Let the Bad Days be bad days
BY SARAH MCAVOY
This past Sunday was a weird day. I wouldn’t say it was bad necessarily, just a little off. It seemed like everything that I tried to do just didn’t go as planned. Nothing major, but when the minor inconveniences build up, it can still get a little overwhelming. As I was stumbling my way through running errands that evening (since I was literally making everything difficult for myself), I remembered something I’d been told many times before: Life isn’t meant to be easy.
I feel like that’s one of those cliches you hear all the time but never really give any real thought to it. Or at least I hadn’t. I’d hear someone say it or read it somewhere and nod vigorously in total, unwavering agreement. Yet, when it really came to applying it in my everyday reality, I’d always forget about it.
But this Sunday was different. Because while I was having an off day, I suddenly remembered this simple, incredibly helpful, fact. For most of my life, I had it easy (in most ways, I still do). But once my Dad became sick, I had to have a come to Jesus moment with the fact that being alive meant things like this would happen too. And that it was pretty much entirely out of my control. What a freaking thing to have to come to terms within such a short amount of time. In all honesty, I think I am just now getting around to realizing what it means to understand and accept it truly.
My response to it at first was to try with all my might to control it. Or at least predict it. I’d worry endlessly about someone else I loved, or myself, becoming ill, getting hurt, or dying. When someone would refer to the future with such certainty, it suddenly didn’t feel right as I would have in the past. How could you say so confidently that “there’s always next year?” I’d almost feel that I was jinxing it by saying something like that, so I kept my mouth shut and just prayed for the best.
Brené Brown says that joy is one of the most vulnerable things you can feel. And now I really understand that one too. I used to feel joy without a doubt in my mind. Now I feel it and immediately follow up with the fact that it won’t last forever. It’s exhausting, always stunting your joy before you’ve even really had a chance to feel it.
All of this need for control totally took away my ability to feel happy and relax. Attempting to control everything that happens to you and your loved ones and everyone else in the world, and wanting everything to be perfect and for everyone to feel safe and loved, is a lot to place on your shoulders. Not only is it a lot, it’s setting yourself up for complete and utter failure. And massive disappointment.
This past Sunday, when I remembered that life is not meant to be easy, it finally sunk in that I do not have control. And that it’s actually really beneficial to find acceptance with that. It doesn’t mean you accept the bad things that happen, which is what I think I’d thought it meant all this time. It means that you have to accept that regardless of how hard you try to keep it from being so, bad things will happen to you, to your loved ones, to the world. Bad things happen every day. But so do good things. A LOT of good things. And trying to predict and avoid any and all possible things that could go wrong, tear away any opportunity you might have to experience everything that could go right. Plus, it distracts and discourages us from doing good in areas we may be able to change, too.
Take it from me, someone who has tried to control everything and has constantly “waited for the other shoe to drop” life changes for the better when we release our attempts to control things that are already, and unchangeably, entirely outside of our control. Bad things can, do, and will happen. There’s no way around it. But our reaction to it and how we choose to live our lives despite it is what helps us through. When we acknowledge that life is actually meant to be a struggle, we won’t be blindsided when shit hits the fan. AND, when shit is not hitting the fan, we also give ourselves permission to fully immerse ourselves in and feel those moments of joy. We realize that no, those moments won’t last forever, but that it’s a privilege to have them at all. When we stop trying to make everything perfect, we can see it for the perfect that it already is. And when we see its perfection, we can trust it more fully and live in a way that makes us feel truly alive. Appreciating every little moment, knowing nothing lasts forever.