(Originally posted April 26, 2013)
“I’m doing the best I can,” I told my son the other day. I was surprised how quickly he accepted that and cut me some slack. I wish I were as quick to give myself the benefit of the doubt.
“Doing my best” sometimes seems like a cop-out, especially to the Perfectionist in my head (Remember her? She’s that loud know-it-all who tells me all the ways I’m wrong).
I think that all of us really are doing the best we can, in the circumstances we’re in, with the current set of skills we have. It’s easy to feel we can do better, but striving to improve is something best done in moderation. I haven’t always felt this way.
I recently found the only short story I have ever finished, and it was written at a time when I unequivocally felt that my dad’s best was worthless. The story is like a diatribe against my last boss, my mother, my father, and my aunt.
It was written seven years ago, and my oh my, how much has changed. My dad is dead now, and I forgive him everything because I really understand now that he did do the best he could. He never learned the skills to dig himself out of the really dark place his depression and anxiety always brought him back to. He never built the amazing support network that I’ve been extremely lucky to find. Who I am is very much because of my relationship with him, and I’m grateful that I knew him.
My aunt in the story is the aunt I recently reconnected with. She criticized my mother, but it was almost 15 years ago, and she was going through a rough time with her own kids. She did apologize at the time. The fact that my mom and my aunt are able to pick up right where they left off is so satisfying to me.
The depiction of my mother in the story is rather more a caricature of her quirks. But the thing about my father telling me that she tried to abort me twice is true. I’ve never spoken to her about it. I don’t feel the need or desire to. It’s immaterial whether it’s true. I know that she loves me now, and she’s very proud of me. I appreciate her so much more now than I did when I was growing up, or even just a few years ago.
I still find it hard when someone does something that irritates me, especially if I’m driving. I’m so quick to tell myself that they should have done something different, been more courteous, not been an idiot. Then I remember that that’s just my ego or my Perfectionist.
The truth is that we’re all doing the best we can, but just like our kids, sometimes we get tired, or hungry, or grumpy, or afraid, or all four simultaneously, and our best looks kind of messy and not particularly good.
Dog shows have many, many categories for judging, and then the final category is Best in Show. I’d like to think now that we are each in our own category, and we’re doing our best in the show that is our lives. Cheesy, I know, but I’m going to “try it on” and see if it helps me be more accepting of myself and everyone around me. I want that so bad, it’s worth experimenting with lots of different things, cheesy, idiotic, or what not. So much of my frustration in life is refusing to accept things as they are.
Here is the short story I wrote in June 2006. My husband likes to say that I am an “award-winning” writer since I won third prize and $10 for this piece at the community college where I was taking a creative writing course.