My best is not static.
Some days this summer, I was capable of working a 10+ hour day as a PCA/school attendant to a highly-active little boy with Down’s syndrome and type 1 diabetes — and then I’d do a workout, get some chores done around the house and then usually squeeze in something creative of one type or another. Those are the kinds of days the ‘me’ of four years ago literally couldn’t have imagined for herself.
Then again, even with years of good work on myself and my capabilities, some days are like today: a struggle. I woke up around 9:00 — late for me — because I had a night shift at a new job yesterday and plenty of weird nightmares afterward. I made it to the clinic for a rescheduled fasting lab appointment at 10:00, then spent a couple hours grocery shopping, then finally came home and ate my first meal of the day: pizza. (I always, always feel like garbage after I eat pizza, but I love it and still do it now and then anyway. One of those things I’m working on examining and understanding about myself.)
I’ve been at this new job as a frozen & dairy department manager for about a week, and have the blisters on my feet to prove it. (Luckily I manage coldcases and backstock, not people, but I’m still filtering through learning curve stresses.) I ate too much damn pizza. (Pizza crust is one of the most heinous things you can eat if you’re trying to keep on the low end of the glycemic index with your food — and even though I have insulin resistance from polycystic ovary syndrome instead of type 2 diabetes, shitty carbs like pizza crust still play hell on my blood sugar.)
Now, I’m exhausted, my feet seem to hurt worse than they did before and it’s cloudy outside. The idea of a nap until my usual Friday evening meetup sounds pretty damn tempting.
But I’ve also been thinking about writing here. About how adamant I am that we’re always making choices. I know I feel like shit when I take a nap, and I bet you a pretty penny that napping directly after eating a bunch of pizza can only be exponentially worse than usual.
So, instead, here I am.
A few years ago, I was exposed to Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
At the time, #2 (with a side of #3) were the hardest for me.
Partially because I grew up in a familial climate created by generations of untreated mental illness, neglect and systemic abuse, I had a tendency to assume almost everything was my fault, or if not, I was somehow making a negative situation worse by simply being there and/or a part of it. (I also believed that people only cared about me or were nice to me because they were generous humans who felt sorry for me, or that I had somehow tricked them into thinking I was a likeable, worthwhile human being. …Coping mechanisms are often strange, confused beasts once we’ve made it out of the situation we created them to survive inside.)
A friend of mine commented on my obsessive apologies more than once when I hadn’t even realized I was doing it — and then they challenged me to do a burpee every time I apologized for something that I didn’t need to. Of course, they would never force me to do anything against my will, but I wanted to play along, so I did.
And I’ll tell you this: it worked. It got me paying attention to when I was shrinking back, casting my eyes to the floor and trying to back out of my skin by muttering ‘I’m sorry’ at a mile a minute.
Between the burpees and the instructors at Violence Dynamics 2014, I began to learn when an apology was necessary and when it wasn’t. In the next few years, I learned about actual communication from a series of conversations with Mr. Anderson — about half of my left over ‘I’m sorry’s were actually me trying to say something else entirely, from “Didn’t mean to cut in line there, lemme correct that” to “I’m feeling a little out of my depth here, could you explain that a bit more?”
For the past few months, and especially in this moment, I’m focused on #4: “Always do your best.”
The things we’re capable of at our ‘best’ can change — but I think Ruiz is referring to the version we have in us at any given moment.
For me, at this moment, that means writing this informal blog post instead of shutting the curtains, setting an alarm and giving into abusive self talk on my way to a short-term carb coma.
It would be so, so easy to lay in the dark and berate myself on my way to sleep — “You shouldn’t have eaten that pizza, this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this shitty after eating it, you know better. You should’ve made your fasting blood work appointment earlier, you lazy piece of shit; lots of people work late, it’s no excuse. You should’ve known walking that much would give you blisters. You should’ve written about literally anything else here instead of rambling about your bullshit struggles on a random Friday afternoon.”
It’s still baffling to me how easy it is to see what assholes we can be to ourselves when we write it all out, but how utterly convincing such self talk can sound un-examined in our heads. Furthermore, finding the truth of the situation isn’t me being ‘kind’ to myself, or ‘taking it easy.’ Once I slow down and re-focus on reality instead of beating myself up and throwing myself down, here’s what’s apparent: I’ve dug out better shoes for my next shift, I made it to my appointment this morning and there’s good food in the house for my next week of meals. End of story. Blisters are already in place, and pizza’s on its way to my guts — the time to make different decisions is always ahead of us, never behind. We can learn from the aftermath of previous decisions, but there’s a vast difference between ‘re-examination’ and ‘self-abuse.’
And anyway, last I checked, there’s always a 1 in 7 chance personal development will take place on a random Friday.
Calling anyone’s struggles ‘bullshit’ (including your own) is an assumptive reduction at best — and just like blisters, a lot of our pains are caused because what we try to protect ourselves with doesn’t quite fit right anymore.