Trying too hard or is the soup “just right?”

More than a year after the pandemic restrictions kicked in, the beginning of the end is now, for me, in sight. Meaning? I have my first injection of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow morning, Saturday, April 3. In recent blogs I’ve shared that life in a more open future intimidates me. One of the reasons is, I’ve adapted a little too well to our strange present world and its restrictions. Another reason- -for over twelve months I’ve been persistently trying too hard.


Trying too hard to keep my spirits up; to stay healthy; to keep life interesting when there are few outlets outside my own home; to keep up with friends and family.


Result: I am tired of trying too hard! And I’m at last starting to realize that trying too hard is not the same as trying my best.


I don’t see the distinction. Will you clarify, please?


I’ll try my best, Lily. And I really do have to try my best with you because fourteen-year-olds, especially inner ones, can be quite critical of their elders.


Trying too hard, by inference, suggests you will miss the mark. It implies tension, which often leads to mistakes, also that if too much force is applied something will get broken. Trying too hard jumps the fence of reason and can lead to irrational feelings, especially when the hoped-for result is not achieved. Let me give you an example.


Good! Because you’re making my brains spin.


Sorry, 9, I guess I’m trying too hard to explain. Here’s what happened yesterday:


In these days of social distancing, many of us find entertainment online. Sometimes a live event, sometimes something prerecorded. A month ago I saw an ad for a documentary film festival sponsored by a local non-profit. It sounded like a good way to entertain myself, back when daylight hours were shorter and darkness fell early in the evening.


But now, spring has sprung! In Walla Walla, WA, we already have nearly fourteen hours of visible daylight. Early plantings in the garden are starting to come in, and in about two minutes the lawn will need mowing.


Yet, I’d signed up and paid for the film festival. And I intended to get takeout dinner from a local restaurant to enjoy with it.


Turns out, I’m trying too hard. Trying too hard to not feel I wasted my money (the event is a fundraiser for the sponsor non-profit so it’s not really a waste). Trying too hard to pretend that getting takeout from a restaurant and eating it at home by myself in front of a small screen is fun, when, actually, it depresses me.


In an effort to reclaim my life and prepare for a soon-to-be more normal existence, I ditched the film festival and the takeout plan. Especially the takeout plan. I’ve ordered takeout from restaurants quite a few times this past year, but here’s the thing: what makes food fun for me is people. Everything tastes better with conversation, sharing some laughs, seeing the expression in someone’s eyes from across the table instead of hundreds of miles away.


Frankly, I’m burned out on living this substitute kind of life, and that’s not all. In an effort to make things happen I keep pushing myself to do anything that sounds remotely interesting. For example, it was fun to learn a little bit about fly fishing in a 90-minute, socially distanced outdoor class last July. But to make the experience transformative I need a mentor’s hand, stretched out to grab mine and pull me into that river for a companionable and instructive day.


In the rush of trying too hard I’ve nearly forgotten about my own preferences, even my strengths. I love listening to live classical music; spending hours doing historical research in an archives or museum or visiting a historical site; getting together with friends. About the only strength I’ve been able to go with this past year is writing. Dear old writing, it’s always there when I need it.


The things I like to do and the things I do best are creeping back into public spaces, phase by phase. Without trying too hard I plan to seize the opportunities as they come. My deepest longing is to feel whole again.


But we can still try new things sometimes, right? Like new dessert recipes?

I’d like take Spanish 122 when classes are live again.


Of course. Learning new things is fun when it’s not a desperate attempt to make the world right. Seeking new horizons is an important component in personal growth and moving forward in life. But trying too hard is like putting too much pepper in the soup. It’s definitely spicy, but not guaranteed to be digestible.


From here forward, I’m aiming for the bowl Goldilocks would say is “just right.”



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