Doing the Best We Can

I was talking to my sister the other day and I mentioned that the sum total of all that I have learned in my many years of living is that no one is just one thing and that we are all doing the best we can.

Well, except for me. Somehow I don’t include myself in that “doing the best we can.” I’ve been noticing lately how negative I am about myself and how much I beat myself up for not doing what I think I should be doing. For example, the pendulum of my lifestyle swings slowly from doing all I know how to do to be healthy to not doing anything to promote my health. At the moment, I am at the far reaches of the arc — exercising very little and eating very much the wrong thing.

Every night as I review my day, I castigate myself for my stupidity of falling into the sugar trap. After all, if you know the right thing to do to promote health and don’t do it, you are either lacking in discipline or not very intelligent. Or both. Still, it doesn’t help the situation to berate myself for my foolishness. In fact, it exacerbates the problem because it underlines the situation and makes it even harder to rectify the matter.

I’ve been trying to work on this — not being so negative about myself, not judging my actions, believing that I really did do the best I could that day even if it was far from my ideal. More than that, I’m trying to get away from the habit of reviewing my day. (It’s a fairly recent habit and I have no idea how it came about except that perhaps it started when I began to talk to Jeff’s picture when I was getting ready for bed to help relieve the onset of late night loneliness, which is also a fairly recent phenomenon.)

It seems to me that the very act of reviewing one’s actions is a judgement and that an active acceptance of one’s actions is a sneaky way of judging without judging, which is why I want to get away from the habit of reviewing my day. Whatever I did or didn’t do each day should be left in the past and truthfully, everything is in the past. Obviously, as soon as something has been done, it’s already part of the past and not the present. (Which leads me to question if one can ever actually live in the moment since the moment is thinner than a knife edge and by the time one has acknowledged the moment, it’s already in the past.)

Even though this negativity about myself is something I’ve been struggling with, I haven’t wanted to write about it because it would seem to contribute to the whole concept of beating myself up, but lately I’ve come to realize that this is a fairly common problem. So many of us hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others. (Or do I mean a lower standard?) It makes sense when you think about it — our most intimate relationship is with ourselves. No matter where we go, there we are. We are witness to our most base body functions, our ignoble thoughts, our failures and foibles. I think it’s hard to accept all that as “doing the best we can.” We could probably do better and probably have at some time or other, but on any given day, I tend to think that perhaps we really are doing the best we can. (In this case I am including me in the “we.”)

I doubt making this effort will change my life in any significant manner, but if it helps bring me peace, then it’s all to the good.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

2 Responses to “Doing the Best We Can”

  1. Judy C Galyon Says:

    I am totally with you on all of that!!!! I understand where you are coming from and think that as we get older, it gets worse. I don’t know why that is, but it’s that way for me. Just try to live in a manner that keeps you positive and content. if not happy.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Maybe as we get older, we think we should have learned something from our long years of living, so we expect more from ourselves. Or maybe we know the right thing but find it harder to care.

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