When it is one of those days, where nothing I planned to do ever happened, and kids were needy or the house was messy, or sleep was lacking the night before, it is so tempting for me to just throw in the towel. My perfectionism kicks in and I give up. I tell myself the day is going so badly, why even try? Nothing I do is going to make a difference.
This mentality has usually led to me contributing to the problem, as if I want to make sure the day that was going badly, ends badly. It’s like I’m driving along a road, in a hurry to get where I need to be, and I pass a sign that says “Dead End” and I shrug and say, that can’t be right, and keep going. Then I see another sign “Warning: Cliff Ahead”, this pisses me off because this is the route I planned on using, there is no way there is a cliff. When I see the sign that says “Turn back now!” I just floor it, and then find myself broken and bleeding in a ravine at the bottom of the cliff. And usually by then my pride is so wounded by how stupid I’d been, I refuse to call for help.
Lately I’ve been realizing that I have the power to see the signs and turn around. There is nothing compelling me to make a bad day worse. So these are some of the tools that help me stay on the road, when I remember to use them.
#1 “Hit Pause”- So when I see that first “Dead End” sign (although around here it usually looks more like a toddler who didn’t sleep last night, or a grumpy preschooler who doesn’t want to get with the program) I can hit pause. I can stop and think about where we are headed, I can even turn around and choose a different route. I can hit pause and take a deep breath or even a mommy time out if I need it. There is nothing that obligates me to pound my head against the wall to try and force something that is not going to happen. I am the one driving my car, so I get to choose when to hit the brakes. I can be OK with the fact that a child isn’t co-operating and seek to determine the need or feeling behind the conflict instead of ignoring all the signs and driving off the cliff. I can hit pause at any time, even if I have already ignored several signs, even if I am at the edge of the cliff.
#2 “Just be”- I can relax and take my time. This is supposed to be a scenic route, not a race. I can have the mindfulness to enjoy whatever moment I am living right now, instead of being preoccupied with today’s destination, or tomorrow’s moment. Maybe that means that I’m not going to get to the laundry today. Maybe today won’t be everything I imagined it could be, but maybe it will be better. Either way, I can experience my day and my relationships best by letting go and living in the now.
#3 “Enough”- I can let today be enough. Seriously, it is OK if we have a simple meal instead of a grand one. It’s OK if I can’t afford to get someone the gift I really wanted to get them. Maybe we won’t have enough time to decorate the entire house in one day, maybe I won’t be able to have that heartfelt conversation I was hoping for. That doesn’t mean that today was not enough, that I am not enough. Honestly, I think this is one of that hardest ones for me to remember. It is still hard for me to believe that I am enough, but accepting myself and others for who we are, and accepting the day as it comes, is a powerful asset in turning a not so great day around.
#4 “Connect”- One thing that helps me remember to just be, and always seems to help a bad day get better, is connection. Connecting with the people I love, nurturing the relationships in my life. Maybe it’s just a hug. Or stopping everything to read a book or have cookies and milk together. Maybe it’s snuggling under the same blanket and watching a movie with my Hunnie, or lighting a candle again and again so my two year old can blow it out over and over. Whatever it is, caring for myself and the people close to me always helps the day get a little better and reminds me what really matters.
#5 “Ask for help”- This is important. This is what helps me remember that it is never too late. Even if I am already at the bottom of the cliff, it is never to late to admit I am overwhelmed and need some help. I am not invincible, and I don’t need to be. Honest communication about my needs helps. Maybe someone can reassure me that everything is going to be fine, that my efforts were noticed, maybe someone can just watch my kids for long enough for me to take a shower. And even if there is nothing anyone can do to help me achieve my goals, I’ve found talking about it helps me recognize what I was trying to achieve, re-evaluate what is reasonable, and start again. It is OK that I am not able to do it all, it is OK to ask for help.