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Why we should rethink what “having a bad day” means

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Maria Oswalt / Unsplash

Cecilia Pigg - published on 11/15/22

If you examine even the worst day, you may discover some surprisingly good news.

Every evening ends the same way with my kids. Dad is the starter of the bedtime routine, and I am the finisher. After allowing them each a small sip of water from the communal late night water glass, I tuck them in, kiss them goodnight and say, “I had a good day with you today!” I try to mention a specific moment in the day that I particularly loved or a moment they did something that impressed me. But at the very least, I tell them that I had a good day with them.

I’m not sure how that phrase became the bedtime phrase in our family, but it has persisted. It comes in handy especially on days where everything seemed to fall apart, and when no one seemed to have a great day. After a rough couple of days recently, it has made me think about what “bad day” and “good day” even mean. 

Was it a good day or a bad day?

Take the past 24 hours, for example. At several different points in my own morning and afternoon, I would have said it was a bad day. I had three different significant moments with my kids and my friends that embarrassed me, throwing off my groove and leaving me unsettled.

At home, I didn’t accomplish most of the things on my to-do list, running the gamut from prayer to laundry to cutting kids’ fingernails. I had a mini meltdown at dinner time because everyone was screaming and I kept tripping over the paraphernalia that I hadn’t had time to put away all day. Then, my husband had to take a phone call and leave for rehearsal, which is a good thing, but it left me wanting to throw a pity party as I did bedtime by myself and faced the enormity of all the things left undone. All of that seems to be standard bad day material. 

But you know what? There were a bunch of beautiful, objectively good moments in the day as well. We all got out of bed and out the door at 6:30 a.m. and went to morning Mass at a gorgeous church. My boys did not board the crazy behavior train for most of the day and we did some school work and ran a few needed errands. We also had some good conversations. 

Within and in between these good and bad moments, I discovered some insight into how I can grow

I know I should dig into the moments where my pride took a hit and I felt embarrassed and unsettled. What was going on there? Why did I feel that way? Where did my reaction come from?

Instead of feeling that I failed as I tripped over stuff while serving dinner, I could ask: What is a successful day? Is it one where I accomplish every little thing on my list? Or if I come to the end of the day having checked every box, did I maybe miss out on loving some of the people around me in the spontaneous and unexpected happenings of the day? What’s better—a day where I finished all the things, or a day where I responded to people and their needs as my first priority?

Another way a “bad” day keeps me grounded is that the little things that go wrong show me what I’m too attached to.

If my broken oven throws me into full freak out mode, I might learn that I need to let go of placing my identity in serving a nice dinner. Even the car breaking down or my internet going out in the middle of an important Zoom call can help me learn where my priorities might need some shifting. Where are the gifts in these moments? Where can I grow in these times?

Job in his suffering says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). Jesus tells us that God the Father “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God is good every day, whether I see it from moment to moment or not.

Every day is a gift, with every minute allowing me a new chance to love. I want my new prayer as I end each day to be, “Thank you, Lord, I had a good day with you today.”

Tags:
FamilyMental HealthPersonal Growth
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