At least once a week, I feel disappointed in myself. It often occurs when I see someone’s birthday has come and gone and I didn’t wish they happiness of any kind.
Or when I realize that I left the clothes in the washer for long enough for them to take on a very special essence.
Or when I realize AFTER someone has waved and walked on that they were waving at me, and I was oblivious.
So you would think that for someone who is disappointed in themselves this often, that I would be willing to cut others some slack. I can often get to that point, but my initial reaction, more often than not, is frustration or disappointment that what someone said they would do didn’t get done.
A few weeks ago, I finished listening to Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, and had to laugh (out loud, listening to the audiobook, walking by myself down the street – no you’re weird) with her when she told the story of the woman who wiped her hands on the hotel furniture and smoked on the balcony of a non-smoking room because I was so annoyed and I wasn’t even there. So I was not at all prepared for her to ask this question:
“What if people are doing the best they can?”
The deadline missers? The procrastinators? The promise-I’ll-be-on-time-but-we-both-know-I’m-lyingers?
Could they really be doing the best they can?
And then it happened again – I was a few minutes late for work. My day job doesn’t mandate I’m there right at a certain time – the people who work for me know how to carry on. But I wanted to be on time, and I wanted to get a load of dishes started before I left, and I wanted to walk instead of drive (sparse parking + better health goals) and as soon as I stepped out my front door, I knew I was going to be late.
Three years ago, I fell while picking apples and broke my hand. At the time I broke it, the orthopedic surgeon was confident it would heal without surgery. He was mistaken, and eight weeks later, I had the bone rebroken and a plate and eight pins added to the tarsal of my right (dominant) hand.
Today, if I weed too much, grip and push or pull anything too much, my fingers and hand and wrist and forearm will all swell from the trauma. The strength of my grip is weak. And there are certain passages in piano music that I can no longer play the way I want because my 4th finger doesn’t move up and down the way it was trained to. It has been a blow to my ego because my ability to just take care of everything is weakened. The current state of “the best I can” is weaker, slower, less independent than it used to be. And while I still do things to try and help my hand get stronger, it is very, very slow work.
The day of the solar eclipse, I didn’t have the excitement that many of my friends had. It would be cool if I saw it, but not essential. But that day will be locked in my memory for quite a while because my mental health TANKED. Hard. I was low enough that I couldn’t hide my lowness, and I usually can. Friends were concerned, husband was concerned, the kids could tell something was off with me. All I wanted to do was go home, put on my pajamas, and stay in bed for a long, long, long time.
I stayed at work. I kept busy doing things because climbing in bed, for me, makes my depression worse. I’d taken my Vitamin D, my Prozac, my Vitamin B12. I drank more water, got in some short walks, listened to the music that often helps and I was just down.
That was not the day that I was going to get caught up on laundry. It wasn’t a day when my kids would experience a patient mom. It was a day that I thought only of the next step, of what needed to be done next, and forced everything else to the side because that day, with the heavy monster of depression weighing an extra amount, that was the best I could do.
I have the good fortune of having these surges only rarely. That’s not to say I don’t have low days – I do – but they are mostly manageable if I intentionally use some of the tools I mentioned earlier.
One of the greatest goals I have as a mom is to teach my kids to be kind. We talk openly about how sometimes people are dealing with weight we can’t see. And how the forgiveness we are willing to give to others probably needs to be shared with ourselves as well.
After all, we are doing the best we can.