I remember once having a really bad day. I was running late for work and when I made the first turn out of my neighborhood, my coffee went flying out of the cup holder and my feet were sloshing around in a pool of coffee. The rest of the day followed suit. Discipline problems in my classes, a rehearsal I wasn’t pleased with, and a torrential downpour in the parking lot. It wasn’t a tragic day. I didn’t receive terrible news and no one got hurt, but boy was it a crappy.
One picture book that always stuck with me was “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” by Judith Viorst. Even at the time, it wasn’t a new book (published in 1972). Maybe my teacher read it to us; I’m not sure. As a kid, I can't say I related to the story because I had never had a day that terrible. As an adult, I can definitely relate. We all have those days that are just annoying, but a closer look at how Alexander deals with his day is very telling. There are a few things that tend to happen on days like this:
Writing off the whole day:
“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
Alexander’s day was terrible right from the start. I don’t like to admit just how much I resemble Alexander. I’m quick to write off the whole day based on the first ten minutes. Two unfortunate things happened to Alexander and, in his mind, his day was ruined.
A few weeks ago, my daughter woke up and said, “Mommy I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” She is the most emotionally volatile of my kids, so I was worried. I said, “Tell me more about that.” She said, “I went to bed with my head facing my dresser, but I woke up with it facing the door.” I sighed with relief. Luckily, she didn’t know that old saying. I often wake up on the wrong side of the bed and not in the way Nora meant. If I’m tired or someone crosses me before coffee or any number of annoying things happen, the day is a loss. Unfortunately, writing off the day causes me to…
Focus on the negative:
“It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. There were lima beans for dinner and I hate lima beans. There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing.”
Notice Alexander doesn’t mention anything else that was on his plate or other details from the TV show. He only saw the things he hated. I’m so guilty of this. It’s funny because I get super annoyed around negative people, but I also rarely notice when I’m behaving that way. I need someone to point it out to me, which doesn’t usually help my mood.
When I decide the day is going to stink, my list is just like Alexander’s. Lima beans and kissing. (two things I actually like, but you get the point) How much better would my day be...heck, how much better would my relationships be if I didn’t focus on the negative? A few weeks ago, my daughters had an out of state dance competition. When we returned, people asked how it went and I found myself talking about how crowded the city was and how certain aspects of the competition seemed unfair. I didn’t talk about the family time, or how nice the pool in our hotel was, or how pretty the Smoky Mountains are. I talked about the negative. And if I’m honest, negativity changes the way I act.
“I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I could tell because Paul said I wasn’t his best friend anymore. He said that Philip Parker was his best friend and Albert Moyo was his next best friend and that I was only his third best friend.
I hope you sit on a tack, I said to Paul. I hope the next time you get a double-decker strawberry ice cream cone the ice cream part falls off the cone part and lands in Australia.”
I can feel the pain in Alexander’s voice here. Unlike some of the annoying things Alexander’s dealt with, Paul’s “friend re-ordering” is hurtful. What we don’t know is what Alexander did that may have prompted Paul’s decision. Just like wishing Paul would sit on a tack or he’d lose his ice cream, when we’re hurt we also attack. I know I do. Unfortunately, the people I hurt are usually just those caught in the crossfire. In other words, my family. When I think back on that bad day so many years ago, I wonder if my attitude was the cause of the discipline problems and the bad rehearsal. My bad attitude was probably just bouncing back in my face as I dished it out to those around me.
Bad days tend to snowball. We count the day as a loss at the very beginning, focus on all the bad stuff, and act like a jerk. Suddenly, it’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. They’re the days we just want go to bed and start again tomorrow.
Some days are like that:
“It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.”
I don’t think Alexander was blameless, but there’s no denying he had a crappy day. Sure, he had a bad attitude and lashed out, but most of the day was just plain bad luck. We all have days like that. If you haven’t had one recently, you may be due for one.
In the mist of a stinky day, I'm less likely to connect with God. I know it's counterintuitive, but it's what I do. I'd rather wallow in my misery than each out to God. Maybe my best medicine on bad days would be to hum a few bars from the classic hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Check out these wonderful words:
"Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me"
What I really need on days like Alexander’s is The Lord's presence to cheer and guide me. I need strength for today and hope for tomorrow. And my unchanging God offers that. In my bad luck, and hurt feelings, and even in my sin he offers hope. Some days are just bad. But my God is good and he doesn’t change. I sure hope I remember that on good days and those when I’m wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I hope you do too.