Why is it so easy to take for granted the ones we love the most? Growing up, I was extremely close to my grandfather. He shared so much time, love, and wisdom with me during my childhood. I have endless fond memories of him baby-sitting me, watching '90s Nickelodeon shows on his funky-smelling couch as he’d serve me my favorite foods (mostly toast and butter and "poppy juice” which was cranberry juice and seltzer). Do you know that funny smell, the slight musty mildew smell of an older person’s home? I can’t smell it without getting emotional in his memory these days.
One day in middle school my grandmother had a brain aneurysm, and my grandfather proceeded to be her full-time caretaker day in and day out. It was not an easy life, and eventually his health started to decline. While I was in college he had a few heart surgeries, but he always recovered, and I knew he would get better. He was always there for me and I always knew he would be.
Of course not, and I do realize this is my ultra-selfish side making rationalizations. The number of times I don’t make time for family in exchange for work leaves me bewildered. There is age old wisdom backed by modern science that ambition and career success provides no lasting happiness and often causes more anxiety and stress For further reading: TED Talk: Lessons on the longest study on happiness The High Price of Materialism . The best way to create long term joy, mental and physical well being is to strengthen the quality of your relationships with family and friends. I know all this rationally, so why do I still so often choose work over my loved ones?
I have to try to change and be less selfish with the people I love most in life, before its too late again.
I chose to focus this step on my husband Zak. Unfortunately over the last few months as we've been both been working constantly, our relationship has suffered a little bit. We've had massive stress in regards to not having a real permanent home, we've been moving from sublet to sublet since our renovation took 6 months longer than expected, and the financial stress around that has also caused some tension. It's been difficult since we both have demanding jobs (he's an incredible cinematographer) and we're both traveling constantly, which has made it hard to devote a lot of time to each other.
So for the last month, I did dozens of acts of kindness for him. I turned down traveling and instead did a little staycation with him. I went grocery shopping during lunch and cooked him dinner. I watched his favorite TV series with him (one he knows I hate). I didn't pick a fight with him when he forgot to do several things on our to-do list, for the third time. Instead I just did them for him (this is such an easier route than the stress of a fight). I took out his dirty clothes to the laundromat. I ran the dishwasher every day so he didn't have to. The list goes on and on.
Some of these mundane life tasks like the dishes can be incredibly boring for me, though. So I wondered if I could do things for him, why not use my creative energies, something I love, to deliver more kindness to those I neglect? It made me realize how funny it is that I spend most of my creative energy on selling other people's services or products, but I don't bring joy to those around me each day? This is something we as creatives can all do so easily, and in many ways it is more meaningful than the corporate work.
So I made him hand drawn love letters and drawings every week for a month. They are a little too personal and intimate to share publicly, but he loved them. I also made a few little videos which I sent him over text. While they are so dumb and corny, I knew they'd make him smile. And it really worked. When I texted them to him he couldn't believe I made these just for him.
Throughout this past month of focusing on kindness for him, I couldn't believe how this little extra love and care I showed for him came back to me two-fold. In return, he spoiled me with much love and kindness and surprises. The fights we were having stopped and the tension melted away. Our relationship strengthened and we're happier than ever before.
All of this got me thinking about the other person in my life that I ignore the most: my mom. It reminds me of that famous quote, "Everyone wants to save the planet, no one wants to help mom do the dishes." With this in mind, I called over my sister and we did this ridiculously stupid video for her. We used to make all these funny little dance videos when we were younger, which was the inspiration.
Mom: We'll update you offline about the weekend trip we planned for you.
Everyone else: Don't worry I promise to stick to design, even though I know my dance and karaoke skills are pretty awesome. By the way, the app we used to make this, musical.ly is super fun. I highly suggest you go make a video for your mom, husband, or whoever else you love and neglect. Or give them a call. Or do the dishes. Life is short and these "super important work things" we all have going on don't mean much in grand scheme of the universe / life compared to our relationships.
We'd love for you to participate in this 12-step journey with us. This step is about doing something kind for the special people in our lives we usually neglect. Find that person in your life and do something thoughtful for them. Comment below or tag #12kindsofkindness on social media and let us know your stories. We'd love to hear them!
Feel free to use the artwork / quotes above to share your story on social, you can download them all on the 12 Kinds of Kindness Tumblr.