I was supposed to go to CrossFit this morning. But I didn’t because my ankle has been hurting me. Hurting in a weird way, really. Like a sprained ankle, but with no source...as if it is merely an old injury re-expressing itself. Day-to-day living doesn’t make it better or worse, but certain uses certainly make it angry and burpees are one such activity. And today’s workout included lots and lots of burpees. I woke up on time for the class and felt the ankle hurt as I moved it along the surface of my mattress. So I came up with a plan to take the hour I would have been working out to really address it. I’ve been massaging it, but I need a full exploration and some thinking outside of the box because nothing seems to be significantly changing.
This all sounds reasonable, right? As if I made a good and grown-up decision. But I sit here feeling guilty. As if this action is really just a cop-out. A way to justify being lazy. I mean, I could have gone to CrossFit and done the things I could do...and then still worked on my ankle later today.
I have a similar struggle every other Monday. It’s marked on my calendar as a day off, so that I get two days off in a row twice a month. Seems reasonable, right? But I feel compelled to still work on SOMETHING that day. Because I’m just not confident that I get enough done during my real business hours. Everybody thinks I’m so productive, but I kinda feel like a fraud. If you only knew how productive I COULD be if I could just maintain proper discipline.
Simply put...I have no confidence in knowing that I am truly doing my best. I’ve thought about this for years. I’ve listened to people compliment me on all that I produce and accomplish, sometimes believing them and sometimes believing that they are so dead wrong. I’ve tried to get a bead on it by comparing myself to the world. Sometimes seeing, compared to your general run of the mill human, my accomplishments are vast. Sometimes seeing, given the gifts I have to work with, I have woefully failed.
A person who has been studying their spirituality/psychology for a while can easily see the most basic intrinsic flaw in my brain chatter. A lot of my assessment of myself comes from the external world. From what people say to me and from my comparison of my life to someone else’s. This kind of thinking is dangerous. It pits me against others and me against myself. Using others to assess yourself requires judgement. And that, generally speaking, isn’t a rabbit hole you should send yourself down. It also strips a person of context. We aren’t individual accomplishments or failures. We are a collection of actions in the landscape of a larger life. Trying to definitively understand, process and glean wisdom from all the things that have led you to this moment is a challenge. Doing the same for those around you is an impossibility. And the best possible outcome that can come from trying, is a blooming of compassion. Unfortunately, this is not the most common outcome.
But even if I can remove the above, I am left with confusion. I get stuck on what “my best” truly is. We’ve been discussing this in You Time as we study The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. The last of the Agreements, and the one the author contends is the most important one, is: “Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.”
I don’t know how others read this, but to me it is the most difficult piece of wisdom EVER (foot stomp for petulant accent).
I know what my best looks like, you see. I have perfect days, perfect workouts, perfect conflicts, perfect meals, perfect holidays, perfect turns of phrase, perfect sleeps, even perfect learning moments that might otherwise look like mistakes.
And I know that I could almost always do more, eat better, exercise harder, work with better focus, love with better consciousness, push myself just a bit more firmly towards my dream self and my dream life.
I don’t always “do my best.” That is a truth.
But there is an equal truth that goes…”They did the best with the resources available to them at the time.” It’s a phrase you will hear often in circles of people who are trying to find healing, often from big, ugly things. “How could my parent beat me?” “Why were they a falling down drunk?” “Why didn’t they keep me safe?” “Why couldn’t they show me they loved me?” They were simply doing their best with the resources available to them at the time.
Lordy, but this is a very hard truth to grapple with. Because you can’t be angry with someone who is doing their best. And you can’t revile someone who is doing their best. And, somehow, you have to forgive someone who is doing their best...As horribly as their best might have played out in your life, it really is true that they were doing the best they could at the time with the resources available.
Ef. I can hold that truth fairly well a lot of the time, but it is easy as pie for me to drop back into resentfulness, anger and pain. I say again... Eeeefffff.
And then there is the flip side. I have to have that same compassion for myself. I was doing my best with the resources available to me at the time.
My best. I think I get hung up there. I think I focus too much on what my best CAN be instead of noticing a little more fully the second half of that sentence: the resources available to me at the time.
Why is it that my best at the gym magically becomes better when my trainer is standing behind me telling me to go harder and faster? Because he is a resource. Why do I do better when I have a ton to accomplish and a limited time to do it in versus all the time in the world? Because that sense of urgency is a resource. Why do I do better on my budget when I have just a little bit of money than when I have a lot or none? Because, to me, that becomes a challenging game of skill and creativity, and that game is a resource. When thought about like that, my best becomes less important than my pool of resources.
How do I foster encouragement in my life? How do I keep that sense of urgency? How to I view the more difficult logistics of my life as a game? How do I keep my body healthy so it can accomplish the tasks I ask of it? How do I foster relaxation and rejuvenation in my life? How do I foster fun? These are much better questions than “How can I do my best at all times?”
In fact, these aren’t just better questions than “How can I do my best at all times?” Actually, they are the answer to that question. You do your best at all times by providing yourself with the an amazing pool of resources.
I love that, in the tree hugging construct, you are always exactly where you are supposed to be, receiving exactly what you need for each day. And I also hate it. Because if you stop there, without seeing your personal responsibility in the equation, it can become a trap. Saying, “I did my best” and being able to rest on that knowledge is invaluable. But so is examining what didn’t go as I would have liked it and asking myself what resource could I have accessed to change the outcome. Did I not eat and was lethargic and hangry? What could I do to make sure my nutrition is better tomorrow? Did I just feel burnt? What could I do to re-energize my give-a-heck? Did I make a tactical mistake that created a wave of chaos in my life? What could I do to simplify and streamline my best practices so that I make less of those types of errors?
Being gentle with myself is actually just another resource. As are my stern, come-to-Jesus chats with myself. The dialectical at work, that is. And somewhere between those two poles I’m hoping to find a little bit of grace and acceptance and a letting go of guilt and recrimination.
Because I really did do my best today and everyday.