3 Steps to Make a Bad Day Good
Posted on 10 April 2011
“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” ~Chuang-Tzu
The beauty of life is that we constantly have the opportunity to change it.
We always have the power to recreate it. We can change our thoughts, remember how to live instead of planning each moment, forgive the past, be present for the now, slow down the speed, and push the reset button on a day that has escaped us.
I recently had one of those days.
This past Saturday was wonderful, or so I thought it would be when I woke up.
I’d been invited to a traditional Cambodian, Vietnamese Wedding, and was excited to attend. Although I didn’t know the bride or the groom, I would be the guest of a good friend.
I had a couple of mishaps that morning that caused me to be late. First, I spent thirty minutes with my younger sister, peeling a wad of gum off the heels she’d borrowed from me the night before—the ones I planned to wear to the wedding in the next hour.
I half-sprinted without make-up to my car, holding a coffee that later spilled all over the front seat.
I arrived to the ceremony fifteen minutes late. I quickly made my way toward the front door of the home. A room full of women in vibrant, traditional Asian clothing greeted me inside.
I introduced myself to a couple as a guest of Sophya, a good friend of mine. They just looked at me blankly, perhaps unsure who she was, and didn’t really respond.
I made my way to the nearby couch where a small group of kids were playing to wait for Sophya there. After getting lost in Legos for twenty minutes, I heard Sophya calling me from another room.
Insistently, she called, “Cat! Cat, you’re not supposed to be in here. Where’s your purse? Grab it.”
Apparently, I was inside the “bride’s home,” but I was a guest on the groom’s side. Traditionally, the groom and his guests are not allowed into the home until they are invited and accepted in.
We made our way outside and the ceremony began shortly after. It was beautiful—a procession toward the front door with the groom’s family and friends, carrying gift offerings wrapped in bright red wrapping, symbolizing prosperity.
I decided to take off the coat I’d been wearing all morning. That’s when Sophya told me that my dress was on backward. I looked down. It wasn’t on backward, but it was inside out—tags hanging out on one side and the back.
Quite embarrassed, I quickly made my way to the bathroom and re-dressed. I came out, stood for about another three minutes, attempting to re-present myself to the ceremony, when I heard a woman from behind me:
“Excuse me, excuse me. I don’t want you to get cold. Your dress—there are three buttons that aren’t buttoned.”
At that point, I would’ve simply loved to bury my head somewhere and remain there for the next week. Sophya, the gentle, sweet person that she is, quietly laughed, smiled, and then buttoned me up.
While recapping the morning, in hindsight, the day was just a comedy of errors. But at the time it was one frustrating and embarrassing occurrence after another.
I imagine we all have our versions of days like this: the ones that seem to begin a bit “off” and then somehow spiral into a sequence of mishaps.
Here are the three things to remember when everything goes wrong:
After the eventful Saturday morning I had experienced, I told myself that I could either be completely mortified, allowing a few hours to influence the remainder of the day, or I could simply acknowledge the lesson and then reset.
I turned on my favorite CD, let the music absorb me, and made my way to see my baby sister. Something about a one-year old’s carefree world and kind smile can always reset me.
We are each so powerful in our ability to completely change how we feel this very moment.
We can escape the pursuits of tomorrow, the clinging of negative thoughts, the spiraling of worry that creates fear. We can escape negativity and embarrassment and get out of a funk when we give ourselves the choice to do so.
What resets do you have? Perhaps a long walk outside? Or a yoga class to help you center? Or a phone call to a friend for encouragement? Or a visit to your favorite blog? Or a quote that puts things back in perspective? Or a picture that reminds you of all the abundance you have?
Can you remind yourself to use these resets when experiencing moments of spiraling?
I’ve adopted the mantra of “drop it like it’s hot” whenever thoughts of fear or negativity try to seep in. Perhaps a bit silly, but it works.
Our fearful thoughts can take an event that seemed bad and draw it out way longer than necessary. It’s amazing how this type of thinking can actually create more events that seem bad.
It is natural and common for our thoughts to wander from one instance to the next. Our thoughts can either carry us to a place of hope, motivation, and excitement, or to a place of frustration, worry, and resentment.
We have the ability to choose to drop those thoughts that don’t serve us. We can liberate ourselves from fear by choosing to let go of stories about what happened in the past.
Next time your fear-based thoughts take over, ask yourself, “Which thoughts are interrupting the flow of my day?” Then drop it like it’s hot.
No matter what changes in our external setting, the gift we have inside is always unwavering.
When circumstances in our day seem to become scattered and our day has completely escaped us, perhaps it has. But that’s just what’s going on outside us.
We can center by bringing ourselves back to this very moment with our breath. Take a moment to just be here, to connect with the now.
Breathe out all of the imperfections of today and breathe in the ability to find clarity in resetting.
Use the breath as a reminder to revel in this moment. At any time, we can choose to make adjustments, adapt, and reset. We always have the ability to choose to be at ease.
Next time you have one of those days when everything seems to wrong, remember: Reset. Drop. And breathe.
Photo by Shaylor.
About Cat Li Stevenson
Cat is an explorer of the human journey and a lover of well-being. She is living and practicing at an urban Zen Center in San Francisco, and working for Wisdom 2.0, an organization that strives to bring wisdom and awareness into the digital age. You can add her as a friend on FB or find her writing on Medium.