What if you always did the kindest thing?

What if you were guided always by the decision always to do the kindest thing in any given moment?

Imagine how your life would be if every decision you have made and will make were guided only by kindness. What kind of world you have helped to create?

Being kind to all, and striving always to do the kindest thing, may not be as easy as it first sounds. At times, the kindest thing to do can also be the hardest thing to do.

Doing the kindest thing for another soul can be emotionally painful in the moment.

Praline

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Earlier this month, my wife and I had to make the horrible decision to have our remaining guinea pig, Praline, put to sleep (his older brother Sundae having sadly passed away in May 2021). There is no doubt that this was the kindest thing to do in the circumstances. But it was also the hardest thing to do.

Praline was the loveliest guinea pig (I wrote about him and his wonderful take on life in Be more Praline). I never had any pets growing up and never had any interest in animals. I could never have imagined how much two souls as tiny as Sundae and Praline would enrich, colour and transform my life. After a great many years together, my wife convinced me to take the plunge into keeping guinea pigs as pets in October 2016. She correctly felt that guinea pigs would be the perfect pet for the introvert in me (well, the introvert that is all of me, if I am being honest). Guinea pigs often behave in a manner that is familiar to the introvert. They enjoy the company of humans from time to time, but quickly have their fill and wander back off to enjoy themselves in their own quiet little world. But give them enough time and space to be themselves, and they will reveal themselves to have the most wonderful and rich little personalities. As they learn to trust you, they will from time to time drop some of their prey-animal defences, and let you bask in who they truly are.

PralineNovember2019

None of this will be news to seasoned owners of guinea pigs (and some close variant will be familiar to anyone who has the privilege of sharing their lives with an animal). But it was news to me. Learning to live with and to care for and to love tiny animals was an adventure I could never have imagined.

Seasoned owners of guinea pigs (or people who have the privilege of sharing their lives with any animal) know that there will come a point when they have to leave you. Praline’s time came earlier this month. The poor love had a great many health troubles over the course of his life. The receptionist at the vet’s practice described Praline as “a frequent flyer”, as they treated him so often. The head vet there described him as “a little tank”, as he had survived and rebounded from so many horrible episodes that by rights should have proven final for him. This month, age and prolonged health issues finally caught up with little Praline. It was agonising to see his rapid deterioration, to see him lose physical condition and even to see some of that lovely shine in his eyes begin to fade off. The visits to the vet became even more frequent, with four trips there in the last 10 days of his life (including the one from which he would not return).

My wife and I kept close watch on him throughout, not wanting him to suffer. Up until the end, he would still find moments of fun, enjoyment and good humour. But – heartbreakingly – these started to become less frequent. We came to the decision that we would have to know when to call it, to recognise when his deterioration was accelerating to the extent that he could no longer enjoy a decent quality of life. The time finally came on the morning of Friday 22 October 2021, that we would have to make the appointment for the vet to put him to rest.

That day was so sad.

The adventure with those two tiny guinea pigs, those two beautiful little souls, is over.

It feels like there will never be another adventure.

This is an illusion.

Give them all the time they need

Gentle Romantic Flower Still Life
Tender flowers of golden-daisy good for romantic post. Gentle romantic flower photo.

Doing the kindest thing for yourself can be emotionally painful in the moment.

I am writing this post on Saturday 30 October 2021. A week today will mark exactly 25 years since the day that my grandma passed away (on 6 November 1996). I loved her more than anything. My world felt empty once she had gone. Sitting at her cremation ceremony, the sadness and loss was overwhelming. I remember thinking during that ceremony that I would never be able to stop crying, that the flood of tears would be eternal. I remember thinking that I could not imagine life continuing without my grandma in this world. The sadness was overwhelming. I could not deny my feelings in that moment. I felt that those feelings would be eternal, that they would be the entirety of my world going ahead.

It felt like there would never be another adventure.

This was an illusion. The quarter of a century since that day has often felt like the most extraordinary adventure. My life is unrecognisable from what it was then. I am married to a woman I couldn’t have known existed back in 1996, and I live in a place I had never even heard of back then. I could never have imagined then that I would one day share my world with a pair of guinea pigs, nor that losing them would be so unbearable, would make me feel like I could not go on without them.

When feelings of loss are so overwhelming, you have no choice but to give them full vent. Emotional reactions do not always arrive in such an unambiguous and all-consuming manner. It is an invaluable kindness to yourself to permit yourself to sit quietly with your feelings, no matter what they might be. When you lose another soul, it is a kindness to acknowledge your feelings of loss and to give them full expression, give them all the time they need. In this circumstance, doing the kindest thing for yourself can be unbearably painful, as you give yourself in to the rawest of emotions. But these emotions will need to find their way out somehow. They will need to be freed into the world, with or without your consent.

The kindest thing to do will almost always prove to be the best possible thing to do. But it might also be the toughest course you can take.

What if you were guided always by the decision always to do the kindest thing in any given moment?

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.

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