To Whom Do You Give Your Best?

I had a friend once who asked me to be gentle with myself. At the time I was lamenting yet another stretch of days in which I had eaten everything that wasn’t threatening to eat me first. It was a time when life was hard in a multitude of ways. (I know what you’re thinking. When isn’t it?) And as is always the case, I was trying to work hard at losing some extra pounds while stomping out the fires of chaos that kept popping up in other areas of existence.
“How weak am I? How completely ridiculous that a grown ass woman arguably successful in other areas couldn’t just control what the fuck she puts in her mouth? What a fucking loser.” Blah, blah, blah…
I was talking with my friend in the midst of this whiny streak, and he put me in my place quickly. “You have only so much energy. It’s like a glass of water. You can drink part of it, cook with part of it, water the plants with part of it, put out a fire with part of it, but each thing you use it for takes away from all of the other things. Eventually, the water is gone. You only have so much.”
Patience, kindness, gentleness — these things, too, are limited resources.
If we’re lucky, every bit of heartache through which we live teaches us a lesson or two. I got a few dozen from the loss of my parents. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?
My dad died first, and the lessons started there. A year and twenty-three days later, my mom followed suit. Not a single day has passed that I haven’t wished I could have done something differently.
My mom loved life, and she lived it to its fullest every moment. Even as an older woman, she was adventurous. She was curious. Her favorite phrase was “I wonder…” She could literally spend hours in any given shop and ask no less than a hundred questions in the process. Unfortunately, I was occasionally impatient with her wondering, her wandering, her curiosity. I didn’t always give it the most interested response. I didn’t always encourage it. She didn’t get my most patient self, nor my kindest. She always got my love, but not always my best.
My work, like everyone else’s, can take almost everything I have on any given day. People I don’t know get my smiles and my patience, my attention and my kindness, my time and my gentleness. And when I come home, sometimes, I have little left for the people whom I love the most, the ones who carry me through this life and love me unconditionally.
The heartache of loss wasn’t for naught, though. I have learned my lesson, and the wishing every day that I could redo even a single hour with my mom keeps driving it home. I save enough for him. I save enough for them. I remind myself that those who love me most deserve my best. And I try to remember that I have to save a little for myself as well.

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