In this day of fitting in one more thing, or “reaching for the stars” it can be difficult to see what we are actually doing. It can seem like no matter how much we run from one work task, child’s activity, volunteer task, paperwork, financial document, or exercise class, the only feeling that we feel is run ragged. At the end of the day, all we check off in our heads are the to-do checkmarks left undone and the tasks that didn’t make it on the list at all. Even when we feel like we have had a “busy day,” we can feel unaccomplished and unworthy. The measuring stick of accomplishment can seem like it constantly is moving. All of us in this society of perpetual bootstrap-upping are asked to be masters of their own homes, successful in their careers, genuine spouses and expert parents, financial gurus, accomplished socialites, and oh wait, have the lean body of Gillian Anderson? All of that, while also accomplishing the basics (which often go by the wayside) of feeding, watering, and resting ourselves. It is even a wonder with those expectations that we don’t show up forgetting to put our pants on in the morning. Have we even counted up the hours necessary for that cacophony of expectations? My gracious. No matter how much Steven-Coveying we do in planning sometimes it feels like we are still going to end up in the negative. All of this with most of us working a US average of 47 hours a week and spending more time with our kids than any time in US History (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/19/AR2007031901972.html). We continue to raise the bar on what it means to be “an adult” in America while constantly feeling like we are failing.
A good friend, who is a wonderful mother, and the organization guru that I only aspire to in my wildest imagination, said to me this week how she went to the gym with her four children, did a class, and had her children participate in a class. All had a wonderful time and she had a feeling of pride at this new accomplishment. However, the enthusiasm was dampened when she met another woman who also had four children, all approximately 6 months older than hers, but she told me that they all seemed to do things a bit “better.” Coordinated exercise outfits, organic snack in between activities, etc. etc. and they had been to the gym four times that week. All my friend could think of (and frankly, myself too!) was “HOW DID SHE DO THAT?” She did everything that I did….but better??? My friend’s excitement at having made it to the gym with all of her kids withered and it bothered her, because all she could see was the image in front of her, and like a cruel mirror it said, “Haha. Nice Try.”
Why did her image of her accomplishment change? Why does all of our moments of accomplishment change, that alters that sense that we “are enough.” Many times it is the moments where we look around and see what we perceive to be each other’s “baseline of operation” and judge ourselves for not cutting it. We concentrate on the magic trick in front of us, not knowing the circumstances from where this comparative image comes from and forget to see what we are doing day by day in creating the life we have. From an evolution stanpoint, I suppose this makes sense, in a rather “survival of the fittest sense.” We want better for the next generation. And I think that sometimes this translates to what we perceive as “the next generation” of ourselves? Like New Year’s Resolutions, we try and imagine the next “version” of ourselves. Not all of us have children, but each day we have the opportunity to make ourselves better, a rebirth. Does it truly make us better? How is that even defined?
The author Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements” offers us this: he states that one of the four basic rules of living is to “Do Our Best”—nothing more and nothing less. Only our best. Ruiz states that we can only do our best and that our best is customized and personalized only to…you guessed it, ourselves. He states “Our best will change from moment to moment, will be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” One of our greatest mistakes is comparing our best to someone else’s best, without truly knowing all of the circumstances surrounding the person we are comparing ourselves. Yes, they may have done the seemingly impossible—successfully wrangled four polite children in coordinating outfits to the gym four days a week—but we don’t know who may have helped her at home with that, what some of the other areas of her life looked like, if her house is as messy as mine….who knows….and frankly, should we care enough to compare? Does it serve us to care or compare, or does it make us simply feel bad about ourselves and our contributions? We cannot possibly have the energy and focus to “be the best” in all areas of life, and even if that were the case, what best would we be comparing ourselves? Ruiz states “always do your best” not “always do the best,” which is a gigantic difference in perspective. It is the difference between feeling like you have done enough, and that you accomplished something, and the feeling like you are always coming up short. Do we do our best when we feel like we are always coming up short or does it deplete us? Give yourself the gift of feeling like you are enough by acknowledging your accomplishments, and see how you feel. It may “the best” thing you do for yourself all day.
Activity: As it is the beginning of the month, look back on February and think of all of the things great and small that you accomplished. Did you finish a proposal or paper? Were you friendly to someone when you didn’t exactly feel like it? Did you exercise (even once!)? Did you cook dinner at home for your family? Clean your house? Did you make a tough decision? Or deal with some lingering grief? Do a small home project that you had been putting off? Log more hours in at work? Did you make a therapy or doctor’s appointment that you have been putting off? Do something new or out of your comfort zone? Go out with a friend…or phone one that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Anything counts, and should, as a good first step in recognizing what you bring to the world.
And remember, the old saying, reach for the moon because if you miss you will land among the stars is an astrological impossible quest. Stars are further than the moon, so in reaching for the moon you will just land in the earth’s deadly atmosphere. Keep it local people. Reach for being your best self….which is complicated in and of itself!!