A last-minute change of subject matter this week following the tragic death of Caroline Flack yesterday. I’m not going to write in-depth about my thoughts on the downsides of the media, internet trolls, and the Crown Prosecution Service, primarily as this will turn into something of a scathing, angry diatribe; something I’d rather avoid here. Instead, I’d like to focus on some words which were repeated many times on social media last night.
Suicide is a desperately sad and gut-wrenchingly upsetting event to ever comprehend. Celebrity suicides always make big news stories but it’s easy to forget that there are also troubled teens, armed forces veterans, struggling professionals, middle-aged men and women and many others who are taking their lives on a daily basis. The reaction to most suicides is often similar; a mix of bewilderment, deep upset, and, particularly when it happens to an acquaintance, considerable questioning and wondering if we should have spotted the signs; if we could have done more to help. In Caroline Flack’s case, many of us were aware of her problems and how she was treated by the British media and internet trolls. This led to a vast amount of social media messages last night imploring us all to be kind (or a variation on that theme). Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, and believe it’s of vital importance (perhaps the most important task we all need to adhere to in our daily lives), it isn’t actually that simple to put into practice. Before that leads to a lot of criticism, let me explain.
When tragic news breaks, as it did yesterday, profound sadness follows the initial shock. We sit back, we read, we talk, and we all agree that the world can be a pretty crappy place at times and we all need to do our bit to make it better. At times such as these, it’s easy (and quite right) to say that we must be kinder. However, putting that into practice 24/7 is very difficult to maintain on a consistent basis. As we return to day-to-day life, there are many factors which can affect our desire to be kind. When we wake up after a poor nights’ sleep and our children are dawdling and ignoring us, it’s difficult to be kind. When we’re crawling along in the morning commute to work and another driver is in the wrong turning lane to save a few seconds and tries edging across in front of us, it’s difficult to be kind. When our partner is doing that one little habit which consistently irks us and it’s been building for some time, it’s difficult to be kind. When we return home from work toward the end of the week, drained and with a headache but knowing we really should reach out and get in touch with a close friend or family member, despite just wanting to slouch on the couch and have a quick nap, it’s difficult to be kind. I could continue as there are many examples though, whilst it’s very easy to say the words ‘just be kind’, real life often makes that a little more difficult to do.
So, what to do to address this? Primarily, I try to frequently ask myself ‘what would my daughter think of me if I gave her an honest appraisal of my day (and what would I feel whilst telling her)?’ Would I be proud to tell her I got mild road rage and honked my horn and swore like a trooper at someone cutting me up in the car? Would she respect me if I told her the train was busy and I didn’t offer my seat to someone standing because I had a window seat and it would have meant the person sitting next to me moving in order to do this (which is clearly a hideously weak excuse masking the fact that I simply couldn’t be bothered standing for half an hour)? Would I be comfortable in telling her I was tired and therefore didn’t give 100% at work, choosing instead to drift through the day whilst doing enough to get by without really fully committing? Would I be setting the right example if I started ranting and raving, for no good reason, whenever a ‘celebrity’ or public figure I don’t care for appears on the TV screen? The answer to all these is clearly ‘no’ and thinking in this way often helps me in trying to be the person I want to be, rather than the default-mode person it’s so easy to revert back to on a daily basis.
Like much of what I write about here, this doesn’t always work, but it certainly helps more often than not. Most days, I’d be genuinely horrified to sit down and offer that honest appraisal to my daughter. There would be at least one fact in there that I’d be reluctant and ashamed to admit to; probably many more than one. But, in thinking in this way, there is also a lot of good which I’d be happy to admit to. Like most of us, I’m sure, there would be acts of kindness, no matter how small or fleeting, which I would be proud to discuss. It isn’t always easy, and we’ll never be perfect, but we can certainly consider how each of us can do our own little bit.
Of course, in all of this, it’s of paramount importance that we’re kind to ourselves as well as others, though there’ll be more on that when I revisit it in an upcoming post.
Thanks for reading and look out for yourself and those you love.