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A 12-step experiment designed to open our hearts, eyes, and minds. Learn more
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Step 09
Go Big or Go Home

Why do we always seem to neglect the people who we are closest to? We picked one special person in our lives who we constantly neglect and did something nice for them.


Step 09: Go Big or Go Home

Part 1: Ignoring Our Loved Ones

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.

Recent comments

Adanne García
Mar 03, 2016 02:23

I first came to this blog through your instagram Jessica and have been really enjoying reading them, this one gave me a big smile, these videos you sent are so cute. Makes me want to focus on making stuff for my loved ones

Mar 03, 2016 02:17

I really needed this today Jessica, I've been having a hard time with my husband and then I realized its because I haven't spent enough time with him . Relationships take so much care and nurturing and love in order to grow and this was a nice reminder. Thank you <3

Even though he was only an hour away, college started to become highly demanding and started to visit less and less often. There was always a reason I wasn’t able to visit: exams, thesis, the new job I got right after graduation. I had to work the weekend, there was that massive career-changing project I couldn’t say no to. I told myself I’d make real time for him in a few months, once things settle down. It took too long for me to realize things never settle down.
Then there was a call from the hospital: My grandfather had another stroke. He survived, but he wasn’t in great condition. The doctors thought he’d make a full recovery, but something felt different this time. I realized that there were only so many times the doctors could save him, and I knew then I had to tell him everything: how much he meant to me, how much I learned from him, how much his love helped me through the hardest times.
I rehearsed on the train to the hospital everything I wanted to say to him when I saw him. When the train doors opened my parents were standing there, and I could see it written all over my parents’ eyes: he was gone. I broke down crying. I was too late: He would never know how much he meant to me, and how sorry I was for not being able to return the years of love he provided me.
I should have learned from this experience. You’d think after this I’d make it the imperative to show the loved ones around me how much I care. Yet I still find myself neglecting the people I love in my life most. I’m extremely attentive to a stranger’s email, yet find myself ignoring those from my mom on a busy day. I’ll happily bounce out of bed at 3 am to call a client from another timezone, yet I’m grumpy if my husband wakes me in the middle of the night. I can brush it off if a work colleague says something offensive, but if Zak offends me, I might lash out, because he’ll forgive me, he is my husband! I practically never visit my parents, who are a short plane ride away, because do you know how time-consuming running a business is? They’re retired, so they have more time to visit me here in New York, right?

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. 

Part 2: Doing The Dishes

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. 

I Love You, Mom

Hi, mom! Yes, you mom. I know you read all these posts! This is for you.

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.

Do you neglect your loved ones? If not, how do you show them you care? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Part 3: Make Your Own Steps

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.

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