The Best I Can With What I Have (Or, JFK and Traffic Jams)
I perked up a little when I found out that the main theme of JFK's "Ask Not" inaugural speech was...ahem..."borrowed" from his headmaster at Choate School. I love this bit of trivia, actually. I mean, there are only so many words one can put together to make a unique sentence. Learning about the "Ask Not" speech made me all but buoyant knowing it wasn't an original thought and I could take the pressure off myself for not reinventing the wheel in this blog every week
I actually started looking into JFK's speech because I was flipped off at a red light.
Well, give me a second to explain. Geez.
I was pulling out of my local Walmart parking lot (need I really say more?), and someone tried pulling out in front of me to cut me off. I'm nothing if I'm not righteous when behind the wheel, so clearly I didn't let him in. That'll show him. Who taught him manners?
Obviously, the second he pulled up next to me at the light, I got a blaring horn and a huge hairy middle finger in response to my rhetorical high-horsing.
"Well, don't be a dick." I said, matter-of-factly to my steering wheel, trying not to feel deflated.
The thing is, when I'm trying to teach someone a lesson about waiting their turn, I expect to see that person eating a healthy slice of humble pie and reflecting on where they had gone wrong in life, not flipping me off. Ungrateful.
About a minute later, I got stuck in one of those pickles where the light turns red again, but the traffic in front of you hasn't moved, so you're stuck in the middle of an intersection. I was honked at for the second time that day, followed by some impressive gesticulating, I must say, on the behalf of the wronged party.
I kept mouthing, "I'm sorry! Where do you want me to go? Give me a break! I'm doing my best!"
And since I was going nowhere [insert life motto here], I thought about that last frustrated utterance a little more. I was doing my best. Well, at least I could say I was doing the best I could, given the circumstances.
Why couldn't Horn McHornenstein see that?
If God himself had come down from On High from playing Bridge, (or whatever he's doing up there) and pimp slapped me, I wouldn't have been more surprised at my revelation: if i want people to assume that I'm doing the best I can with what I have, I guess that means that I have to assume that all the other idiots on the road are doing the best they can with what they have too.
Ok. So if that's true, then what? People suck. We're selfish and we're needy and we're over indulged brats and we're always assuming everyone is out to get us. I mean, what is anyone doing for me these days?
This is where JFK comes in.
Are people really just disappointing road-rage filled losers that are all out to piss me off on the Northway? Or is it possible that there's another story? Maybe I should stop waiting for someone to let me in, and I should let them in instead. Maybe I should stop asking what someone else can do for me....you get the picture.
Is is possible that the guy that tried to cut me off just heard that his wife was in labor and was trying to get to her? Or that he got bad news from his job, and was upset and distracted?
What did I want the guy in the intersection to know about me? That I didn't exactly nail the timing of the light, and that we've all been there?
Look it, I should say that I know what kind of Pollyanna nonsense I'm spouting here. I also should say that this is the actual definition of a "practice", because just about all of the time, I'm one horn honk away from becoming an MSNBC special.
This isn't a sweet and gentle meditative exercise. I often growl through gritted and grinding teeth, "They're doing the best they can with what they have....they're doing the best they can with what they have..."
It's a good party trick though when you're feeling disappointed with everyone in the world. I want a damn flag flying off my car with the saying emblazoned. I want it printed on a bright banner above the TV or on my phone when I'm reading more bad news.
Sometimes it helps as a question: Is it possible...just possible...that they are doing the best they can with what they have?
I ask this when I'm with my family when I'm frustrated and tired. I bet a billion dollars that they do it with me. If they don't, they should, they'd save a little of their sanity.
Oh and my friends. Oh these poor unsuspecting souls. There's no one with higher standards than me with my friends. These innocent saps should all be submitted for sainthood after dealing with me for any length of time. I can be the actual worst. So I think we've all pretty much come to the point where we just about greet each other with, "Hey, doing the best with what you have? Cool. That's why you forgot to text back/were late/forgot my book/ate the last piece of DeFazio's buffalo chicken pizza. I'm doing the best I can with what I have too, but today my best is why I just said that backhanded thing/called you something demeaning/was neurotic/barely put pants on."
If I meet you somewhere, and I took the time to not wear pajamas, you should consider yourself really special to me. A bra and jeans is my love language.
Ps, one quick note about the people in the world that are possibly truly terrible: that might be their best. I'm not saying we have to take it - totally set boundaries for yourself - I'm saying it helps take the edge off if you come from the frame of mind that they might not be able to do any better.
Give it a shot. It's better than staying heart-attacky stressed all the time at what everyone in the world is doing to you.
And if you don't feel like practicing it...that's cool too. I know you're doing the best you can with what you have.