A few weeks ago, I had a bad day. You know, the kind that makes you wish you could stay in bed for 24 hours with your head under the covers?
The kind of day where your dark inner thoughts make the personalities of both Oscar the Grouch and Eeyore look downright pleasant and perky in comparison?
Did you ever have one of those days that just seems to go wrong from the start? I mean, literally from the moment you throw back the covers and your feet hit the cold hardwood floor causing instant shivers to shoot up your legs?
No? Well, here’s an example of how it might look:
You take one step out of bed, and trip over the area rug because the dog pushed the corner under with his paw during the night and now it's rolled at the edge.
You reach for the bedpost to steady yourself and, just when you breathe a sigh of relief, you put your other foot down into something wet.
Yes, I said wet.
And not the clear-liquid kind of wet. This wet has substance as it squishes up between your bare toes.
You can't see what it is, but your mind conjures horrid pictures of all the countless possiblities as a shudder travels from your scalp down to your still-moist foot.
Hopping from the room on one foot, you make a bee-line for the bathroom, only to discover the door is closed. Someone beat you to it.
The smell of the mysterious substance coating your foot finally reaches your nose, and you immediately stop breathing to block the stench. All it takes is that one whiff and you think you may have identified the source of the mystery moisture ... at the same time realizing that in cases like these, ignorance is always preferable.
Now you're hopping down the stairs holding your breath with who-knows-what on the bottom of your foot ... and your bladder is about to burst. You vehemently shake your head. (No, I refuse have a grown-up potty accident.)
You flip the light switch ... and nothing happens. Blown bulb.
Uncontrollable grumbles escape through your clenched teeth. One more step and you hear a yelp. Oops. Stepped on the dog's tail. Ha! That's payback for my wet foot, you think.
You make it to the kitchen, reach under the sink, and remember that you needed to buy paper towels at the store ... but forgot yesterday when you were there even though that's the reason you went shopping in the first place.
Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
Now you're wiping the gift-from-the-dog off your foot with a dish towel, and you hurl it at the trashcan like a major league baseball pitcher. (There's no way I'm washing that.)
Then you notice that there's no trash bag in the can.
You briefly consider leaving it, then shake your head, reluctantly digging the soiled dish towel out of the bottom of the can. And of course the mysterious wet-stuff is now smeared all over the bottom of the trashcan itself.
Was that the ... yes! It's the sound of the bathroom door opening! You run toward the blessed sound of ... oh no ... the door closes again with a bang and a quick snap of the lock.
"I need the bathroom," you inform the interloper who is using your bathroom time.
The rest of the day continues in the same vein. Out of milk for the morning coffee. Gas tank on Empty. An outbreak of pink eye at school. Clogged toilet at work. And ... wait ... no ... say it isn't ... head lice! (Arrrrgh!)
Sniffle-sniffle, followed by a breath-hitch. Hold back the tears.
And oh, it's not over yet.
Spilled milk ... three times! Short-staffed at work. Student squabbles. Lost your favorite earring. Forgot to pack lunch. (Do my eyes itch—or is it my head?)
You get the idea. It's like taking a page right out of Judith Viorst's popular children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Some days, it seems as if nothing goes right.
And I mean nothing.
So, backtrack to my bad day. It was all I could do to make it to the end of my shift. While watching the clock, I dreamed of my pillow, warm pajamas and cozy slippers. Maybe a warm mug of hot tea with honey. And a book.
Tick-tock, tick-tock. Two minutes. One.
I made it.
Hopping into my truck, I forced myself to drive at a reasonable speed even though my foot itched to 'floor it' in my quest for home.
I pulled onto the highway ... and stopped.
Perfect. Why wouldn't there be bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road standing between me and home?
Did I mention my Ipod wasn't working?
We inched along for thirty minutes and had hardly made any progress at all.
So a litany of ornary thoughts flitted through my gloomy brain:
Great. Now we'll eat dinner late.
I'll be folding wash at bedtime.
The dogs are hungry, and if I don't get home soon there may be another 'wet spot' on the floor.
I have a headache.
All legitimate complaints. I mean, come on. This had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone would agree, right?
And then something happened to change all that. Something that put a screeching halt to all of my negative, self-pitying thoughts in that one instant.
A flash of red strobe lights in the rearview mirror caught my attention. I noticed cars, packed like sardines, slowly pulling over as far as they could to make a tiny path for the vehicle to squeeze through the line of bumper-to-bumper traffic blocking the way.
It was an ambulance.
I lost my breath for a second, and when it came back in a rush I moved the truck over to allow the life-saving vehicle through.
I thought about the people, somewhere up ahead, who clearly had suffered an accident on the same road where I was sitting. The person, or people, who was injured not far from the very spot where I sat in traffic with my truck.
I thought about the possible injuries or, heaven forbid, possible fatalities that could be just up ahead.
I thought about the families of those maybe-injured people, and my eyes filled with unshed tears. My heart picked up its beat. My lips moved in a quick whispered prayer for those unknown souls.
And I was ashamed.
Here I was, sitting there with my inner thoughts, in my mind whining and complaining about mundane things when in hindsight none of it mattered at all.
Faced with an inconvenience, it's sometimes hard to see the bigger picture. I have to remember: It's not always about me.
As an adult, and a mom, this isn't a new concept. I know this. Truly.
But sometimes, even grown-ups just need to be reminded.
I drove the rest of the way, inching along, with a troubled mind. I resolved right then to be thankful, even on the bad days.
Especially on the 'bad' days.
Because my bad day pales in comparison to what others may be going through.
Over the weeks since this incident, I have thought about those unknown people many times. And each time I do, I remind myself to look at each situation from another point of view.
Next time I step in something wet, I'll do my best to clean it up and move on. (And give the dog a kiss. His tummy's not feeling good!)
I am thankful.
I'm alive. My family is safe.
Life is good, even when I have a no-good, very bad day.
Sometimes, it's all a matter of perspective.
"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." --Dr. Wayne Dyer
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Kristen L. Jackson, author of KEEPER OF THE WATCH
Kristen L. Jackson, author of JOCELYN’S BOX OF SOCKS
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