Friday, March 22, 2013

What Does a Bad Day Look Like?

I've been consciously working for some time on tweaking my perspective. You see, I am a white, middle-class, American woman. This means that the cards I was dealt were pretty good before I traded any in. It's not right, it's not fair, but it's a fact in our society and I think pretending it's not is foolish.

No matter what, I get to snuggle this Bug every day.
That's not to say I don't have problems. Everyone has problems. I have anxiety that, at times, cripples me. That sucks. My kidneys are formed weird (Google "medullary sponge kidney") which makes me prone to kidney stones. I get them every few years and it's unpleasant. Honestly, NOT a huge deal and NOT something that affects my quality of life, or even will down the road, but definitely a problem at times. And like everyone else with children, I'm raising mine in some very unstable, uncertain times, when the economy is fickle and violence seems to permeate even the "best" neighborhoods and college tuitions are going up while paychecks remain flat. Things are tough out there and we all feel it.

So yeah, there are some normal, every day problems. And on occasion there are more acute problems. Sick loved ones. Financial emergencies. Things that keep us in the immediate, in an unrelenting fight-or-flight state of mind. Legitimate problems that we have every right to fret about and lose ourselves in.

Um, Jen? You said something about perspective? All you've done so far is whine about yer trubbles, so...?

I'm getting to that. Stay with me. I'm un-coffeed because we were out of milk this morning. It's a really difficult time in my life.

So perspective. My tendency is to fall into the Bad Day Trap. I totally just made that phrase up. It's not very witty. Again, no coffee. Anyway. Bad Day Trap.

The BDT begins with something small. A broken juice glass, an empty milk carton, a stubbed toe...something that is unpleasant and inconvenient, but generally not life-altering. It happens, and my mind immediately goes, "Well, there goes THIS day!" In my spoiled brain I am immediately having a bad day, and every minute occurrence that I encounter for the remainder of the day will build upon the last until I am so disgruntled and irritated about the obvious conspiracy that's been hatched against me that so much as asking me to pass the salt may result in the loss of one's head.

Does this sound even remotely familiar to anyone? Please say yes so that I can move on without feeling quite so much like a crazy freak.

What I've been trying to do lately (and by "lately," I mean over a period of months) is to get my brain out of that hyperbolic sense of self-pity as quickly as possible and just laugh at this stupid shit. If I can jump on Facebook and make a joke about the adversity I'm facing because of the empty milk carton, then I can move on. I can remind myself that minor, inconsequential inconveniences are not actually the same thing as problems. I can laugh with my children instead of shrinking into my sweatshirt and glowering at the unjust world. I can stop letting bumps in the road become twisting, mountain passes with steep drop-offs.

Because frankly I'm going to need that energy for when something really does go wrong. And something will at some point. But if finding that the dog has chewed one of the kids' toys is going to send me into a death spiral of despair, then how in the hell am I going to muscle through something larger, something that, if given leeway, could really break me?

I have to reserve that energy for the times when I will need it. For the good of my family and of myself, I have to put things in perspective. And I'm not talking about reminding myself that it could be worse or that people in other countries have it so much harder, although those things are true. I'm talking about acknowledging the inconvenience or frustration, giving its due but nothing more, and moving on with my day.

If I can do that, then I will know a bad day when it actually happens. I will be able to look back and see far more good days than bad, because the actual bad days will be so stark against the wall of good.

I'm finished with my thoughts now, but I challenge you to go back through this post and count the random metaphors. There are a lot of un-coffeed metaphors up in here. That's how I am rolling on this most beautiful, chilly, wonderful day.

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