Fifth Step: Always Do Your Best.

Imagine my surprise this morning, as I turned to The Fourth Agreement of the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Always Do Your Best. We think we do, but we really don’t. My dad preached to all of us to do our best. Whatever we do, do it with every bit of our being; homework, building a science project, or as adults at work. Do it to the best of our ability. Why?

Ruiz says if we do our best, we live intensely. We’re more productive (I’m all for that!). You’ll be good to yourself as you give yourself to your family, friends, community and everyone else. It’s in the act you feel good. I can tell for myself, as I’ve rearranged my morning time spent, I’m creating more. I’m getting started on feeling accomplished. I’m getting things done. My stress is less. Yes, I can see the future I’ve been working so hard at for the past few years.

Most people have jobs instead of careers. They are miserable and can’t wait for whenever payday is, welcome the weekend with open arms, and dread Monday morning. During my single mom years, I suppose I was a bit of a workaholic. I’d work for the OT on Saturday mornings. My kids were old enough to stay alone, watch cartoons, and pour milk on their own cereal, while I worked 4 hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Once home, we’d start on cleaning, laundry, doing yard work, etc. I miss the energy but not the stress that came with it.

Yes, many people misuse those two days called the weekend. Chances are, deep down, we’re unhappy. The work is dull and boring but we need the benefits. When you’re unhappy, you try to escape; into more work, going to the bar, and the rest of the story isn’t pretty. Sure, I visited drinking establishments; I had to see what the hype was all about. It took about a year for the luster to wear off. I quit going out, looked forward to staying home with the kids on Friday nights, doing laundry, and being grateful.

Once we accept ourselves, learning from each mistake, we develop stronger personalities. We learn to stand up for ourselves. Things don’t bother us. We can say with total honesty of our word, “I did my best.” I can tell you, living a life with chronic pain and disability since 1995, many days, my best is disappointing. No one but me is judging, but I’m learning to know it’s nothing I’m doing on purpose, it’s simply the hand I was dealt at age 43. Yes I’m used to it; I know what to expect. About every five years, I become significantly worse. Part of it is aging, a lot of it is my condition. I remain grateful to God I can still walk, drive, see, and create beauty for my world.

Further, Ruiz tells us when we enjoy what we’re doing, it isn’t work, you’re doing it because you want to, not because you’re forced to do it. Sure, there are minor things required of us to live in society, living with others, we just do them. Laundry, cleaning, mowing the yard, they’re must do’s to live in a neighborhood with others. I consider them to be necessary evils. I thank God I have many nice clothes, a nice home, and we can see what we’ve worked for. The Babe helps a lot. It’s how his mom raised him. Thanks, Liz!

When we are in the process of action, we are living. We are experiencing living fully. Inaction is siting on the couch watching TV. Sure, I succumb to it now an then, but then realize how fruitless that is. I enjoy a good Netflix binge just as much as the next person. I just don’t allow it all day, every day. I can’t. If I would, I may as well cancel my website, my blog, my works in progress, give away all my fabric, art supplies . . .

Ruiz also says when you live, keep your word, never assume, don’t take anything personally, and do your best, your life will be happier, fuller, and reach further into the universe. Who could hope for more than that? What a great way to live.

Last summer, while our friend Lenny was experiencing declining health, I came upon the company, “Live a Great Story.” I have lots of their stickers, magnets, and shirts. It’s a motto I love, and it’s one that makes me remember Lenny. He was generous to a fault, and kept it hidden. He was somewhat of a curmudgeon until he saw a little kid. Then he lit up. At his funeral, I learned what a generous man he was. He lived a great story, that’s for sure. Dang, we miss you, Lenny. It’s so quiet at our table on Wednesday nights.

These four agreements are staying in a handy place. I will refer to this book often. It will certainly help me putting my kid book out and returning to my novel. I have grown to love my life, despite it’s areas of loss. We were not prepared how to live life older, less agile, and less energy. You cannot make a machine out of the human body, to defy it’s limits – whether the limits are age, accident, illness, disability.

We can conquer doubt and fear by learning to take risks – putting your art out there, your written word, your quilts, your creations. It is possible, and probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Art heals. Quilting heals. Writing heals. I believe it’s my purpose now. Write and help others heal.

My schedule is changed for today. The Babe called to meet for lunch. I’d adjust. It’s what you do when there are two of you. Someday, one of us will not be here. We need to enjoy each other now. No regrets. Have a beautiful afternoon, we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Dad with Grandpa Jewell. Had to have been after WWII.

Wednesday Wariness

This will be the first full day masks will be required in Omaha, in businesses, stores, and people will undoubtedly grouse about it. Facebook and Twitter will blow up, and tempers will flare. In the end, if we just do it, let’s see how the numbers are (with some kids in school), and maybe we will prove to ourselves it works. There is also the chance it won’t work, and we’ll prove it doesn’t help. The factor of some kids still being home may impact the outcome either way, but hey – it’ll be over before we know it. It’s from now until September 15, I believe? Let’s just do the right thing and we’ll know if we make a difference or not.

Let’s spend the time getting our house in order. Not the dwelling, but the heart and soul. How do we want this country and this world continue on for what I hope is another 200 years? Yes, some things must change, but socialism isn’t the answer. Churches have tried it before, the money runs out. Believe me, it will.

You know yourself, you cannot spend and spend and spend and not replenish the bankroll. Taking all of Bill Gates’ money away from him will not make the entire country run well for the rest of our lives. Things are not all equal, nor were they meant to be. People have their own ideas of what they want to work for. And what they will spend their money on. Many waste their money. I’ve done it myself when I was younger. Some will spend it on immoral things. (In the Bible, the story of the Prodigal Son. Remember?)

I can’t answer for everyone what the best thing is. For myself, I want to spend time contributing to helping people in need. There are many veterans organizations to help our soldiers. Many are suffering from PTSD. Too many commit suicide. Many are homeless. Some experience domestic violence. Some don’t want help. That’s ok, until they will accept it. You can’t force someone to “get better.” Whether it’s mental health, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, or verbal abuse, it all hurts the soul and damages the heart. Healing takes a long, long time, and people heal at different rates, on different timetables. Sometimes it’s such a slow progression you don’t realize it has happened until you experience something, then stop and realize, “It didn’t hurt this time,” or “I can finally sleep all night.”

Photo by Naveen Annam on Pexels.com

Let’s work on being better humans to each other. Let’s just get along during this pandemic rippling like hot lava around us. Let’s get through this hard time. Let’s continue with civility and grace. It will help the time pass quickly if we’re a help and not a hindrance. Be Kind. Be Thoughtful. Be Courteous. Be Safe. Let’s get through the rest of this. Thank you for reading today. I appreciate it very much. See you again tomorrow.