**I began writing this post a couple of weekends ago, during which time the Centre College homecoming festivities were taking place, but due to various reasons, I wasn't able to finish the post until today.**
(Originally written on October 26, 2014)
As this weekend draws to a close, my mind is simultaneously racing and slowing down (admittedly the former is my brain's natural state), but I wanted to get one thing typed out before I turn in for the night. This concept has been pinging around my mind all weekend, and typing it here will not only make it easily accessible in the future, but will hold me accountable for believing the truth presented below even during times when I'm just not really "feeling it."
This weekend was homecoming at Centre College, the place where I spent 4 glorious years on a beautiful campus and one year eating in the airplane-hangar-ish-temporary-dining-facility called Chowan, where I cried over countless assignments when I truly believed there was no way I could submit work worthy of passing grades and where I graduated in 4 years (by the grace of God alone), where I formed friendships more treasured than I ever imagined possible, and spent more time in the student health center than probably any other student on campus, where I learned that I may not be right about everything (okay, for Rog's sake, or really to just drive him crazy, I'll say that one's still hard for me) and that getting a grade less than an A does not mean I will necessarily die a painful, early death by imperfection, where I began to reconnect with a part of myself that had been lost for several years and where I gained an immense appreciation for the sound of Middle English. And that doesn't even make a dent in the list of life changing experiences I had during my time as a Centre student. I truly loved college, and I loved just being on that campus. I loved the environment, the invigorating energy that could always be found somewhere (even during finals week, although the energy was probably fueled by coffee and energy drinks at that point), and the true sense of community unique to small colleges.
For someone who truly loved every aspect of their college experience (okay, except maybe first-semester Econ 110...), the phrase "homecoming weekend" instantly brings to mind anticipatory excitement of the very best variety. Naturally, when someone has such a yearning to attend such an event, but is unable to for one reason or another, that excitement turns into disheartened longing. For me, this year, as last year, being unable to return to campus for homecoming made my heart hurt. I'm not going to lie, I spent a good portion of homecoming weekend lamenting over how I wished I were at Centre, how I felt so out of touch with everyone, how I would do anything to attend the DSU reception and socialize with the friends I love and miss so very much. But as Rog and I were watching our Sunday night shows, one phrase kept playing over and over on the record player that is my brain.
Do your best, be your best, no regrets.
Now, Centre students will undoubtedly recognize this phrase, but for those of you who didn't attend Centre, this is kind of a trademark phrase the President of Centre College, John Roush, includes at the end of every email he sends to the student body, in every speech or address he delivers throughout the year, and in any other capacity where appropriate (and it's always appropriate). The phrase itself seems simple enough, and too many times I personally took it at face value and applied it far too simplistically--I did my best in my classes, I tried to be the best person I could be when it came to relating with other people, and I claimed to have no regrets about anything (a nice notion, but not totally true for me as a college student...or beyond).
It wasn't until this weekend that I realized this concept isn't just meant for students who are up against deadlines and papers and exams, or who are juggling schoolwork, volunteer work, and sports practice with little down time. No, this is a a philosophy we can apply to any and every situation we face in life. Throughout this battle with Lyme & Co, it's been easy to get down on myself and feel guilty when I'm unable to do even the most basic of life's necessities (showering, cooking/eating, vacuuming/washing dishes/other housework, helping contribute to our household income, etc.), and the reason it's easy to do that is because there have been times when I was able to do all of that and more. So when I compare my abilities today to my abilities before "the crash" in January of the year between 2012 and 2014 (I don't like typing the number), it's hard to accept that I'm doing or being my best right now, much less claim that I have no regrets. But what's cool about all of this is the malleability of the phrase, the ability for the phrase to maintain its inherent meaning while at the same time being adaptable to any circumstance life throws our way.
For instance, here's what "Do your best, be your best, no regrets" looks like in my life today, as I continue to fight this battle against Lyme et al:
On rare occasions, God blesses me with a day where I'm able to leave the house for a short period of time to attend my church life group meeting, or go to the craft store to pick out a Christmas puzzle, or even just go to my parents' house to celebrate my sister's birthday. Those are good days! Whatever the case may be, on those rare days I'm able to do something semi-normal (even if it requires using my wheelchair anywhere outside the home), I am doing my best, being my best, and regrets are far from my mind.
Some days I am able to get out of bed and shower, put on actual clothes (as opposed to pajamas), eat a meal or two, use my walker to get to the living room and catch up on TV shows with my husband without having to wear sunglasses because the screen is too bright for my eyes to handle, hold lucid conversations with minimal train of thought derailment, and use my walker to get back to the bedroom on my own when it's time for bed. And if it's a day when I'm able to do those things, then I am doing the best I can, being the best I can, and there is nothing to regret about that day. It's a good day!
However, for the majority of my days, I'm completely bedridden, except maybe to crawl to the bathroom and then back to bed, unless it's a day when Rog has to pick me up and carry me for even something as simple as that. Many days I don't even have the energy it takes to sit up on the couch and watch TV, so I lie in bed doing the only thing I physically can do--rest, and pray that the next day may be a little better. Some days I'm so unbelievably sick that I can't even stomach something as tame as lemon water or tea, so I lie here bargaining with my stomach to please just cooperate enough for me to tolerate small spoonfuls of a green smoothie as Rog feeds it to me when I have no energy to even transfer the spoon from the cup to my mouth and back again. And in the interest of not holding anything back, showering isn't even in the realm of possibility on days like this. HOWEVER, even on a day when all I can do is lie here in bed with sunglasses on, earplugs in, blackout curtains closed, electronics of all kinds put away, and any combination of essential oils applied to various places on my body and diffusing throughout our house, that's what doing my best on that day looks like, it's what being my best on that day looks like, and there is nothing worthy of regret on days when the above scenario plays out.
I've learned now that doing my best, being my best, and having no regrets doesn't mean I have to obtain another impressive degree or be working my way up the ranks of a highly-esteemed corporation. It doesn't mean that I have to be working a full-time job while using my free time to train to run the Boston marathon. It doesn't even mean that I have to be a person whose home is meticulously kept with everything always in its place and no traces of dust or piles of stuff on the table (despite how nice that would be). It simply means that I have to do my best with whatever curve balls life throws at me on any given day. It means I have to be my best when it comes to how I approach aforementioned curve balls, which means remaining positive (yet also allowing myself to feel the negative feelings when they arise) and reminding myself that while my best today isn't the same as my best of a couple years ago, my best of a couple years ago was drastically different from my best in college, high school, or any other time in my life, that certainly doesn't mean there's reason to have regrets about my current circumstances.
After all, I firmly believe that the foremost reason God has me on this earth is to witness for Him and to help win souls for His kingdom. Honestly, I think He's given me such a great platform from which to do just that--and if someone, somewhere, gets encouragement from God through something I've written or said, why on earth would I have regrets about anything at all? The answer is obvious: I wouldn't.
Picture from 2011 (sorry about the quality): "Dessert with the Roushes" event that President John Roush and his wonderful wife, Susie, host at their home for Centre seniors every year. Of course I wanted to get the memory on camera, and they were more than happy to pose for a picture with me. The small college experience is truly a special one, folks.