Doing Our Best

Red-winged blackbirds fly from branch to feeder. Chickadees and sparrows take off as pushy grackles land. Bulejays claw at the air as they struggle to find their place. It’s impossible to pass through our kitchen without watching the birdfeeders. Minutes go by unnoticed as I observe birds and the occasional squirrel. Slowing down lets me notice my surroundings. Goldfinches are starting to lose  their drab winter feathers. They were nearly unrecognizable a month ago.

I like offering seeds to birds and hopefully loving kindness to people I encounter.

Off to do errands, I head north on Park Blvd. towards, the post office, Trader Joe’s and bank. My morning bird meditation is matched by Sarah McLachlan music. I hum along to her recording of the Prayer of St. Francis with its inspiring words.

Lord make me be an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love…

Reverie disappears when I notice traffic ahead is at a standstill. A car has pulled across three lanes. No one can move until that car can turn left. Our green light comes and goes and still we sit.  My loving kindness shifts to irritation. How inconsiderate! What kind of a jerk doesn’t pay attention to how their actions will affect others? What a selfish move!

I’m tested the most when behind the wheel of my car. Maybe it’s the anonymity offered by two tons of steel. But my situation makes me wonder, What kind of a driver would Buddha be?  I text my granddaughter Lilly and ask her what she thinks about Buddha’s driving style.  He’d be a slow driver and take in every moment, she replies.  Her response brings lightness to my held in place moments.

Sitting there I realize there is work to be done on my intention to “be an instrument of peace.”  I failed miserably and I’ve only traveled three blocks from home. I have no curiosity about the driver’s situation, just accusation and blame.

Brene Brown, author and researcher, found a correlation between the belief that others are not doing their best and perfectionism. Painfully, I recognize myself in her words. When my perfectionist is running my life, everyone could try harder and do better.

My perfectionist and I have a long intimate relationship.  Her demands have cost me plenty.  But she offers clarity and certainty when life is overwhelming. People, their actions, well everything has a category and she know right where to put them.

I remember my astonishment when Don said, “You are a perfectionist.” He said it in a matter of fact tone.

Without thinking I replied, “I can’t be. I never do anything perfectly.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I realized that is the definition of a perfectionist.  She who is never quite satisfied with the way things turn out. It was embarrassingly true.

He nailed it.

Perfectionists are never doing their best. They could always do just a little better. And when I release myself from her pressure to do better, everyone is released. Loving kindness returns. Peace is a possibility.

It is not a surprise that the seeker is the opposite archetype of the perfectionist. The seeker is a brave wanderer. She sees life as a mystery beyond comprehension. Her gaze is full of curiosity. Amazment fills her as the goldfinch, feather by feather, turns from brownish green in winter to sunshine yellow in summer. When the seeker runs my life, moments are spent in awe. Measuring the actions of others or mine are of no interest to her. She knows everyone is doing their best. Which leaves me wondering…

Do you think that…

you are doing your best?

everyone is doing their best?

Our answers will make it easier to find loving kindness or not.


Photo Credit

Tony Smith:Creative Commons