How bad days are our best teachers
The truth about this life is that we all are slated to face certain unavoidable mishaps, failures, and tragedies. Yet, we race with abandon into our tomorrows forsaking any notion of caution. We believe we’ll be fine because, on most days, fortune works to our favor. It is only when something cuts like a knife through the fabric of our reality that we ever stop and consider that maybe we’ve been taking this whole thing for granted.
It was a cold Thursday morning. I was working hard against a deadline when the phone rang, interrupting my concentration. It was the phone call you never want to receive — ever. On some level, you know it is coming for you, but you pretend you’re immune to the hardships of life until it is your turn to hold the phone to your ear, the air suddenly so thin in the room around you. In that moment, you realize that this scene isn’t reserved for the movies. This happens in real life. Your real life. I ended the call and slid into the shower. My ears rang a high-pitched hum. My stomach turned. In just three minutes, I’d been rendered completely hollow. I had only one thought:
“I didn’t ask for this.”
That single, pitiful sentence wanted to change my life. It urged me to curl into a defenseless ball and accept that the enjoyment of my life is completely out of my control. That didn’t suit me; I wouldn’t have it. Instead, I drew a line that effectively differentiated that moment from every moment that would follow. Despair, I refuse you. I can’t change what is, but I can change the way that I see it. This does not have to be a bad thing. I will protect my peace for my peace is my strength.
Before the phone call, my life was a comfortable ballet of commuting and working and eating and socializing and doing the laundry and trying to master crow pose with a mind that seldom experienced true quiet. Bad days were ones where meetings ran past 5 p.m. or when I had to pump gasoline in the cold. I had plenty to complain about, but none of it really mattered. Not like this. Yet, in the stillness of the shower, I realized that this event could be my teacher. It could teach me to find balance — even joy — within absolutely every landscape of my life. Suddenly, I wanted to slow it down and experience every nuance of this moment. Yes, the one that I, just moments ago, tried to wish away.
And so, I adopted a new lens through which I view my life. I chose to embrace every circumstance as if it is exactly what I asked for. This is my life. It is full, it is real, and it is wonderful. I did ask for this. I asked for every light and beautiful moment that cannot be sullied by dark and trying times. I welcome it all. I love this life and I accept it all in its complexity.
This new lens is not a platitude or an assessment of whether something I’m going through could be worse. No, to declare that would be dismissive of the honest and raw feelings that accompany difficult life events. Those feelings matter. They deserve to be felt. I won’t turn away from them.
Rather, I choose to accept that the magic of my life is in the middle — the sweet in-betweens, the normal Wednesdays, the nights with friends when we don’t remember what we talked about but that we had a lot of fun, the decent night of sleep, the days when my body feels pretty good, the song I’ve heard a hundred times and still like, the ordinary moments I’ve spent with my mother in TJ Maxx smelling candles, the pizzas with fresh basil, the unmemorable hikes I’ve taken on familiar trails, the five-minutes-too-long breakfasts, the work that gets submitted on time, the daily hot showers, the cat fur on my clothes, the touch on my arm that communicates kindness. Those days are seldom positive enough to catch our attention. Only when hardships come to shake us free from our monotony do we acknowledge the absolute pleasure of a normal day.
If you have ever faced something incredibly dark, you have probably longed for one more normal day. A day before death. A day before diagnosis. A day before betrayal. A day before pain. A day before catastrophe. A day before failure. One more day with what was before what is came and screwed everything up.
Let this be a reminder that, for you, today is probably that day. Embrace it. In every moment, treat your life like it is exactly what you would have selected for yourself. Find the reason why. Fall entirely in love with every moment of it. Even when you’ve ruined dinner. Even when work is exceeding your patience. Even when you are upset with someone you love and tempted to believe the worst about them. Even when you are sick. Even when you are forced to let go of what you thought you would hold on to forever. Even when you are broken or grieving or angry. This life is your privilege. This life is your gift even when it challenges you. Find the magic in this moment. This — right now — is your life. Accept it and love it in all of its moods.