Once, when I was in the throes of my final doctoral clinical before graduating, I found myself neck deep in job searches, financial struggles, final exams, living remotely from my husband, licensure, 13 hour work days, studying, and least of all, my running career. How could it possibly all work? It wasn’t. No amount of green tea or deadlifts would make it work. And I panicked.
By Kristina Pattison
One evening, I escaped to the ballet with a friend who was working front desk at the clinic where I was interning. We’d graciously been offered tickets by the clinic owner who’s girlfriend was one of the lead performers. My friend and I giddily accepted the tickets greedy for an excuse to skip studying. She was also working toward a clinical degree, so I vented to her about my worries for the future. She’d attended the same undergrad university as me, and we shared similar struggles with balancing life and work.
Except, she was a 2-year cancer survivor.
During an international study abroad program she started having inexplicable symptoms including unprecedented swelling in her throat. The sides of her neck turned into softballs and she came back to the US to find she had a cancer of the blood cells. She underwent treatment, and for nearly two years lived at home, lost her hair, and hoped to survive.
We sat in the dark in my car at the parking lot of Whole Foods where we’d carpooled from earlier while she told me the story. When faced with this grim perspective I felt guilty to have wallowed so deep in my superficial woes.
“At the end of the day,” she told me, “you have to accept that you did your best. And that’s all you can do. You did your best!” This acceptance of what was out of her control helped her dismantle unhelpful worries and anxiety which could build a massive mental barrier to her physical healing. It allowed her to instead focus energy on the things she could change like keeping a positive mental attitude.
“You did the best with the tools you had to work with. And today, you did your best! Let the rest go.”
I drove home accepting that doing my best was worthwhile. My best was my best, and my best was all I could do. I could choose to accept and acknowledge what I’d accomplished that day. I could choose to be grateful for the opportunity to wake up the next day and make my best even better. I could sleep at night. My work was done.
In what ways do you struggle to accept you’ve done your best and that is enough? Do you go to sleep at night worrying about what you could have done, should have done, or need to do? In what ways can you reframe your thoughts toward gratitude for your opportunities today and tomorrow?