I tend to keep score on myself.
I don't do it consciously, and I don't write it down anywhere, but I do it. It's always there, running like a ticker in my head. It's that little voice that keeps track of my choices and reminds me if I'm winning or failing.
Did I go to work? Win. Did I not complete my entire task list? Fail. Did I take a shower and get dressed? Win. Did my hair not look its best? Fail. Did I eat healthy meals and no processed junk food? Win. But did I add a Dr. Pepper to my lunch menu? Fail. Did I pray before I went to bed? Win. Did I get distracted or forget to pray for so-and-so? Fail.
No seriously, I critique my prayers.
It's a habit, and a bad one. But I catch myself doing it all the time. This morning, for example, I was running late to leave my house for a meeting before church. As I was grabbing my keys and headed for the door, I realized I'd forgotten to pray. I paused, and the negative thought process kicked in.
Why bother, if it's just going to be last-minute and rushed? And why didn't I get up earlier in the first place? And where am I supposed to kneel down since my laundry is attacking my room? Why didn't I fold my laundry yesterday? Do I even know which half of these clothes are clean and which are dirty? Am I going to be a bad mother?
The problem is, I set the bar too high.
There is always room too improve. Too much room, usually. It's overwhelming. And I have this nasty habit of defining what I think success should be, and then berating myself if I don't achieve it. But here's what I've thought about this week:
1. Success is fluid. I'm big on To Do lists. I live and die by my day planner and sticky notes. And if too many things go undone at the end of the day, it's easy to feel like I failed. But the thing is, God knows me perfectly. He knows how my day has gone. He knows if work was hard, if I have a headache, if traffic was slow, etc. He knows my emotional/mental/physical capacity perfectly, at that moment, and He knows the best I can give, on that day, at that moment. He knows that today's best might not be yesterday's best, and it might not be tomorrow's best. He knows exactly what I have to offer, even when it feels like I'm sucked dry and I have nothing left to give, and that's all He asks of me, right then, at that moment.
2. Desire counts for something. God knows where my heart is. He knows that, if I could, I would wish for 20 more hours in a day to accomplish all the things I want to do and be and see, etc. He knows I would travel to foreign countries and adopt all the orphans and feed all the homeless people and have a mansion big enough to house them all and stop world hunger while I'm at it. He knows where my heart is, and He knows I can't get to everything I wish I could. But I know it still matters to Him that I would, if I could.
3. Even small efforts matter. I tend to naturally think that if I can't do something perfectly, why bother? If I can't run 10 miles, why even bother putting on my running shoes? If I can't read my scriptures for 20 minutes and think deeply and draw fascinating and insightful parallels to my daily life, why bother even picking them up? Like this morning, when I was rushed and immediately felt guilty that I hadn't made time to pray. It almost felt like a mockery to get on my knees in such a rushed frenzy on my way out the door, like I was treating God like an afterthought. But I don't think He saw it that way.
I'll tell you what I did: I got on my knees, for all of about 5 seconds. I told Him I was sorry I didn't have more time, and that I was late and I had to go. I said I'd try harder next time. And you know what? I think that 5-second prayer mattered to Him, as silly or half-hearted as it felt. What mattered most to Him was that I'd gotten down on my knees at all.
Did I love someone today?
At the end of every day, this is the question I want to start asking myself. I don't want to ask myself about the laundry or the groceries or the work assignments or solving world hunger. I want to ask myself, "Did I love someone today?"
Did I call or text an old friend, just because? Did I pause for a few minutes, when I was in a rush, to chat with someone else? Did I try and make someone laugh if they were having a bad day?
Life is NOT a pass/fail exam.
So, stop keeping score. Stop focusing on everything you didn't get done. Turn off the little voice that says, "OK, you had a pretty good day BUT..." Stop setting impossibly high standards for yourself. Do your best (whatever that means at this moment, on this day), breathe, and let it go.