Friday, November 10, 2017

The Birth of Kindness180

The first Star Wars movie was released 40 years ago in 1977. Since then people all over the world have been geeking out over the Star Wars movies. We dress up as Star War characters for Halloween, movie openings, parties, or for my kids, just because it is a sunny day. You don't really need a reason to dress up for Star Wars. 
(Oh and those who make fun of Star Wars, we are onto you. We know there is at least one character you can relate with.  Stop fighting it and embrace your inner geek. You can do it.)

I have seen every Star Wars movie, and my absolute favorite movie is The Force Awakens. I love seeing Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on the big screen together again.  I also love seeing Chewbacca in the new movie. who is that loyal and brave friend who is straight up cool. Chewy (still Chewbacca for the non Star War fans) doesn't take anything from anyone. He is kind, but will take care of business when needed. #belikechewy

My personal FAVORITE character from Star Wars is Rey from The Force Awakens.
Image result for rey

Rey is strong and courageous. She is able to face her fears head on, and she is fierce! She is independent and strong and isn't afraid to do whatever it takes to protect those around her. She is scrappy, tough, and a survivor. 

She gives the phrase "fight like a girl" a whole new positive meaning. She isn't the typical damsel in distress. She takes care of business herself.  She is able to wield a light saber in her first battle better than her opponent Kylo Ren, who has been training for his entire life.  

This girl is a fighter. She does not give up. She had to learn to be tough in order to survive because when she was a little girl she was abandoned by her parents for reason we do not know yet. She held onto hope that her parents would one day come back for her.  Throughout the movie we contemplate why her parents abandoned her. Will we find out who her parents are? Will they come back for her? When I watched this movie in the theater the crowd erupted after the very last scene, when Rey hands Luke his lightsaber. Was he her father? Or was it Han Solo? 

Each person in the theater had a theory on who her parents were and why she was abandoned. Why do you think this was so important to everyone who watched the movie to know who her parents were? 

We all have a strong desire to know where we come from and we yearn to have that strong connection and bond from both of our parents. To fathom a parent would abandon their child for whatever reason is hard for people to understand. They want answers. They want to know why. What caused them to make the decision to leave their children? Whatever the reason, it can cause wounds that are deep and hard to overcome. 

As I watched the movie I noticed subtleties that shows how being abandoned by her parents has shaped her as a person.

First, I noticed she has a hard time accepting help from others. When Finn tried to help her escape he grabbed her hand and she immediately jerked it away from him. For most of her life she has had to be self reliant. She feels she can't depend on those around her to take care of her. She has to take of herself. 

I also noticed that Rey was a protector for those around her.  BB8 was captured and being mistreated and she immediately came to his rescue.  This is actually a common trait for many people who have been abandoned. They have felt first hand the fear and pain that comes with rejection and often times do not want others to feel this same pain. 

I noticed these subtleties because Rey is me in a lot of ways. At a very young age I as abandoned by my biological father. Just like Rey I waited for him to come back. I held onto hope that one day he would decide that he would want me and my sisters and he would finally come back for us.

* Before I go on I do have to say that I had a wonderful step-dad who loved me like his own. He helped raised me and was a wonderful father. However, knowing that my biological father didn't want me caused deep wounds that no one could heal. *

As a young child I would sit outside and watch for any cars that I didn't recognize and held onto hope that my dad would come home. When we would go to the store I would study the faces of the men in the store to see if one of those men looked like me or my sisters.

I pushed myself to be my absolute best, almost to a fault. If he did come back then I wanted to make sure I had become someone he was proud of. I held onto the hope of his return until I was 14. 

We were all home and my mom received a phone call. When she hung up she came out of her room and sat us down on the couch. They had finally found the man who abandoned us. There was just one problem.  He had died. His years of drug and alcohol abuse finally caught up to him. 

 After my mom told me the news I simply told her, "I don't care. He never loved us."  I can still remember how hurt I felt and how I vowed never to be hurt like that again. For years I held onto hope that a man, who abandoned me, would come back for me. I held onto hope that one day I would be worthy of his love, but that day would never come. 

The first and only memory of being in the same room as my dad was at his funeral. It wasn't the memory I had been hoping for. 

At the time I was too immature to realize it, but that was the moment I started building emotional walls. Brick by brick.

For years the carefree, high energy, goofy girl, who loved everyone was still there, but she just kept everyone at arms length. No one could get too close. The wall was small at first but after 20 years the brick wall had become so high and thick I wasn't able to recognize the person standing in the mirror anymore.

I knew something had to change. I knew I had to break down the walls I had built and I had to let other people in. The only people that could truly get through that wall were my own personal children and my students. I had to stop and ask myself why. The answer is actually pretty simple. I knew how much it hurt as a child to be abandoned by someone that was suppose to love you and care for you. Someone who was suppose to fight for you. I didn't want my own children to ever feel that pain. I vowed they would know how much they were loved. For my students, I wanted them to know if they were experiencing the same pain I felt then they would have me in their corner fighting for them.

This is the first time I am sharing this with many people. For years, the only person that knew about my struggle is my husband. Who bless him, is a saint. He told me for years I had needed to break down my walls and how I needed to start healing my heart. I  fought him on it, because for some reason I thought admitting that he was right made me weak. Letting people in made me vulnerable. I didn't want to let go of that control.

About two years ago I started the journey on breaking down these walls. It was difficult at first, and was frankly uncomfortable when someone wanted to talk about "feelings" or give me a hug. Yep, I was one of those people. I had a personal bubble the size of Texas.

I do think it is important to make sure those who are reading understand that just because I had a huge personal bubble didn't mean I wasn't a caring or loving person. I would bend over backwards to help someone. I would give you my last dollar if it meant that it could help you. I love people and I listened to their stories and did whatever I could to help. However, I didn't want these same thoughts and feeling reciprocated. It made me feel weak. It made me feel like the other person had control. For a person who builds up walls, control is a huge reason on why we build them up in the first place. If we are the ones with control then it means we can avoid being hurt.

For two years I worked to let people in. I started taking brick by brick down. Once in a while I had to fight the urge to put a brick back up. After two years I felt like I had made huge progress, but there were still a few people in my life who thought I wasn't personable. I didn't know what to do. I was kind of upset by this because I had been working  so hard to tear down my wall, but I realized that I hadn't torn it down completely. I still had a ledge there that I  leap over to protect myself when things got tough. I was using it as a safe zone. I had come so far but I knew I still wasn't quite there yet.

What was I missing? I had come so far tearing down the walls I had built but I was still unable to let others in. That's how Kindness180 was born. I have always loved doing kind acts for others, even when my wall was 100ft high and 100ft thick. When I did kind acts for others it was the rare moments that I let myself be vulnerable. I decided for 180 days I was going to do acts of kindness for other people in hopes that it would help me break down the remaining walls.

After a month into kindness180 I started noticing subtle differences in myself that surprised even myself.

I had just completed a kindness180 challenge of smiling at 10 people. I had actually extended this challenge and had been doing it for a couple of weeks.  One day I was getting on a  plane to Detroit and I locked eyes with someone, smiled, and asked how they were. After I did it I was shocked. I could hardly believe it. For some this may be an easy skilll for you. However for me this used to be very difficult. Before, if I meet someone new I would get nervous, my eyes would go straight to the floor, and I would get out of the situation as fast as I could. No this wasn't because I was shy. That is definitely not a word people would use to describe me. It was because I didn't feel like I was in control. For people who have the habit of building walls this is not a situation we like to be in. The kindness180 challenge was changing even the smallest behaviors that are essential in connecting with other people.

I am 4 months into the Kindness180 challenge. The wall I have built over the last 20 years has become shorter and not quite as thick, but I still have a lot of work to do. 

I hope you will join me in the Kindness180 challenge. Your struggle to connect with people may be different than mine.  Maybe your struggle isn't even connecting with people. Maybe you just want a way to connect with people or strengthen relationships with those around you. Whatever your reason for doing the challenge, remember the Kindness180 challenge is not about perfection. It is about progress. It is about spreading kindness to those around you, building relationships with others, and even showing kindness to yourself. 

You can read more about Kindness180 here.

I hope you will join us in the Kindness180 challenge! 


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