I sat in a bar, inside a restaurant once, with a drink in front of her and none in front of me, because I was driving us back and forth from the nearby hotel where we both got the federal rate because we both worked for a federal program. She had driven here from a neighboring state, to visit one of the sites of a program I was in charge of at the time, and still am. We talked about what had been happening in the site, in the program, and a little bit in our lives. She asked me how I was because before that visit I told her of the troubles we were having, the way the people she would visit that day may not be getting along, the place she was going may not be in the shape I tried for it to be, but I was trying.
We stayed in the bar long after our meal was done, she described to the waiter what she wanted, something colorful, something sweet, something surprising. We talked, her relaxing with the orange/yellow drink in her hand, me still sitting up straight, being visited. I heard somewhere since if you eat orange/yellow food for two days you will feel better. I wonder if that’s true.
I answered her question about how I was, sitting in the small, dim room—I am doing the best I can.
No, no, Keri, she said, looking at me in my eye with the orange/yellow drink between us, no—you are not doing the best you can, you are doing all you can.
She told me a story or two then, about family members who said they did their best, and she explained how that isn’t true, they didn’t. She saw them do everything, all things, all.
And she saw me too, she saw me trying to figure it out, she said when she thought of me that’s the phrase I always said, ‘I’ll figure this out’. But the figuring out wasn’t working, and the trying wasn’t working, and the drink I couldn’t have because I was driving wasn’t working because I couldn’t have it. I could not have what I wanted in any way, that night, and the many nights after.
But something was a little different after that day when she was the visitor and I was the visited. I knew I couldn’t have what I wanted; the solution, the thing figured out, the endless learning to do something better that wasn’t getting better, at that site, in that program that I kept finding myself in charge of. But it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing my best, it was that all I was doing wasn’t working, yet.
That colorful truth was sweet, it was surprising. And it did make me feel better.