Do What You Can

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

This is one of my favorite quotes, even when we aren’t in panic mode.

But I think it applies to our situation now too.

Do what you can is the rallying cry of homeworkers, homeschoolers, and people struggling everywhere.

However, if the internet is any measure, some people are taking the opportunity to clean things out, get rid of things, and just be productive.

But if you’re still struggling to do the simplest task, or you’re burdened by depression or anxiety, or you’re an essential worker on the front lines, my advice is the same.

Do what you can. Leave the rest.

Love,

Bailey

To Know the Difference

Here’s a little secret: I’m a control freak. Yes, the lady that runs a blog daily is a control freak. Imagine that! And if you’re a control freak, you’ll know how hard it is to rein in the crazy. Which is why I take a lot of comfort from the following quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

 Because even though this little mantra has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, I think it still rings true for everyone. A huge part of life is knowing when you need to give a little more and when you have done all you can.

My problem? It’s with that little, last line. “And the wisdom to know the difference.” Because how do you know? How do I know that it wasn’t me, or that it wasn’t meant to be? What if I deserve the blame but refuse to put it on myself? What if I did what I could but it wasn’t one of those things I could change? What if it was and I didn’t try hard enough?

I mean, think about it. When you took a test in school and you studied your butt off, but you still didn’t get a good grade, what did you tell yourself? Did you get angry and ask why you didn’t study more? Or did you say that there was no way that you could have studied for that test because it was hard? The age-old debate reformed: Was it nature or nurture?

And in reality, it was probably a combination of the two. But if you are anything like me, you are going to spend the next twenty years thinking that it was you…or that it was the test…or perhaps it was you…

So, that quote is really understated. You better pray for that wisdom to know the difference. Forget the courage or the serenity. You are going to need all of the intelligence you can get. Because that’s what is going to help you sleep at night.

But I guess in the end you simply have to do the absolute best that you can and then when you have wrung every drop from yourself and you still didn’t get what you want or it still didn’t work out, then you can ask the universe why it insists on being ridiculous.

And if that doesn’t work, you can do what I do: worry your life away about things you can’t change while being too paralyzed to do anything about the things you can. In reality, if you live this way for long enough, you really won’t know the difference.

Anxiety & Anger

I started my day out with a man silently cursing me out in the third lane of a highway.

It was sort of like something out of The Exorcist because his head spun around to yell at me over his shoulder, but it definitely wasn’t The Exorcist at the same time because we were both driving to work on a dreary Monday. (Oh, and there was no pea soup.)

And while I understood his frustration and even admit that maybe half of those curse words could have been warranted, I had a weird reaction to it all. I sort of guffawed while trying to choke down my anger.

One side of me said that it was absolutely ridiculous to get that angry inside of a car. I mean, it’s sort of like space, isn’t it? No one can hear you scream, and you’ll use up your oxygen for nothing? Besides, there are plenty of things to focus your anger at besides cute bloggers who drive poorly. (Like why we haven’t solved homelessness or revived the Wishbone series for kids.)

But of course, then another part of me decided she was angry, too. My blood pressure started to rise when I realized that this man was aggressively shouting at me because I was going the speed limit. I felt like defending myself, loudly, to no one. What do you want from me?! The black pedal next to the gas is called the brake, and contrary to popular belief, it will NOT hurt your car if you press it from time to time.

Of course, neither of these reactions were truly appropriate. So, I took the rest of the car ride to think about how I really needed to feel.

And this is what I’ve realized: when you’re angry, you need to think about the bigger picture. But when you’re anxious, you need to focus on a single moment.

Believe me. I tried every way ever presented in the media to calm myself down after this encounter. I took deep breaths, counted to ten, then twenty, then thirty. I even turned up the radio to drown out my thoughts for awhile. But I found myself to be angry still. Pissed, actually.

And that’s when I realized that I wouldn’t even remember this encounter when I got home that night (and this was true. Sort of.) And that tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t recall what had happened. And the day after that, well, I daresay the whole thing will have been forgiven and forgotten. (You know, if I wasn’t documenting it on this blog…)

In essence, I realized that I had to focus on the bigger picture, if only to figure out that my anger was completely worthless in the smaller one.

And I also decided during my drive that anxiety should get the inverse remedy.

Personally, I get anxious when I’m thinking about too many things at once. And it happens all the time. I could be simply enjoying my Wednesday afternoon when I feel a punch in the gut over what I did four weeks ago, or what I need to do tomorrow. I break out into a cold sweat and hyperventilate about the lack of time I have. But this is where you need to focus on your breathing. For me, it works to separate everything into “moments” interspersed with deep breaths. It helps to make everything a bit more manageable.

But weirdly enough, we tell people to take deep breaths when their angry instead of looking to the future (calm down? CALM DOWN? CAlm dOWn?!) and broaden their thinking when they get anxious instead of telling them to focus on a single moment (Don’t talk about the “what ifs.” Think about what could go right in addition to wrong.) Somewhere along the way, we got this mixed up.

Of course, your therapist has probably been telling you this for years. This isn’t new or ground-breaking information about anger and anxiety.

It’s just your general reminder to be aware of yourself and what you need. Take a time-out or a walk before anything gets too serious. Before, you know, you yell at a stranger. Any stranger, whether they have a weapon or not.

After all, it’s time that we took better care of ourselves. But it’s up to us all to start.

In Fear of the Awkward

There’s a lot of motivating forces in the world. There’s pride, of course. But then there’s money. And I suppose love. Maybe even revenge (if it is served cold).

But really, I think there’s a specific one that trumps all: awkwardness. If someone feels that a situation is going to be awkward at all, they avoid it like it’s the plague, Ebola, and adult responsibilities rolled into one. People will avoid a certain store if they feel that they will see someone they know there. People will put their heads down just so they don’t have to address someone walking on the same side of the street. I mean, people are afraid to make a doctor’s appointment, for goodness sake.

And guess what? I count myself among you. I am actually the queen of awkward. Your oblivious ruler, reigning not with an iron fist but one clenched in frustration when I say something utterly stupid.

Oh, sure, I’m so “off-the-cuff” on this blog, but ask me how the weather is and if I don’t stutter, I’ll say something incredibly weird and inappropriate. Then, I’ll think about it for the next three years and blush every time.

Sure, I’m making light of this now, but really, it is crippling and sad. I have to rehearse my food order so that I don’t say it wrong. I am constantly being told to speak up. I am always sighing and cringing after every social interaction ever. And I’ve never known what it’s like not to feel this way. Instead of ruling my life with fear of the unknown, I’ve chosen to shape my future with the fear of the awkward. My  life is a bad romantic comedy on steroids, all bumping into someone four different times, trying to dance around him or her, and then finding yourself face deep in his or her chest yet again.

Now, I could tell you that I’ll overcome this in the next five years, and maybe, so will you. I just have to tell myself that “people are just people,” and there isn’t anything to be afraid of, right? But that’s the thing about fear: it is completely irrational. And the problem is that every situation is going to be awkward if you continue to think too hard about it. We all just need to let ourselves go to let the situation and conversation flow, man.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. But if you try to think a little less during all of your “awkward” experiences, you may find that it really was all in your head.