“It’s chaos; be kind."

Last night my husband and I watched comedian Patton Oswalt’s Netlix special “Annihilation.” It was raw and coarse and heart-wrenching. The middle was devoted to the aftermath of his wife Michelle’s sudden death, and how he is now groping his way through the grief. Even through the tears, he had us laughing, because that is life. It’s awful and joyous, deliriously agonizing while blissfully awesome. He said that he and Michelle used to have deep philosophical debates about the universe. He thought that perhaps there was something bigger than all of us while she argued the world is just chaos. There’s no plan. The only way to combat the chaos is to be kind. Oswalt then said she got to prove her theory through the worst possible way ever: her death, leaving him alone to raise their young daughter. His story about trying to protect Alice from the the harshness of her first Mother’s Day without her own mother was especially poignant. He ended his show with his wife’s words, “It’s chaos; be kind.” I love this. The reaction to all the chaos in the world is to just be kind. 

It’s chaos; be kind.

When I look at my thesaurus for synonyms for chaos, the list is exhausting…bedlam, disorder, pandemonium, anarchy. All of these can define the world we live in now. It is unruly. We’re all wandering around in a fog. We roar against the turmoil only to have our voices echo in a vast canyon of utter confusion.

Where do we find comfort? Be kind. What to do when confronted with a troublesome situation? Be kind. What if our world seems to be swirling toward a Scylla and Charybdis of our own creation? Be kind.

Smile at strangers. Generously tip waitstaff. Hold the door for the person behind you. Be patient when you’re behind a slow driver. Realize there is a personal story behind the young mother in front of you at the store using food stamps to pay for her groceries. Say “good morning” and “have a nice day” and really mean it. See people instead of stereotypes. Admit you’re wrong. Forgive. Acknowledge that everyone out there has their own worries, their own pain, their own struggles.

It’s chaos; be kind.

Be present. Know life is shitty, but it is also precious. An ecstatic announcement of a long awaited pregnancy often comes at the same time as a dreaded diagnosis. This is the paradox that is life.

It’s chaos; be kind.

Some find comfort from chaos in houses of worship, singing familiar hymns, holding onto faith and believing in the power of prayer.

Me? I walk beside a muddy river that churns along despite everything. I dance on the path and sing off-tune to my favorite songs. I nod at fellow walkers. I spy white pelicans walking gracefully in shallow water. A stranger stops me and asks if I can identify the hawk in the viewfinder of her camera. I say no, I am not a bird expert. She smiles and says, “That’s okay. I’m new to all this.” We smile at one another and continue our separate walks. 

Aren’t we all new to this? We naively stumble through each day ignorant and broken, yet we seek solace from the mess. We cook for each other. We hold hands. We listen to music. We pray to whatever deity we honor. We comfort the wounded. We stand up. We continue to believe in goodness, because as Anne Lamott once wrote, “Love and grace bat last.”

It’s chaos; be kind.

IMG_8651.JPG