Be Kind To You

Lessons from a little pink Post-It note

By Karen Grosz

As a general rule, I try not to read too many things that are written on bathroom walls. Of course, there are the cute things, little poems and limericks that can make me smile, but some of the things are, well, gross. It’s funny that when you see these scribbles, you’re drawn to them. You can tell right away that you don’t want to see the ending, but it’s too late; you read it anyway and wish you could wipe away the memories.

Still, bad words aside, it was a bathroom wall note that taught me the poem, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie wipe the seaty.” That’s a little ditty I’ve used in every restroom I’ve been responsible for. It’s also from a stall wall that I learned “Don’t wear your wishbone where your backbone should be.” Now, that friends, isn’t bad advice ,and I think if we remembered to apply it when we dream of a new circumstance, we’d have better results.

A better result was what I was looking for when I landed in a convenience store in Colorado recently. I’d been working with a team doing strategic planning and was headed toward an airport hotel and then home. The day had gone pretty well, except for one conundrum we couldn’t solve. We’d pulled it apart, turned it over and over and left with all but this one dilemma solved. That’s not how I like to work. I am a problem solver, or at least a question asker until the problems are solved and I’d been bested. I found myself in a bit of a funk. Ice cream cures funks. At least that is what I told myself as I trotted to the restroom past the freezer full of treats. 

Only once, when I was sure I’d starve to death if I didn’t, have I eaten a hot dog from a convenience store, but as an old road dog who loves a good road trip, I have eaten my fair share of chocolate covered peanuts and Fritos, which I’d never purchase to have at home. Ice cream, well, I prefer gourmets, like Wilcoxson’s from Livingston or Genuine made in Bozeman, but since I was in a funk, I determined I’d grab something on the way out. Then, as often happens if you keep your eyes open, God, the Universe or Serendipity laid a pink post-it note on the stall floor, and knowing full well it could be something I didn’t want to see, I read it anyway.

Be kind to you.

That’s what it said, be kind to you, with a small numerical calculation I didn’t bother to convert to memory. The words hit me. I was beating myself up for a problem no one else could solve and I decided cheap ice cream would make it better? Are you kidding me? Where is the kindness in that decision? I didn’t pick up the post-it, and I didn’t take a photo of it either because nothing is weirder than hearing a camera click in a bathroom stall. But it stuck with me. I didn’t buy the ice cream and I released the problem as not mine to solve alone. Two hours later, as I was sitting in my hotel room, dining on salad and smoked salmon, an email arrived with an insight into our team’s dilemma — an email with just the right answer. It was the one we couldn’t find when we were too deep in the process to hear the wisdom of just letting it be for a bit. 

Be Kind to You.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately. We are remodeling our house, still and again, and we are making decisions for when we are elderly. What height would work for a shelf, what floors would be easiest to clean, and what would be kind for elderly people to experience in their home? No, we aren’t installing grab bars. We’re not that old, thank you very much, but we are trying to think ahead. My business of team-building and coaching is exploding right now and keeping up with it is quite the task, so I’ve hired staff, dropped some offerings and invested in infrastructure that helps me to be kind to myself as I dash through the day. New shoes? Yes, flats please, cute ones. Vegetables or dessert. Well … what kind of ice cream is it exactly? I run most decisions through the lens of kindness. 

What I’ve known for a long time is that I function best, and I bet you do too, if I’m taking care of my needs first, getting my rest, taking time to think, doing the things I love to do. It’s hard to do. That’s when the wisdom of the bathroom floor is needed. Be Kind to You. As we fall toes over teacup into 2023, it is normal to set goals, dream dreams and promise that this year will be different than last. And it can be. All you have to do is lead with the question, what would be kind to me in this moment? What would be the kindest decision I could make for future me?  

As women, we often make decisions based on what is kind to those around us. What does our child need, our parent, our friend? What would be kindest to them? Do they need a blanket, a hug or a moment of truth? As daughters, spouses, mothers, friends, parishioners, bosses, employees and community members, we have a lot of people to please, a lot of people to do the kindest things for, and that can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Because with that list, it is easy to just make do for ourselves. To live where they want us to live, to dine where they want us to dine, and to be whom they want us to be. 

That is not what my pink post-it note friend wants for us. That unknown, but all-knowing friend wants us to lead with kindness to ourselves.

When I saw the note, I did ponder what the author was going through, what story she had to tell, and if the loss of this note would put a hole in her recovery, or the journey she was taking. What had she done to herself that was unkind? I had as many questions as you do. Today, I have a new question. What could it mean to the world, to women traveling through life, if every time we stopped in a public restroom, we dropped a pink note that said, Be Kind to You? I think it’s a question worth exploring and I’m going to start today. #bekindtoyou 

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