Friday, February 11, 2022
When I worked at summer camp, every Friday was award day. The camp provided blank certificates and the counselors filled them out to say positive things and on Friday afternoon everyone in the camp gathered in the little amphitheater to hear who would be acknowledged that day.
There were no rules about what the awards were for, but there were a few standard things that got pointed out. Most Athletic. Most Valuable Player. Biggest Helper. Most Improved Camper.
That last one, what it really meant, was I’m At My Wits End With You But I Have To Say Something Positive And I Guess You Tried.
That last one, what it really meant, was You Are Such A Pain But You Did Better This Week.
The counsellors knew it. At some age the campers knew it, too, especially the ones who were a huge pain. Nobody ever admitted it (sorry, campers, but if you’re reading this I guess you’re grown up now and can adjust to the shock) but saying that someone had improved just implied that they had something to improve.
Under normal circumstances, this is a good thing. We all want to improve. I want to improve. It’s why I have a 14-item-list of habits that I check off every day.
But sometimes, depending on the context, improvement just means the thing that happens by nature of the fact that there wasn’t anywhere worse to go.
The word today is not improve.
The word is, in fact, better.
It’s the one that I thought when I woke up this morning, and the one I assured Ralph I was feeling as the day progressed, and the note the day ended on.
Were things better today? Marginally. The thing is, there wasn’t much worse they could be, so better was better.
Which is better than nothing.
See what I did there? And I wasn’t even trying.
Today was better.
Sometimes better is the best you can hope for. For one thing, it’s not worse. For another, it’s not the same.
If I can be better than yesterday then I’ve made progress.
If I can adapt a little better to whatever the circumstances are then that’s a win.
Let’s see. In honor of telling a better story, here is what was better about today:
I made bread. A day is always better with fresh bread.
The bread did not slide off the pan onto the floor, nor did it stick, burn, smush, or come out anything but perfect.
I worked without feeling rushed and pressured.
Nobody called or emailed or needed something or asked for anything.
I took down the Christmas lights on Alice’s shelf and put up white lights instead. They look pretty and don’t make me feel like I’m just being too lazy to take down the Christmas lights.
Kevin went out and bought us pastries for breakfast.
Better for the soul but worse for the butt. Mixed bag.
I felt better generally. When you come out the other side of a meltdown, you’re so exhausted that you can’t even be in a bad mood. When you’re too tired to be in a bad mood, things are better.
I wore a shirt with Better Than Ezra on it. How synchronous is THAT. Didn’t even do it on purpose. Just needed something respectable to wear to physical therapy and that’s what came out of the closet.
The universe was trying to tell me something.
Oh, universe, you coy little bastard.
Years ago, Ralph and Kevin and I went to a bar in Boston called Drink. There is no drink menu at Drink. They will make whatever you want. They will make what you don’t even know you want. They are amazing mixologists and all you have to do is say, “I’m feeling better today,” and they will come up with something wholly appropriate that looks and tastes amazing.
Our mixologist’s name was Ezra. I’d tell you she was amazing but then that would be the third time I used that word and there must be something better. She was creative and talented and fun and we really had a good time testing her. We asked for drinks based on Doctor Who. We asked for something fall-ish on fire. And, in a moment of feeling very clever, we asked her for a drink that was Better than Ezra.
Today, by nature of being better, reminded me of that evening, which was better than brooding on whatever happened yesterday or might be happening today.
So today gets the Most Improved Camper award. It wasn’t anything particularly good, but it was so thankfully nothing bad that in the end it was better. And that’s something I will take every time.
Photo: today’s perfect loaf (or three) of bread. Bread makes a lot of things better.