When I turned 43 last year I had what is best described as a ‘life awakening’. It wasn’t my first. I also had one when I was 28 after I walked across hot coals (seriously), which led to chucking in the towel on my first career and starting in on my second with nothing more than a few stars in my eyes. I had my second ‘life awakening’ just before I turned 40, but that time it didn’t involving starting over career-wise, which was a good thing because I was already onto career number three, the stars having burned out on number two.
Turning 40, like 43, was partially about acknowledging the person I wasn’t being – the authentic me – but if I’m honest, back then it was mostly about my sagging breasts, the lines appearing on my face and the small grey hairs that were sprouting like wild flowers.
At 40 my solution was a heady cocktail of 1/4 champagne, 1/4 cupcakes and 1/2 runner’s endorphins. Yep, once the bubbles were gone and only crumbs remained, I laced up my shoes and ran a marathon. But what might have started out as an attempt to prove that 40 didn’t equal ‘over the hill’, ended up becoming a powerful vehicle to move past my daily life and my ‘first world problems’ and start getting perspective on what really mattered. It’s amazing how 42.195km can do that. (Even when you are overtaken by a guy wearing a banana costume in the last 500 metres. I wish I was joking.)
So when I ‘woke up’ again at 43, and this time being a little older and wiser, I laced up my shoes for a half marathon.
What I had forgotten though was that paying the entry fee, signing on to a charity (Shake It Up Australia Foundation) and picking out shiny new shoes and pretty running tops were the easy, fun parts. The rest, the actual one foot in front of the other, is exhausting, on occasion painful and more often than not, downright boring.
But occasionally, usually on long runs, my mind catches me by surprise. Great thinkers like Copernicus appear and I find myself caught up in the realisation that ‘to know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
And then last week, Murakami appeared and I found myself thinking of kindness.
“I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature.”
For some time now I have been grappling with ‘kindness’. Not so much the action but the purpose. As I put one foot in front of the other, I find myself wondering whether it is enough to act and move on. Whether we are doing ourselves a disservice when are secretly kind and therefore, invisible. To be certain, those daily acts of kindness still change lives, mine included, but at the heart of it, kindness is about connecting. It’s about looking each other in the eye and saying, ‘please, go ahead’ or ‘please, let me be of assistance’ and responding with a heartfelt ‘thank you’. It’s about acknowledging that by acting with each other in mind we ‘belong’, we are ‘home’.
And so, of late, I have found myself seeking out ways to be kind that are not about ticking a box. That are not based on simply paying it forward or acting randomly, but which are selfless and deliberate. I am seeking to identify ‘kindness solutions’ that challenge me and therefore hopefully resonate for longer – even if the act itself seems small and insignificant.
In doing so I am coming to realise that being kind to others is actually an act of kindness to myself. When I am kind, something in my core changes, shifts, opens, heals. I become better.
It’s often easy when I’m running to fall into a pattern of rehashing the day, the irritants and the dissatisfaction. And when I do, I find myself quickly depleted of energy and motivation. Negativity is a leach. It has no place in my training – or elsewhere. But when I think about acts of kindness, when I raise my thoughts to how I can make a difference in someone else’s life – today, to the legacy that I would like to leave – today… then I feel the wind at my back.
And with each kilometre I run, I also understand more clearly that kindness can not be measured. Such is the nature of kindness that I am unlikely to ever fully understand the impact my action has on another. All I need to understand is that everything is connected. That I am connected. And then to embrace that connection.
Kindness is like the sun to the flower. We can’t grow and bloom without it. We follow it, seek it out instinctively.
This year my mantra when I am training for the Sydney Half Marathon is a simple one… Commit To Kindness.
How are you going to #committokindness today?
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