How Kindness Found Me When I Was At My Lowest

Have you ever had to do any of those shitty, character-building jobs while rebuilding your life?

I have.

When I got back to Canada after 7 weeks in Costa Rica (it was no vacation, believe me), I stayed at a women’s transition house for a couple of months. The “Teahouse” as it is affectionally called, is meant for women in transition. You don’t stay. I don’t know what it’s like for women nowadays with affordable housing being completely unattainable.

Twenty years ago, when I was at the beginning stages of rebuilding my life, I was lucky, I guess you’d say. I found a studio apartment in the back of a house. Turns out the woman who owned the house was a therapist with the Teahouse and her daughter and two children lived in the main part of the house. To this day, I am so grateful for the safe place to land. Rent was the same amount I was getting for shelter on social assistance.

rebuilding from the ground up

Yeah. Had to do that. I had returned with no job, no money, no vehicle. Truly rebuilding from the ground up. I don’t know if someone figured it was a good idea to keep the shelter portion so low as a way to somehow motivate people to do better. Some people on social assistance are not able to do better. It IS their better. I was able to do better, luckily, because it sure didn’t feel good to be where I was at in life. The living space was good. Transition good. It just wasn’t a good place to stay long-term. But that’s the point, I suppose.

Part of my life-rebuilding involved actively searching for work. I had been out of work as a registered nurse just long enough for people to suggest that I upgrade. I had only been unemployed as a registered nurse for about a year. I just couldn’t get a job as a nurse in the small town where I landed. At the time it frustrated and baffled me.

But I eventually learned to read the room. Sometimes we are blocked doing what WE think we ought to be doing. Something else was being orchestrated here. It had to be. At the time, I wanted to just get back to my life. But that life had moved on without me. That life was not for me. It was not for my highest and best.

Why would I want to go BACK to that?

There was nowhere to go except where I was, and I was forced to be patient and present.

the spiral unfolds

I dove into all the resources made available to me being on social assistance. It was a humbling experience. All my peers in the job search workshops were at their lowest, too. I could not judge them for how they presented. We were all hurting, yet doing our best. ironically, this would not be the last time I was in this environment. As the spiral unfolds, I would revisit the job search workshop situation again.

This time, though, I was given an opportunity to become a “hole watch”. The pay was half what I would have earned as a nurse, but much better than social assistance. They needed workers, would train us, and it was all that was in front of me. So I said yes.

A hole watch is someone who monitors the air quality at regular intervals for people working in confined spaces. All I had to do was tell the guys welding to come out of the space so I could stick a meter in there to check the numbers, record them, and report to my supervisor if there were alarming readings.

It was easy. It was also out of my element as a mother and nurse. And I grew.

unexpected benefits

I’m glad I took the job, temporary as it was. It taught me to be open to what life presented to me. But I couldn’t help but wonder, this morning, why I was thinking about stories from 20 years ago, and it’s this: They were still in me and they’re still important.

Stories stay until they are told. Somehow. They don’t care about time.

He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named did some very not-loving things to me. Consequently, to my four-year-old, taking it all in. Working as a hole watch exposed me to a world that had good, kind men in it. Kind men who I believed, at the time, to be out of my league. And so they drifted out of my life.

But I saw them. I still remember them. The Alexes and the Grants. And the guy whose name I’ve forgotten who picked me up and dropped me off every day to and from the work site. Kind men existed.

Kind men exist.

self-love as the last frontier

The other thing that happened while journaling about this 20-year-old story this morning lead to expressing the super-shitty things he did. It was unkind. I learned to push against that unkindness to become kinder. Mostly to others, for a lot of years. Recently, gently, to myself.

Because the angst of my life persisted in some form or another. Self-love – really, really getting it – was my last frontier. There was nothing else left to change. Nothing that would effect lasting change.

This sent me down a writing rabbit hole of feels that caused an avalanche of tears. Which I suppose was the point of me remembering a story from 20-plus years ago. Every time we talk about the stories that haunt us, they lose their power over us.

So talk about what happened to you. Write about the shitty things you went through. Telling someone else about it is crucial to their release. Put it in art. Blog about it. Speak about it. It’s how we let it go.

But I get it. It’s not always safe to share our stories, which may be why they hide inside for so long.

Do it for YOU. If you can, when you can, how you can. You deserve the beautiful, peaceful life that I know awaits all of us.

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