Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash.com

I’ve been trying very hard to keep my Cynic under control, but it’s becoming a challenge. My Cynic, and yes, it’s an entity unto itself, likes to run wild, wreak havoc, and be a general nuisance. Sure, it can be endearing and quirky. It can even be cute and flirtatious. But, and this is an elephant-sized but, it get’s old very quickly. It grates on that one hypersensitive nerve until I just wanna scream.

It’s the kind of thing you have fun with for a few days or a long weekend in a remote location. At first, it’s all fun with frolicking and such, but soon you realize that the attraction was superficial. It becomes exhausting, annoying, and you wonder what you ever saw in the damn thing in the first place. How drunk was I to think that cynicism fetching?

And I don’t even drink! So, if I’m asking that question, you know that I must’ve lost touch with reality or that one nerve finally gave out. Did that one nerve tether me to this realm of existence? Is that where the phrase, they just snapped, came from?

Lately, I’ve noticed a stinging skepticism slowly working its way into my world view. How could it not? We’re inundated with images, stories, and headlines that capture the worst of humanity. The negatives are reinforced by the comments sections and the replies. They validate the villainy and villainize anyone who shows compassion, empathy, or an ounce of kindness.

Honest question: When did equality become a bad word? Oh, and when did it become a sign of weakness to be kind? No, I’m not asking for a friend. This is me, asking these questions because I am befuddled. I’ll never understand how a compassionate response can be demonized and cruelty justified. No explanation will make these puzzle pieces fit for me. 

But hey, it wouldn’t be the first time someone online called me a commie socialist. Helpful tip, don’t try to explain the difference. You’ll have an easier time teaching a cat to speak french. Is it possible? Maybe. Is it probable? Good gracious me, no. 

It’s at this point in the conversation that I throw up my hands and declare that we are all doomed. As a species. As a collective. As a community. We are destined for the fiery pits of damnation, or we’ll spend the rest of our days riding, It’s A Small World. Which is my own personal hell, and I’m clearly projecting.

I went to Disneyland when I was 15, 16. An incredible organization called Dreams Take Flight, flies sick kids to Disney for the day at no cost. Flight, admission, food. It’s all covered, and it’s a fantastic experience. If, this was one small hiccup in an awesome day, that dastardly ride doesn’t breakdown. Then you spend forty-five minutes listening to, “It’s small world…It’s a small world…It’s a small world.”

If that’s not hell, I don’t know what is.

And we’re all doomed to spend eternity stuck in that loop. That’s it! We’re done for. Oh, but we deserve it.

Is that cynicism or fatalism? One leads to the other if I’m not careful, and I’m finding it rather difficult to be careful. People are losing their minds, and I’m following close behind. No, I’m not picking up the piece because, ew, they’re sticky and goopy. I’m dropping goopy pieces of my own so, this isn’t a statement of judgement or condemnation.

Okay, it is a little bit judgemental. I’m being an ass and judging which makes me a hypocrite. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s hypocrisy. Does that mean I’m having an identity crisis? Uh…Damn you, Cynic! Look what you made me do.

I’m losing my mind, but for different reasons. Should I go into it? Do I need to list everything that’s going on in the world right now? Extremism. Denialism. My rights versus your rights. A pesky pandemic. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum being, well, they’re being politicians.

That last one was cynicism for sure!

There’s a list. A long, alphabetized list that keeps getting longer, and I can’t keep track. I can go online and read all about it. Then, because clearly, I have issues, I can read all the comments from people who did one Google search and think they’ve earned a PhD. 

Why does my head hurt? Why is my stomach twisting itself into knots? How do I untangle my digestive system? Jumping jacks, perhaps.

If I use these metrics to gauge humanity’s level of decency? Yes, my Cynic is right. We’re all selfish assholes who’d let people suffer and die, as long as we weren’t inconvenienced. If this is true? Then, for those of us with an over-abundance of empathy, what’s the point of life? We’re all going to die at some point. Sorry to be a party pooper, but that’s just basic biology. We’re all going to end up the same way so, is the point of life outlasting the person next to me?

Live our best lives, and to hell with anyone else? Is that what it amounts to? It sure seems like it if I’m going by the headlines, stories, comment sections and social media threads. All the while, people are screaming for unity, compassion, and understanding. I’m so confused, and…I give up!

You win. I’m tired. If the whole point of life is to scream about one thing while actively pursuing the opposite? I don’t want to play anymore!

But then I went for a walk, and I saw a small act of kindness that reminded me that cynicism is a trap door, covering a deep, dark hole. Tread carefully or enter a free fall into…What exactly?

Almost two weeks ago, I started to feel a cold coming on. So, just to be safe, I followed the guidelines and isolated. I had COVID in September. I have a good idea of what it feels like, and this wasn’t it. But I’m not a jerk or I’m trying not to be, so I stayed inside.

Today, I’m feeling better, and I’ve made it through the “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY HOME” phase. That’s not what it’s officially called, but I’m lobbying for a name change. Will I succeed? You don’t know until you try.

And I assure you, I am very trying.

Anyhoo, I’m out of the danger zone, so I stepped outside and inhaled deeply. It was through a mask so, it wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it was nice to be outside. The sun was out, and it absolutely blinded me. It’s incredible how quickly the senses dull, and stimuli becomes overwhelming. Lovely, yes! But golly, it was a bit much.

I’m not complaining! It felt wonderful. It was needed. It made me so happy. 

I went out early enough to avoid people just in case I’m still cooking something. Was I being overly cautious? Sure, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, I was just content being out in the world.

I took my dog for a walk along a trail that leads up to the main road. There’s a shopping centre on one side and woods on the other. That’s what I love about living on the west coast of Canada. Nature and civilization co-mingle, for the most part, amicably. You can go into a bustling store and then walk home in the peaceful, magical realm of the woodland creatures.

It’s perfect. Well, almost perfect.

Like every other city, where there’s an abundance of wealth, there’s also an abundance of poverty. And there’s a section of this trail that stands in memoriam to the latter. It’s an old bridge that leads over a flowing creek. Carved into the wooden rails are the names of people who have lost their lives to addiction, homelessness, and poverty.

It’s a heartbreaking reminder that we, as a society, fail to care for the vulnerable, the wounded, and the sick. Especially when it comes to mental illness and addiction. These two things are pushed to the side because we’re more comfortable when it’s out of sight and mind. We use shame and moral righteousness to keep people in the shadows, and when we do that, we let them suffer, die, alone.

It’s one of the reasons I write about my struggles with mental illness. For a long time, I felt that shame, and I hid it in the shadows. I’m fortunate enough to have the love, nurture, and care of supportive family and friends. They’ve kept me from falling too far, but too many people are left in the dark.

But if we talk about it, bring it out of the shadows, and use love, compassion, kindness? Maybe there won’t be as many names on that bridge. Which brings me back to my walk and the moment my cynicism was silenced for the time being.

This bridge, tucked into the trees, is where people go to use their drug of choice. It’s a familiar spot to first responders and a high overdose area. I know this sounds horrible and depressing, which it is, but there was an act of compassion that stopped me in my tracks.

It’s small, and most of us wouldn’t even notice it. I only noticed it because of a conversation I had with a member of my family. They work with vulnerable people which, in my humble opinion, makes them an honest to God angel. Just saying, if you’re reading this, I’m continuously in awe of everything you do. Your courage and your compassion. You’ve taught me a lot about a lot, and that’s why I noticed this act of kindness.

I just had to take a picture

Hanging on a fence was a Naloxone Kit. It has everything you need to temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose. In my corner of the world, it’s something that anyone can pick up at a pharmacy for free and, if you use or will be around people using, it’s encouraged. If you can get a kit, get one, and protect yourself and the people around you.

Before someone pipes in, of course, not using is the best way to stay safe, but that’s not a reality for a lot of people. Access to addiction and mental health care is hard to come by. For me, as someone who struggles with CPTSD and it’s many branches, going to therapy once a week for a month is more expensive than my mortgage. I can’t afford it. If I had an addiction? For too many people, getting help is not possible.

Drugs and alcohol are less expensive than mental health care. That’s the problem right there. Let’s focus our energy on fixing systemic problems instead of extolling moral certitudes. People need help, but they can’t afford to get it. Until they can, thank God for people who leave life-saving aides in high-risk places.

That’s compassion in action right there. Someone saw people in need and did what they could to help. No reward or gratitude was needed or wanted. It’s just there in case someone is in trouble. That’s it. Someone cared and acted out of love, compassion, empathy.

We, myself included, talk about these concepts a lot, but how often do our words become deeds? How often do we act out of compassion? How often do we call it compassion when, in reality, it’s judgement or self-righteousness?

I’m asking myself these questions because I’m guilty of being all talk. There have been moments that, when pushed, I’ve turned my back and run away. I should’ve stayed and helped. I should’ve spoken with kindness, understanding, but I didn’t. My Cynic took over, and I acted out of selfishness.

But then one person comes along and does something so simple, so kind. They remind me that buzz words are meaningless without action. Deeds speak louder than anything else. What we say matters, but how we act matters a lot more. I’ll take it one step further. The measure of a person is not found in their vocabulary but in their treatment of others.

When I went for my walk, with everything going on, I was wondering if humanity stood a chance, but there you were; a simple act of compassion. Meaningless to most. Live-saving to someone. Thanks to the actions of one person, there just might be one less name on that bridge.

For me, that’s proof that we still have angels walking among us.

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