Most days, I feel like I was sent to this Earth to work myself to death in the pursuit of ideals. I’ve been the queen of jamming as much stuff as possible into twenty-four hours and then berating myself for not getting more done. I’ve spent days cleaning and cooking and running errands and volunteering and folding laundry and getting a few moments of crafting and reading done, and then spending my falling-asleep time near tears because I’ve just not accomplished as much as I thought I should that day. I only mended three pairs of jeans instead of eight; we ate sandwiches for dinner instead of a pot roast and homemade rolls; I sat and watched my kids’ baseball games instead of walking around and getting in more steps. And then the Big Back Injury™ happened and that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t doing enough got even louder because yeah, hard to get stuff done when you’re loaded up on narcotics and can’t take a step without searing pain coursing through your body.
If you’ve ever needed to do some serious thinking about how your life is going, two years of bedrest and then three years of physical therapy that makes your body cry every day and THEN a pandemic will really give you that time. #lifehack
Before the Big Back Injury™, I was busy. Busy with homeschooing, busy with doing as many homemaking tasks from scratch as possible, busy with driving four kids around to music lessons, theatre practices, sports practices and games, busy with church music, busy with my own interests and hobbies (if I could find time to squeeze them in). Running from place to place every single moment of the day. And I liked it; I liked being busy and watching my children develop their talents, and I liked feeling like I was a part of my community.
But I still went to bed every night thinking I should have done more than I did.
And then the injury, and…nothing. If you think you haven’t done enough in a day on your good days, that voice inside your head gets really hysterical when you’re bedridden.
So I started quilting because it was interesting enough to make me want to get out bed and deal with the discomfort of sitting upright. At first I could handle ten minutes a day. It was a huge milestone, about eighteen months after I started, when I could go all morning until lunch,. And still, every one of those nights I went to bed thinking I was such a loser because the laundry wasn’t done, I hadn’t cooked a dinner, I hadn’t gardened. I pushed harder and harder to measure up to the ideal in my head, and as a result, I developed overuse injuries non-stop.
Then the pandemic hit and I discovered e-loans from the library and started reading as much as my heart had desired for years. (I never have enough money to buy all the books I want to read! God bless libraries.) I read The Twelve Week Year, and it suggested to write out your ideal week in a planner, and to block out time to work on your goals, etc. So I did, and lo and behold, I could not fit everything I thought I should be doing into the hours I had available to me in a week. And not only could I not fit everything I thought I should be doing, I couldn’t even fit everything I needed to be doing into my week. It was a huge wake-up call.
About that time a friend mentioned the quote “I hope you have the best week that’s available to you” because I was dealing with yet another injury of sorts, and that quote really resonated with me. Normally it’s “Have a good week,” which seems like a command when you think about it, but “Have the best week that’s available to you” is an acknowledgment that life isn’t perfect, can’t be planned for perfectly, and that we each are allowed a measure of grace in regards to our productivity, especially in the face of unforeseen trials and circumstances that impede or directly oppose our aspirations. Which, realistically, happens all the freaking time.
I dutifully plan out my week each Sunday in my trusty Action Day planner, complete with my 12 Week Year Strategy, Buffer, Work, and Breakout sessions, and by the time the next Sunday rolls around, there’s a bunch of little slash marks and little appointments and explanations penciled into the margins as to why this and that didn’t happen and why that had to be cancelled. I don’t know the last time I had a day go as I planned it to go, because COVID guidelines change things; because I have four kids who, shocker, do the things that kids do; and because I have a physical body that, spoiler alert, isn’t fifteen years old anymore and has suffered a lot of physical trauma. But now, after a year of re-programming my internal thinking, I don’t look at all those interruptions and changes and get (as) annoyed with them.
I’m learning to accept them. Interruptions and changes are just a part of normal life. They are constant, despite your best efforts to guard against them, and freaking out and getting angry about them accomplishes nothing except you being upset. I’ve learned that it’s better, when faced with an unforeseen situation that derails your plans, to say, “That sucks! I wish that hadn’t happened that way. OK then, what am I going to do now that that’s happened?” It works much better than sulking and ragin against the interference. In short, it’s better to acknowledge the unfortunate aspects of the situation, and then keep trying to have the best day that’s available to you.
The best day that’s available to you may not even be a good day. It may be such a terrible day that you wish it had never occurred, but you can still decide to let it be the best day available to you under the circumstances. There’s a huge power in the realization about how much you’re still in control of things even when things are completely out of your control. You can cry and hide from the world on the worst of the worst day and know that that was the best day to be had because that particular day was so rotten and overwhelming that the healthiest thing to do was to take a break and cry.
Other times you know you don’t have that option and so you do what you can as gracefully as you can given your resources, and then you make the decision to not beat yourself up over how the end result wasn’t perfect.
Some days you wake up in pain and you have to cancel. You do the necessary relaxation work that day and then make a phone call to your doctor to re-start physical therapy so you can get stronger and minimize the pain in the future.
Sometimes it goes exactly as planned. CELEBRATE THAT. SO MUCH.
Sometimes it goes nearly as planned, but only because you gutted it out and sacrificed and got stuck with jobs you didn’t originally sign on for, and you realize that it’s simply not worth the stress. So you make plans to resign from those commitments because they’re only making you miserable.
All of these experiences are valid. All of these experiences help us learn important life coping lessons. And you are the final say as to how you’re going to deal with them and later frame them in the context of a good or bad day.
We were never created to be perfect. We were created to experience life, which is a mix of good and bad. No one is guaranteed an easy existence, but we are given the choice to decide how we’re going to handle our existence, and how we handle our situations is as individual as each of us because we all have so many different backgrounds that we bring into those situations. Listen to your gut, get help with the stuff that’s too overwhelming or maladaptive, and celebrate your victories out loud. Make plans to do better at the things that matter to you and make plans to let go of the things that make you feel terrible and unloved. Be patient with the process of change because it can be exceedingly slow, and accept that there will be setbacks, but remember that setbacks aren’t permanent failures, just temporary hiccups. Keep making the decision to have the best day that’s available to you and soon enough, you’ll be living the best life that’s available to you, warts and all. Which actually is what we were sent to this Earth to do.
What’s the best life that’s available to you look like? Only you can tell us.