D-Minus at Best
We were having dinner at this intimate Italian place, Mike, my friend Lila, her husband Jack, and I. No kids. Candlelight. It was some vegetarian pasta dish for Mike and salmon and sautéed spinach for the rest of us, Pellegrino all around.
Jack told us a story about a famous poet friend of his who claimed to write a poem every day: “So I asked him, ‘What do you do on the days when you can’t get out a good poem?’ and he said, ‘I lower my standards.’”
I’ve heard this how-do-you-get-to-Carnegie-Hall-practice-practice-practice kind of thing before. Keep on truckin’. Can’t win if you don’t play. But there was something about that night, the story, the way Jack told it, that made me think maybe it was about time I lowered my standards too.
There’s a kind of stuck-ness that comes from caring too much about doing something well that is not helpful to doing anything. If I’m set on only producing a certain level of work or performing at a certain level of being then what do I do on the days when I’m pretty sure I’m not going to reach that level, which is pretty much every day? I don’t even try, or I drive myself nuts trying and don’t enjoy any of it.
The self-judgment can be brutal – D-minus at best as a wife, mom, daughter, stepdaughter, and all the other stuff too. Don’t even try to give me a compliment. I’m pretty sure that’s why when I woke up this morning and opened my computer all I had to greet me was yesterday’s date and nothing else. White screen.
I didn’t feel well yesterday, but I don’t feel great today either. It’s always suboptimal. I am always suboptimal. Maybe there are moments of brilliance or perfect wellbeing ahead. I don’t know. But if I don’t swing every day, pretty regularly at least, I might miss the window. Maybe the swinging is the brilliance. The having the courage and humility to acknowledge my own imperfection and do my best, that day, is the brilliance.
Sometimes it’s very tempting to stop truckin’. I tell myself it’s a break from truckin’, but then one day turns into two and then the reason I didn’t do whatever yesterday expires and I have a new reason not to do it today and then all of a sudden it’s a week and I’m bad.
Well maybe I am bad, meaning not as good as I’d like to be. If I lower my standards though then I can get back on the horse, sit back down in the chair, put another shrimp on the barbie, and keep going anyway. Keep going in a way that works for me as I am in all my imperfection. Apparently that’s how the great ones do it. I’m gonna give it a try too.