I got home from work earlier this evening and my mood turned a dark shade of grey.
A book, open, on my coffee table, was left unread because I couldn’t remember why I started it in the first place. My dishes, soaking in the sink with bits of spinach and onion floating around, were starting to smell. My hair, unwashed because I overslept this morning, felt grimy. Most of all, I felt exhausted and completely alone.
And so I sat in an armchair. And that was all. I sat and stared at nothing and prayed I’d have the strength to get up and wash my damn dishes.
This is a mood, this sadness, I recognized it. It was not depression, but a kind of melancholy that felt toxic, insidious.
I’m so hard on myself on days like today when I’m unable to complete the most basic of tasks, whether that’s getting out of bed or up from a chair or picking up clothes from my bedroom floor.
But I did finally get up from that chair, and what got me up was remembering one of my favorite parts of one of my self-help bibles, The Four Agreements. If you haven’t read The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it: the book contains so much wisdom, simply stated, on how to live a happier life.
The agreement I was thinking of is actually the fourth agreement in the book, which is “Always Do Your Best.” My perfectionism grinds me to a halt so often. And melancholy stifles any chance of real creativity. But here’s what Don Miguel Ruiz says about what it means to always do your best:
Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired at night. Your best will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk. Your best will depend on whether you are feeling wonderful and happy, or upset, angry, jealous.
I thought of this passage of the book as I was sitting in that chair stewing, and I remembered that it’s OK if all I can do tonight is get up from the chair, wash the dishes, and go to bed. That’s my best for tonight. And guess what? I washed my dishes! It felt like a great achievement because I allowed myself to accept that my best– today– meant washing, drying, and then, unexpectedly, sitting at my desk to tell you about all of this.
I hope you give yourself permission to do your best today–whatever that means for you.