Florence Scovel Shinn said, “When you send out real love, real love will return to you.” I think that’s the only way you receive it. You get out what you put in. You see the things you’re looking for. It’s easy to forget. Fall victim to the idea everything is cruel. Fail to realize there are kind things, too. You just stopped seeing them. It becomes ingrained. Accidental habits. Maybe that’s just one of the those things depression does to you. Rolls the fog in. Puts the blinders on. When you’re hurting it’s hard to see the goodness in the world.
It’s hard to see it happen, though. I understand. Bit by bit the softness goes away. Sitting in a room, having a conversation. You don’t notice the sun going down until you can’t see the person in front of you. As if the night landed all at once. When did this happen? When did I become so hopeless? So negative. So angry.
That’s the thing about the tenderness leaving your life. Something has to replace it. I didn’t make a conscious decision about what would. Whatever was easiest—most prevalent—landed. Took root. A weed. The thoughts became hateful, angry, harsh and jagged. They became the cold metal my back presses against.
I think I can replace them again, though. Swap them out for something else. Cover the area with kindness so there is no room for anything harmful to touch down. Practice. Habit. I make myself think kind, compassionate, and loving things about every person I see. I force myself to notice the goodness in front of me until there no room for other noticing. I think it might be that simple. Difficult, yes, of course. It’s a total shift in what my brain gets occupied by every day. But simple nonetheless.
There’s a concierge who works mornings. She rarely looks up from her task to say anything when I walk by to go running. Not when I come back. Not after I’m shower, dressed, and fed; heading out the door again. I always think about how bad she is at her job. How cold. How cold this whole city is. And I leave every morning wondering how I can guard myself from becoming like her. Like them. But then it struck me. “Oh no. I already am.”
So this morning when I was leaving I smiled broad at the woman who wasn’t looking at me and I said, “Have a good day, Sandy!”
She jumped. Startled, she looked up at me. “Oh! Yes! You, too. Have a great day!”
Compassion crashed over me. Empathy. Finally. I get it. Every morning she guards our door and signs for our packages and is there for whatever we need. Every morning every single resident in our 325-unit building walks by her with their headphones on and their hoods up. She must feel invisible. Just like me. She stopped trying to reach out and they got angry about her silence, so they closed in. Self-perpetuating mutual loneliness. It doesn’t matter where it started. It ends with me.
How easy to think I’m the only one who feels like this. To assume everyone is fine with their heads down, scowling at each other’s choice in footwear. But maybe we’re all tired. Stuck in a habit we don’t even know about. So gradual in the beginning we forgot locking eyes and smiling is still an option we have.
Good morning. How are you?