Agreement Number Four, or, The Painful Tooth

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


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