It’s going to be a bad day.
I am taken aback at my own attitude, my initial thoughts before my feet ever touch the ground in the morning. What could have precipitated such a fatalistic viewpoint? There is finality in my self-statement, as if I have made up my mind before ever giving this new day a chance.
The night before we were awakened four times to a screaming preschooler, one who clearly wasn’t sleeping well and who instigated interrupted and fragmented sleep for us, as well. With every awakening, my thoughts turned to, Oh great. Tomorrow is going to be a bad day. I just anticipated the worst, based on previous and similar experiences. As I recalled with irony and a bit of disdain from undergraduate psychology, The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
Felicity is a child of rigidity and routine; she is regimented in her expectations of her environment, of people, and of life in general. She does not like surprises and does not appreciate any sort of change in schedule. She is so sensitive that she is affected greatly (and often negatively) by lack of sleep, poor diet, or over-stimulation. Somehow anxiety always settles in.
And that is upon what I based my estimation of the dawn of a new day; rather than embracing it with joy and a clean slate, my mood was darkened, my psyche disturbed with every shriek and scream that emerged from her bedroom.
Ben consoled her; he graciously got up with her as I did when she was an infant. But that did not mean I slept while he calmed and quieted her into slumber over and over again. Rather, I tossed and turned, conjoining and internalizing every scream as my own pain. It is not a twisted or disturbing type of codependency or enmeshment; it is the pain that every mother’s heart emotes when her children are hurt, be it emotionally or physically. It is a pain I often cannot bear without great strength, a strength that has a source beyond my own existence.
Most people do not realize that every day I battle my pessimistic nature; I long ago sensed from societal mores and personal interactions that it is not acceptable to admit to others that I am simply having a bad day, a bad week, a bad life…
People scatter like cockroaches in the light when they hear someone discuss any difficult experiences or emotions. No one wants to truly know how I am doing when they ask with canned courtesy, “How are you today?” They want to hear, with a wide grin, that I am doing fine, just fine, thank you! And then they can be on their merry way, their consciences eased by their superficial attempt at showing concern. I learned when I was young and naive, still innocent and emotionally transparent, that it is unacceptable to honestly display negative emotions. It was clear when I was honest about my feelings that people were uncomfortable with my response, and in turn, I was often met with an awkward smile, cough, a change of subject, or even a quick wave and Sorry to hear that; see ya later!
So most of the time – for the sake of my own sanity and mental health, but also out of respect for most people’s inability to share in another person’s sorrow or pain – I quickly dismiss my grief in favor of a weak smile or feeble attempt at re-framing an iota of my day into what was positive or uplifting.
There are days, many days, in which this is extremely difficult for me to do. While I realize that every day is full of myriad moments of joy, I admit my struggle in finding them sometimes. There are some days when my shoulders slump from weariness, the glimmer fades from my eyes, and my body is worn and exhausted. There are days when I find it irritating to convince myself that I simply must find something – anything – good about my day.
I can thank God for the sunshine, I think. Or the taste of my juice this morning. I am grateful for our home and family.
And as cliched as those may seem, some days it is all I have to grasp. On these days, I find sincerity in my lamentations to God far more gratifying and cathartic than convincing myself that grief must be stifled and hidden rather than experienced and embraced. And when I find the simplicity in my gratitude, I often realize how profound these gifts truly are, which, in turn, graces me with renewed strength and hope for the next battle.
This is my solitary journey: my life is largely lived in the confines of my mind, the thoughts that sweep through rapidly but without being permitted to be verbalized. I contemplate the connection between my heart’s affections and emotions and the cognitions and attitudes that shape my days and my personality.
But I often do not verbalize them. The reason is clear: I have grown from attempting to conform to society’s shallow understanding of any complex and painful feelings to recognizing my weaknesses and, in so doing, surrendering them to God every moment so that He may transform me. When I do this, no matter how badly my day starts out to be, inevitably I end my day with, today was a good day.
It is not because of my own doing or because I dwell in perpetual denial. It is in the embracing of my sorrow and struggle and thus the sincere and simple – and often desperate – plea to God that I find He, indeed, takes my mess of a life and turns it into His message.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing