For the last three days, we’ve been in San Francisco with some friends. The first two days were perfect. The trolley ride was better than expected, and we had high expectations. The buses showed up quickly, the routes were easy to find. The weather was great.
And then came day three. Not so good. Everything was a struggle – delays and false starts, confusion and annoyance.
One painful fact is clear to me: life is full of good days and bad days. Sometimes we get on a roll and I start to think I have life completely figured out. I start to think it will be easy forever. Then a bad day hits.
Life is not about avoiding bad days. It is about being as prepared for them as possible, understanding some of the reasons they happen, and adopting a perspective about how to act in the midst of the inevitable bad day.
It is hard to nail down a “cause” for the bad days. We tend to just describe the day. “We got lost”. “We forgot our wallet”. Etc. In a world of random events, some of those are going to be challenging. We are forgetful and argumentative and just tired, eventually.
A bad day is more of an indictment on the circumstances of the day rather than the value of the day. We sometimes call it a “tough day” and that is closer to the truth. Sometimes life is just hard.
Circumstances are mostly outside our control. The good days are when things align in our favor and the bad days are when they don’t, causing extra effort and emotion to spill from us.
Our response to bad days is usually to try to get everything “back on track” – not just the events, but our mood as well. But it is hard. It is difficult to let go of the emotions of disappointment.
The reality is we cannot make a bad day into a good one. If the day has it out for you, so to speak, there is nothing to do but acknowledge that maybe today is going to be “a tough day”.
On our third day in San Francisco, we stopped and took an hour nap on the grass in a park. Just to kind of reset the day. There was so much on our to-do list, but the day had wiped us out by midday.
We cannot “fix” a bad day. But we sure can make it worse. Our emotions spew out everywhere, hurting the people around us we love. Our fighting to get the circumstances back on track expands our frustration. The resentment of time lost and expectations unmet eats away at us.
Bad days are a kind of invitation. An annoying call to arms for our character. The day is going to be tough. What are you going to do in response? You can’t fix it, but you can make it a little better or a little worse. The choice, as is often the case, comes back around to us. Bad days are an arena of life just like good ones.