Thank you!

  15. Ariane none of us are perfect i turn 22 next month and I’ve already made peace with the fact that I will never be perfect or do everything perfectly instead of trying to be perfect i try to be whole. Thank you so much for giving people permission to be imperfect by showing them your imperfections..

    PS. Don’t be so hard on yourself you try your best every day to be a great mom and that in itself makes you a great mom.

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