bad day

It was one of those days. You know the kind. Typically it starts before you even get out of bed (with a strange dream and a kink in the neck) and doesn’t let up until you call it quits that night. I was checking the forecast for a full moon, the calendar for a Friday the 13th, and wracked my brain trying to remember if I had broken any mirrors in the last 7 years.  It went a little something like this…

I stayed up way too late staring at my computer screen (and forgetting my age) praying for a stroke of graphic design genius to take over me. By 12:30am I realized that I had been staring at the screen without blinking for far too long and it was time to go to bed. With my eyes hopped up on electrical waves and my mind obsessed with figuring out a solution, my body did not cooperate. After a couple hours of tossing, turning and pillow fluffing, I finally met the sandman. The next morning I woke up to realize that the bells announcing my winning slot machine jackpot was just a dream and the bells were actually the sound of my alarm clock that had been going off for the last 45 minutes. I ejected out of bed to discover that my neck was frozen stiff. The cat (who was leisurely laying on my pillow that he stole from me like a thief in the night) looked up at me with irritation for disturbing him.

I made off like the time obsessed rabbit in Alice in Wonderland racing around to the house to rouse the roost.  We’re Late!!!!!! As I am faking patience and pleasantries with my beautiful sleepy eyed children I see her. The dog. The bad bad dog. Covered in mud from nose to tail, traipsing through every square inch of the house, trying her best to look pitiful and innocent. Someone forgot to close off the doggy door! Ahhhhh!!! “No worries” I tell myself. “It’s okay” I tell myself. “I’ll just spray her off with the shower-head while I’m in the shower,” I say.  I scoop up the dirty rascal, toss her in the shower and hurriedly follow behind her. As I step in the shower my foot hits what feels like an oil slick and I catch myself inches before cracking open my skull. Pain shoots from my neck through my arm. I imagine the scene I just avoided – naked with a cracked noggin in the shower with a dirty dog-and was grateful for my ninja like reflexes that saved me the embarrassment of a call to the paramedics. I spray off the trouble maker and reach for my own shampoo to discover the reason for the oil slick. My youngest used our shower the night before and apparently had quite a time. He had taken my shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser and soap and created a concoction that was now sitting in the corner of the shower in a questionable looking tupperware bowl. I had no choice but to take a scoop and hope for the best. Maybe he will grow up to be a chemist.

We rush out of the house and jump in the car. We reach his school only 17 minutes late. I come to a rolling stop, tell him I love him like crazy cakes, throw him a banana and give him a quick kiss while he does the tuck and roll out of the car. I speed off headed 65 miles north to try and make it on time for the 12 back to back 30 minute case management consultations that I overbooked myself for. As I approach the toll I realize I don’t have cash…or change…or one of those passes that bills you later. I meekly pull up to the window to explain this to the toll worker. My confession is met with a scowl, a 360 degree eye roll, a handwritten copy of my license, my signature on 3 separate pieces of paper promising to pay the $1 by mail, a copy of my license plate, and the sound of 20 irritated morning rush hour drivers horns reminding me that I am inconveniencing them. For the rest of my drive I give myself a pep talk. I turn on the spa music. I tell myself that it’s only 8:45 and I have the whole day ahead of me.

I get to the office park,drive three separate lots and nothing. It’s packed like a sardine can. Just as I’m mentally measuring the space between the dumpster and the tree I find someone to stalk and finally get a spot. My first appointment is waiting. I apologize, hurry into the office with her and take out my computer. There’s no power cord!!!!! And it’s dead!!!! I’m over an hour away from home and I’m booked back to back. I go to the other offices in the building asking if someone..ANYONE has a power cord to fit my laptop. I was a frantic Goldilocks looking for the one that wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small, but never located a cord that fit just right. I tried to center myself- took a couple deep breaths and conceded to the fact that I was going to have to hand write everything and fill in the blanks later. I worked hard to be present and somehow made it through those 6 hours. No sooner had my last appointment left that I was headed the 65 miles back home to pick up my shiny new $165 facilitator manual that had just come in the mail. I needed it for an afternoon planning meeting with a colleague who shared the cost of the purchase with me. I pull into the driveway and started going through the house. I can’t find it. Where is it? It was in that box on the table last I saw it. I scoured every nook and cranny, called everyone, tried to retrace my steps, it was gone. Garbage day was that morning and the pit in my stomach told me that someone must have thought the box was garbage and had accidentally thrown it out.

I was in no mood for accidents- or mistakes- or inconveniences. Hadn’t I had my share! Didn’t I deserve a break! I yelled in frustration at my husband, I snapped at my kids to Quiet Down! I scoffed at the bank teller when she told me they charge $10 for a money order, I impatiently crossed my arms and tapped my foot waiting in line at the store for people who didn’t understand that I was busy and they could discuss their dog food choice with the cashier later. I had lost my patience with humanity. With human error. With the imperfections of the universe. I was on a roll of destruction and was looking out for every tiny infraction to add to the laundry list of my crummy day. And guess what I did in the process? I made it worse!

When I got home around 7 that night I walked in the door wearing my most pitiful look. I had visions of my husband telekinetically knowing how I felt and what I needed.That he would comfort me in exactly the way that I needed and wanted to be comforted at that moment. That he would scoop me up and hold me and listen to my day with complete understanding. That he would kiss me softly and tell me tomorrow is another day. That he would tell me not to worry about the kids or responsibilities tonight because I had a hard day and he had it covered. Instead, he innocently said, “Hi honey- we don’t really have anything in the fridge to cook tonight- what do you want to do for dinner?” I lost it! I yelled at him. I showed my ass. In my martyrdom I proclaimed, “I don’t know! Can’t somebody else figure it out! Why can’t somebody else take some responsibility to grocery shop, or figure out dinner!” He didn’t know what in the world was going on. Confusion must have been his first thought, and then feeling hurt and angry at the way I unjustly projected my stress and frustration from a day that didn’t go my way onto him. Then I was consumed with guilt and anger with myself.

I know my readers are thinking- so you had a bad day- what’s the point? The point is this- we will all have bad days- nobody is immune- not even your friendly local therapist. Even bigger than that- it is critical that we understand how we help the snowball get bigger and roll faster down the hill with our expectations and tendency to turn away from our partner instead of into our partner when things get tumultuous. We collect events and moments and replay the list of our woes adding each new thing on top instead of seeing each event’s magnitude and impact individually. Ask yourself for each new irritation, “On a 1-10 scale of terrible awful and horrible things- where does this single event fall?” Having a more accurate evaluation will help slow the snowball. Honestly- having to place something as silly as forgetting a computer cord falls pretty low on the terrible, awful, horrible scale. Forcing yourself to use a rating system will help you get your perspective back and maybe even laugh at yourself for getting bent out of shape at the level you have.

Most importantly, we don’t communicate our needs, yet expect our partners to anticipate what they are. When we are having “one of those days” and our normal strategies just aren’t making a difference, slow down and take the time to determine what you need. As succinctly as possible, communicate your needs to your partner- before you need them, not after they fail to read your mind and not meet them. For example, tell your partner, “I’m having a rough day- I don’t want you to try to make me feel better, but will you let me lay my head in your lap and tell you about it?” or “I’m struggling with keeping my patience right now- will you figure out dinner for the kids while I go take a bath?” or maybe even, “My day sucked….I don’t want to talk about it, I just need to laugh- let’s watch a comedy tonight.” Projection is a nasty defense mechanism that will inevitably (and possible irreversibly) damage the armor of your relationship. Your partner can be your biggest support, but you have to give them the tools to be able to support you.

Be a great day today folks…. and don’t forget to check out my website! www.fymcounseling.com

-Grace Moran