You could say it started with Parade Magazine, and I certainly wouldn’t dispute you. After all, it was in Parade Magazine that I read the article about the growing popularity of coloring for adults, the latest trend. The article described all of the benefits about getting in touch with your inner coloring kindergartener, like stress relief and sparking your creative energy. I wanted my stress relieved and my energy sparked, so I ordered a couple of books especially designed for adult relaxation and fun, and of course, a nice new sharp tin of colored pencils.
Here’s the thing I discovered, and I’ll get to the mystery in a second, don’t you worry. Coloring stresses me out! I don’t care how adult I am, I still can’t draw within the lines to save my life, even with nifty pencils that came in a tin. Within moments of what I had anticipated to be blissful sketching, I was sweating and swearing and having flashbacks to Mrs. Mortensen’s class, lo those years ago.
So…to the mystery. You see, when I went to color, I sat at my dining room table. And for the first time in a while, since it is summer and light out into the night, after I had colored for about a minute and felt something lacking, I went to turn on the lights over the table, a rather cool, if I must say, Mission style pewter lighting fixture with three candlestick type lights. But the lights didn’t come on. My house is old, and things wear out all the time, but the light fixture is “relatively” new, since I bought it and had it installed when I moved in about 11 years ago. I just assumed it was the wall switch that had burned out.
I bought the new switch, cleverly guided by my dad, who had instructed me to take a picture of the switch so I would know what I was buying. I had my friend/neighbor/handyman Ray over to install the switch for me–he was also the person who had installed the fixture to begin with. Sure enough, when he pulled the old switch out of the wall, we could both see how old it was, and surmised it could have possibly been in the wall since the house was built in 1948. Definitely time for a switcheroo on the switch!
But after he had installed the nice, shiny new switch and the groovy new dimmer, the lights didn’t come back on. We looked at each other, baffled. He suggested that perhaps the bulbs had just burned out, and I scoffingly responded that there was no way all three lights would burn out simultaneously, and if that was the case, I was a f*cking idiot. But I still went out to the studio to see if I had a spare bulb just to be sure. And as I walked back into the house, Ray called to me, “you are a f*cking idiot” (he said it nicely, he is a very nice person). And I looked and saw that the lights were shining brightly.
My jaw dropped, and Ray laughingly explained that all he had done was tighten the bulbs, that all 3 bulbs had been unscrewed. Queue up the “Ree Ree Ree” scary sounds, because I have to tell you, I live alone, and it’s highly unlikely that any of my recent visitors would have had any reason to unscrew the bulbs on my lighting fixture, nor would they really have had that opportunity.
The only person I could think of who could have possibly perpetuated such a crime was my sister, Wendy, who had recently spent the night. Because, if I had thought of it, I would have definitely unscrewed the light bulbs at her house during my last visit. It’s the kind of hi-larious shenanigans we Gold girls enjoy. But Wendy vehemently denied doing the deed, and I believe her.
It’s weird, right? Some of you may remember I went through a spell of several months last year where my doorbell would ring repeatedly at all hours of the day and night, with no-one at the door. It completely freaked me out, and only ended when we finally ripped the doorbell out of the wall and replaced it with a wireless system. Some people suggested that was caused by a short in the wiring or some sort of satellite sending off signals that triggered the bell, but I’ve never been satisfied with either solution.
And now this, spontaneously unscrewed bulbs. I’m pretty convinced at this point that there’s a poltergeist living in my house, and I can only pray it’s a friendly, benevolent one. It’s a little stressful. If only there was something I could do to relax. Like, coloring.
Oh, never mind!
The end, for now
Last night, I thought of at least 6 different ways I could do or be better. I could eat better, exercise more, be a better person, daughter, sister, and friend. It kind of bummed me out for a bit. I thought about change, and all the things I needed to change, and what kept me from making some of those essential changes. And, boy oh boy, it was pretty easy to tally up reasons and excuses and justifications.
Fortunately before I crawled too deeply into the rabbit hole of self-recrimination, I thought of one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’m not a huge follower of self-help type books, but this book really resonated with me, and I have referred to it through the years as a helpful and meaningful map to self-discovery and improvement.
I’ll let you look into it yourself if you are interested, but here’s the fourth agreement:
Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret?
This was a great reminder for me. I’ve been recovering this week from the second round of a 3 round, intense dental surgery. I don’t know what it is about mouth pain, but this really brought me to my knees. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, after all, two years ago I walked around for 3 days with a ruptured appendix before I drove myself to urgent care. But this mouth pain had me in tears, and watching the clock to see when I could take my next dose of pain killers. My face was crazy swollen and throbbing with every movement.
It’s been about 9 days and I’m finally feeling better and weaned off the round the clock meds. But during those 9 days, I was snappy and snippy and teary. I sent an email to someone that probably shouldn’t have been sent, nothing dire, but just not my best communication. I went completely off the diet rails, surviving on milkshakes and jello. I didn’t exercise at all. So, I definitely was not feeling very good about myself.
But, as I said above, I tried to remember Agreement Four, and forgive myself for my flaws and failings. As part of that process, I tried to think of three things that I had done right during that period. I had met my work responsibilities, even when all I wanted to do was lie in bed with an ice pack on my face. When I sent the email and it was poorly received, I immediately took responsibility and apologized. And as soon as I possibly could, I got back on the bike and back on track with the diet and exercise.
It’s amazing to me how easy it is to find flaws within ourselves, and surprising how hard it can be to find opportunities to self-praise. Maybe not for everyone, of course there are fully confident people out there and I admire them. But I do think many of us have that tendency to be overly self-critical, and to count our own failures instead of compiling all of the things that make us wonderful.
So, here’s the challenge, I think. Ask yourself, maybe not every day, but often enough, have I done my best today, for today? And if the answer is yes, give yourself credit for that, it’s not always easy. And if the answer is no, forgive yourself, and try to do better tomorrow. And if the best you can do tomorrow is not the best you that you aspire to be, that’s okay too. Just keep trying, focus on all the good things you do, and sooner or later, you’re going to get there.
The End, for now