Validation and Goodness

The alarm on my phone goes off as usual, alerting me that it’s time to get out of bed and get ready for work. I reach to turn it off and knock the phone onto the floor, along with my glasses. Scrambling to turn off that obnoxious alarm while trying to avoid stepping on my glasses, and now very much annoyed, I get in the shower and discover that the shampoo bottle is empty. Annoyance increases as I pull out every trick in the book in an attempt to scrape off something, anything, from the sides of the bottle to clean my hair. I don’t know what the weather is supposed to be like, so I pull up a weather app on my phone to see if I need a jacket or not. Somehow that 30-second task turned into a 30-minute sidetrack (thanks, ADHD). I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I was doing on my phone for 30 minutes, but I can tell you that it did not include checking the weather. Stepping over boxes that still clutter every room in my house from the move (7 weeks ago, though from the look of things, you’d think it was 7 hours ago), I rush out the door. I’m about halfway into my hour's drive to work when I realise that I forgot my lunch. No sooner did that revelation come to mind, than traffic came to a stand-still (which is rather common on my commute, unfortunately). I arrive at work over an hour past my intended time and jump right into it. I work for an environmental lab, so I quickly get my solutions made so that I can get my equipment running and get started with testing my samples. Taking off my protective gloves, I see that somehow one of the acids that I had to use seeped through. While it doesn’t burn much, my skin is now stained a very strange yellow colour.

Everyone has days like that sometimes, right? I imagine you may have even cracked a smile while reading, thinking about a similar experience you had. When it’s just one thing after another, admittedly, I can be pushed to have ‘adult tantrums’ on occasion.  I say it’s one of those unfortunate side effects of being human. However, something my father would often do comes to mind and helps me out. My father was a man of great faith, and the quote, “Be thankful in all circumstances,” (1 Thes 5:18) is something he held on to tightly to help when things didn’t go how he wanted. Even apart from the faith aspect of that quote, it’s something that is a helpful practice in general life. Similarly, the quote, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day,” by Alice Morse Earle, is very powerful.

When things are tough, it is perfectly okay to express frustration, anger, or whatever other emotion(s) that you’re feeling. Whatever you are feeling is perfectly valid, and being honest brings healing. The thing my dad would do, though, is choose to find something good to focus on instead of the tough things. This isn’t to downplay or invalidate the negatives in life, but rather an opportunity to acknowledge that they exist, and then choose to find something better to focus energy on.

This is not always an easy practice, and does require effort (ugh, I know.. might as well be a swear word for me); but as with most things, the more you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes. This practice of choosing to find something good regardless of what happened in the day has served me particularly well over the last three months as I have grieved the loss of my father. Even typing this out and speaking of him in the past tense feels very odd and sort of wrong. It was very unexpected and literally out of nowhere. I moved back in with my parents in January of last year to assist with my mother who is disabled and has Alzheimer’s. I knew that my dad would need support with her eventually, so I went ahead and moved back in with them. His sudden passing, moving my mum in with my sister, moving myself to be close by to assist (a move that added 40 minutes to my commute to work), my mother’s general condition, and other general life things are tough enough for every day, but then something like that early morning chain of annoyance hits on top of it all, and I’m ready to explode!

As I stand at the sink in the lab with my yellow hand under the running water, I laugh despite myself. Instead of swearing and throwing something across the room, I cannot help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. I mean, really? Seriously? Anything else?! No, wait... better not say that! Haha! Again, expressing my frustration with all of the elements of my bad day is not a bad thing, but choosing to dwell in that negative space will only cause more harm - for me, and potentially for people who interact with me, as well. I acknowledge the frustrations, allow myself to feel those feelings (eww feelings... I know, but I promise it’s a good thing to let them out), then choose to shift my focus onto something better. Sitting in that awful traffic allowed me the opportunity to see the most beautiful sunrise I think I have ever seen. It was absolutely stunning! And once work is over for the day, I’ll go home and cuddle my dog, which will be amazing! That practice of finding something good (and choosing to focus on that good) gave me the ability to avoid the ‘adult tantrum’ (this time) when it seemed the day was just out to get me.

Do you have trouble finding something good in your days? I encourage you to find someone you trust to express whatever emotions you are dealing with. All emotions are valid, and it is perfectly okay and perfectly normal to have negative ones sometimes. Dwelling in those negative spaces is not recommended, however. If you have difficulty finding something good to shift your focus and energy towards, ask a trusted person to help you create the good thing. Maybe it’s just talking to someone. Maybe it’s going bowling even though you’re bad at it, and laughing and doing a victory dance every time the ball goes into the gutter. Maybe it’s going for a walk. The possibilities are endless. In honour of my father’s memory, I want to encourage you, as he did for me, to practice finding and/or creating something good each day (even if it is a ‘small’ thing), and eventually, perhaps the bad days won't feel so all-consuming.

-Mary Beth

Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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