My Unpopular Perspective: No Bad Days

“There is no such thing as a ‘bad day.'” This is not a widely held opinion, but it’s mine. As I see it, there are simply days neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Just days filled with moments… some moments are fun, some challenging, some sad, some happy, some purposeful, some tedious, some painful, some luxurious, some stimulating, occasionally some are tragic or traumatic, but most moments within most days are unremarkable.

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When I pick up my daughter from school and ask her about her day, and her response is, “I had a bad day.” I tell her that I’m sorry she had some hard moments but remind her that though parts of her day may have been difficult, her WHOLE day wasn’t bad. Then I ask her about the parts she felt were “bad.” After we have discussed her hurdles, I ask her about the positive parts of her day. Her mood pivots, her perspective changes as her attention shifts to recall the fun and pleasant aspects. She has reframed her day in that moment.

As I’ve explained to my children, simply because a certain fraction of a day’s moments belong within a specific emotional category — often oversimplified into “good” or “bad” — it doesn’t negate the rest of the day’s events. Because I stubbed my toe getting out of bed, poured my tea down the front of my shirt, and backed into a trashcan on my way out of the driveway, does that mean that the uneventful minutes I spent getting ready for the day were “bad”? That the loving moment I received a deep hug and maple syrup kiss from my child was “bad”? That my moments spent engaging in pleasant small talk with strangers or mundanely folding laundry were “bad”? Of course not! Therefore, the whole day wasn’t bad. Even if, say, I unexpectedly tragically lost a loved one later that day or felt burdened by world events that left an ache in my core, the sadness would be painful but it would not negate the plethora of moments before and after the event. It was not a “bad” day.

Often, we give too much power to the negative which, in turn, shifts our perspective. If we tell ourselves that we’re having a bad day, we’ll ensure that’s precisely the case by only seeing the bad. However, if we refuse to categorize the day as a lump sum, then we can appreciate each moment and each experience for what it is.

A yoga instructor recently said to the class I was attending, “This is how it is, now.” Meaning, each moment is different and fleeting. I burnt dinner and everyone is wailing in hunger? “This is how it is, now.” I feel sad over news clips? “This is how it is, now.” My kid tells me that I’m the best mommy ever? “This is how it is, now.” I share belly laughs with a dear friend? “This is how it is, now.”

It’s all temporary. It’s all fluid. Don’t cut yourself, your day, or your life short by categorizing your days in limiting, imprecise terms. Just take your days as they are — a collection of varied moments — and appreciate the experience.

Because, why survive when you can savor?

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18 Years: Lured by Limp Bizkit

18 years ago today, a 16-year-old boy drove an hour in his Dodge Avenger just to meet a 16-year-old girl he heard might still be at a Starbucks with friends. He was quiet and shy. She less so but still naively nervous. Bubbling with anxiety, he asked her if she liked the hit song “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit, saying that his car’s two 12-inch subwoofers made the song sound particularly good. She obliged. That evening, they began dating.

He would pick her up from her all-girls high school after leaving his all-boys school in the afternoons, his emerald green car thumping with bass-heavy music (ex: Old Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money” or DMX’s “Party Up”), the tan interior smelling of “Desert Jasmine” car air freshener. Santana and Rob Thomas’ “Smooth” regularly on the CD deck as she opened the car door, because he knew it was her favorite song. Pubescent faces beaming, bellies full of butterflies, they’d drive off in their school uniforms. Just happy to be together.

18 years later, they have three kids and nearly two decades of shared memories. They have spent more of their lives as a couple than not.

Through relationship turmoil, family discord, multiple deaths anticipated and not, college searches, job hunts, interstate moves, wedding planning, health hurdles, career shifts, infertility battles, surprise babies, labor and delivery traumas, child-rearing beauty and stressors, lay-offs, allergy discoveries, dietary shifts, surgeries, and countless precious and challenging life experiences they stayed together.

How? They were best friends and made sure to reconnect regularly by spending time together, whether it be watching a favorite TV show or just chatting on the back deck. And they laughed every. Single. Day.

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Who knew two 16-year-olds could make a good decision?

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Who knew we’d make it?

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Happy dating anniversary, The Hubs!

 

Scars of Victory

Scars. Everyone has them. Whether from tragedy, clumsiness, or medical procedure, we all have some line, dent, or mark that tells part of our story. Still, people lament the marks, cover them, tattoo over them, regard them as embarassing imperfections. They wish them away and fret their revelation. But scars are not just pieces of our anatomy, dog-earred notations of our life chapters, and signs of our struggles. They are proof of our victories.

I have numerous scars. Some from good times and others from bad times, some tie to strong recollections and others mental blurs. However, one of my most obvious scars has been with me since almost the beginning.

You see this scar here? Some might hide it. I own it. Sure, I’ll never have a “perfect stomach.” Instead, I’ll have MY stomach. I still rock a two-piece swimsuit when I feel so inclined. I’m not hiding it.

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That scar came from a life-saving surgery I endured as an infant. I survived corrective surgery for plyoric stenosis (a genetic malformation of part of the digestive tract that causes all food to be forcefully regurgitated instead of digested.) That scar is proof that I am a survivor. It is just as much a part of me as my nose and my laugh.

I don’t hide it. I don’t lament it. It is simply a part of me. It may not be pretty, but not everything in life is.

What I hope for you is acceptance of your scars. You needn’t “rock” your scars, if that’s not within your comfort zone, but I hope you at least won’t be embarrassed by them. I hope you own them. I hope you realize you are braver, stronger, wiser, and emotionally richer because of them. They are signs that you have survived, grown, overcome, lived.

Instead of framing hard-won or regrettable scars as reminders of challenging times, regard them as badges of badassery. Trophies of success, determination, fortitude. They’re nature’s tattoos, showing the world — and you — that you are more than just a delicate flower. You are force, a beautifully unique collection of experiences and growth. Whatever lead to that scar shaped you. Love yourself. Love your scars.

Scars are not blemishes. They’re proof of victory.

You won.

Better Than Therapy Yin Yoga: Boho Beautiful

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff to let go. I woke up yesterday morning tired and tense, just aching for 15 more minutes to snooze. But something within me told me to get up and do my yoga. I knew I’d be grateful for my persistence, despite what my inner sloth said.

5:45am, I padded downstairs, brewed my green tea, and set out kids’ breakfasts. All the while, an internal negative churn brewed unmistakably beneath the surface positivity. The best way I can describe it is digestive upset — bubbling, squeaking, cramping, and impending doom — but of my emotions instead of my gut. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise cause though.

So, I headed outside to do my yoga. I unfurled my yoga mat on the deck and scrolled through my favorite yoga YouTube Channel, Boho Beautiful. For months I have been doing Boho Beautiful yoga and yoga workout videos at least twice a day (they range from 5-30 minutes in length, which is perfect for a busy mom with an ever-changing list of demands) to help me feel not just healthy and strong, but centered.

I scrolled through the videos in search of an appropriate selection for my morning practice. I clicked on the Boho Beautiful Yin Yoga video.

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The practice started as any other. Juliana, the instructor, coached me through breathing and reminded me to use this practice to release any negative manifestations. Any people, situations, or memories bringing me down were to be recalled, acknowledged, and released. Fair enough!

I figured I’d be feeling mom guilt or stress from eventual career uncertainty. Nope.

I folded myself into pigeon pose and just as Juliana cued me to pay attention to any emotions or thoughts that presented and to allow myself to experience and release them, I began crying. Ugly crying — snot pouring, shoulders pulsing, fat tears dripping into puddles on my yoga mat — as I laid in pigeon pose. A mental slideshow of my eldest’s first year flipped through at a rapid, heart-wrenching pace. This child we’d dreamed of, struggled for, thought we’d never have, then thought we’d lose just as soon as she’d arrived, was speeding through her beautiful childhood faster than I could capture memories.

My ultimate dream for my life had been fulfilled. What a precious blessing! But what now? To peak so young is a catch-22. Why can’t I slow down time??

I breathed out the negativity coursing through my glutes and thighs. I breathed in positivity.

Juliana instructed a position change. A back-lying quad stretch. As abruptly as the tearful siege began, it ended. I was calm, peaceful, positive. When we returned to the opposite leg pigeon pose, the tears returned. Juliana coached me through the emotional onslaught, knowingly providing acknowledgement and release direction.

Then we switched poses and Juliana told viewers to think about what makes us happy and grateful. A series of mental images from family beach trips, outings, and day-to-day mental snapshots poured through my mind. I was inundated with love and gratitude for my children and husband. The rush of positivity filled my inner fibers where the negativity once festered. I released.

I still felt raw throughout the day, but self-aware. Centered. Knowing with certainty why I was emotionally off kilter strengthened me. It allowed me to be kinder to myself because I understood myself.

The yoga was better than therapy.

 

This was in no way a sponsored blog post. I purely and simply wanted to share something positive I have encountered to help me lead a healthier, happier, more balanced life. In addition to the YouTube channel, Boho Beautiful has a webpage, blog, Facebook account, and Instagram feed. Visit and follow along if you desire.

It’s All Impermanent

So often we get stuck in the minute trials of life that we forget that it’s all fleeting. We get buried in the deliverables and career paths, tantrums and to-do lists, routines and skirmishes, tantrums and developmental timelines, carpool and never-ending laundry that we lose perspective entirely.

Then, a moment strikes us back into reality. We realize the beauty of the moment — this very moment — and the speed with which time is racing. We pause amidst the surrounding churn and process the impermanence of it all.

Everything is temporary. The pain, the joy, the fun, the challenges, the frustrations, the worries, the celebrations, the sleepless stages, the adorable phases. All of it — good and bad, fretful and consoling — is fleeting.

We must remember that as we go about our days, toiling (simply for money or for personal aspiration) and/or raising our humans and growing ourselves. We must remind ourselves that no matter what pain or sadness, worry or frustration, anger or embarrassment we are feeling, it is not forever. It will end. We must too remember that the joyous, beautiful, precious, balanced times are not permanent. They too will end. So we must savor them. We will experience pain and comfort, mourning and elation, and that is natural. It is good. It is all good.

We must simply survive and savor, honoring the balance and minding the impermanence of life.

Memorial Day Appreciation

Today, Memorial Day, we honor the fallen, their memory, their death. We pay our respects. We bow to those who gave their lives so that we can, now, enjoy freedom and relative safety. We can celebrate life because others gave theirs.

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The children scampering in red, white, and blue; the grills blazing amidst laughter and filling bellies; the families and friends joining together in joyous camaraderie; the stores teaming with customers seeking one-day deals; the parades featuring music and celebration. It is all possible, in great part, because of others’ sacrifice. Their blood, their survivors’ tears afforded us our present freedom.

You are not forgotten. You did not die in vain.

 

A World without Joy: Reflecting on Murder

11 years ago today my cousin, Joy, was murdered by her on-again-off-again fiancée (story detailed here.) Today, 11 years older and 1 husband and 3 kids richer, I am the same age she was when she was killed.

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Joy Buttrey, killed May 7, 2006

Fresh out of college, just beginning my career, not yet engaged to my now-husband, I was a very different person then. I was naive, shy, selfish, guarded, self-conscious, anxious, hopeful, lost. I looked at my three close-in-age older cousins as being notably more adult than I was. They were always bigger, more mature, more worldly than I. 34 seemed so far away.

Because of the decade+ age gap — and my own immaturity — between us, it was hard for me to comprehend just how much life my 34-year-old cousin had before her, just how much she would miss, just how young she really was. When I initially mourned her death, I felt the pain of her loss. I knew the act that took her was nonsensical, brutal, and callous. I knew she had been robbed from us — from the hoards of friends, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and family who loved her — but my 23-year-old self didn’t yet compute all that had been robbed from her.

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At 34, I have three young children — aged 5, 4, and nearly 2 — who need me deeply every day. I have a loving husband and dear friends. I have close family and cherished dreams. I have hopes for the future decades ahead. I have much left to live.

Knowing how much my cousin loved life, treasured friends, adored family, and aspired to accomplish, I know that she had an array of hopes for her future. She had expended great effort and love to help her fiancée’s young daughter settle into a stable life with the possibility of a positive future. To see her flourish and rise was Joy’s ultimate goal; she wished great things for the young girl. She wished great things for herself, as well. Decades of dreams were shattered by a single bullet.

Today, I feel a coldness within me, the shadowy chill of overdue realization. I am able to empathize with my murdered cousin better than I ever could before. My eyes have finally opened to her loss, not my own.

If I were to have all of my future dashed today, all of my loved ones ripped from my grasp, all of my hopes obliterated, the personal loss would be tragic. I would miss so much!

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Today I mourn not my loss or the world’s, but Joy’s. I mourn her dreamed daughter, Maeve, who will never be. I mourn the experiences, the achievements, the trips, the love, the laughs, the tears, the sunny days and stormy nights, the future friends, and all that could’ve been but will never be.

The world is not the same without her. Her loss is still acutely felt 11 years later. The nature of her death haunts the recesses of my mind. But her laugh still rings true in my heart. Tales of her foibles still echo amidst guffaws at family gatherings, her name is spoken often with a broad smile and glittering eyes, her memory is still strong… alive. Her earthly presence may be 11 years gone but her spirit lives on, in this world without Joy.

 

#RareDiseaseDay

I cannot tell you how many children and adults I know who live their lives with a rare disease diagnosis. It is as if people with these unusual maladies are cosmically drawn into my life and I into theirs. Despite how their medical challenges have contorted their lives and their loved ones’ existences, they power on… because there is no other choice.

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For the Rare Disease warriors — both directly afflicted and indirectly affected by relation — this day we honor you. Your strong days embolden us. Your weak days humble us. Your determination inspires us. But, mostly, we’re just grateful to have you in our lives, strengths, flaws, and all.

In Defense of 2016

“2016 sucked!” “2016: worst year ever!” Poor 2016 is getting a bad rap and all because of myopia.

So often we focus on just one aspect of an experience, dashing the rest from mind. A whole day can be categorized as “bad” based on a few unsavory instances when, in reality, a majority of the day was simply unremarkable and perhaps even pleasant. Our recall is entirely flawed.

The negative in life is necessary not only for us to appreciate the positive, it is often the precursor to beautiful life change and personal growth. Without uncomfortable life adjustments, we would remain stagnant. Without struggles we wouldn’t adapt, learn, and toughen. Every overcome hurdle enhances our perspective, worldview, and resilience. Our lives are richer and we are better for all we’ve faced… good and bad.

We do not begin a day or year precisely the same as we end it. So much can happen in a year. People enter and exit our lives through drama, distance, development, and death. Our career paths can change. Our dreams can shatter, shift, or shine. Our perspectives and beliefs can grow or morph. We are in a constant state of flux.

I’ve had years during which there was ample family drama, multiple deaths, loneliness, poor decisions, work uncertainty, relationship hurdles, boss woes, identity struggles, financial strain, weight frustrations, personal crises, fertility battles, and health troubles. During those years there were also fond memories, happy experiences, good decisions, work wins, laughter, love, and contentment. No year — or day — is wholly bad or wholly good. To categorize an entire timeframe as such is hyperbolic, imprecise, short-sighted.

My rough days and my challenging experiences have been the greatest fuel for personal growth and positive life changes. Sure, change can be scary and hard, but that makes the positive outcome even sweeter.

If 2016 strikes you as being more negative than positive, take a hard second look with a clearer lense. Look at all the good that happened and may still yet happen as a result of the year. If you’re still not convinced, consider the past year as a transition stage, a launching point for massive positive life changes.

“The sun,” they say, “shines brightest after the storm.” And so do we.

Happy 2017!

 

Life after Murder

10 years ago today, my 34-year-old cousin was murdered by her on-again-off again fiancé. Shot in the head on her own sofa.

May 7, 2006, I was returning on an early morning flight from the out-of-town wedding of my now-husband’s eldest brother. Running on three hours of sleep, stale airplane coffee, and a slight hangover, we made our way home. We stopped at my eventual parents-in-law’s house to pick up my car when I realized I was far too tired to safely command a vehicle. So, I took a 30-minute nap to regain some semblance of human brain function. When I awoke, only half-zombie now, I remembered my cell phone was still off due to the plane ride. I turned it on. Numerous voicemails.

I listened to one message after the other from family members telling me to call them. One, from my male cousin, urged me to call him immediately. I had never heard these words from him. I ran outside to get better reception and called.

“Joy is dead.” What??? We didn’t know anything except that her live-in fiancé had been present. Details were scarce and contradictory. I asked after my aunt, the mother of my three cousins. “She’s sitting in a chair. She’s quiet.” “Where are you?” I asked. They were at his sister’s — Joy’s sister’s — house. “Come over.”

I closed my flip phone and stared at a crack in the driveway. “What was that all about?” Hubs asked, still half-zombie himself. “Joy is dead.” I said vacantly. My mind couldn’t process the words. The exhausted mental wires were firing and fizzing but no connection resulted. I was numb.

Hubs drove me to my cousin’s house. I sat in the passenger seat for the hour long drive switching between talking to family on the phone, trying to find out anything that made any of this make sense, and staring silently out the window. “Joy is dead” I kept thinking.

We arrived at my cousin’s home. Everyone was there. We were processing, rehashing our stories of how we heard the news, sharing what little information we knew, trying to comprehend our reality. We kept glancing at our phones, as if at any moment a call would come through and this nightmare would be extinguished.

Over the next eight months the police investigation was messy. Media enjoyed the story. Official assumptions were offered and rescinded. Evidence was found and lost. Deals were made and ammended. In the end, there was a trial.

The on-again-off-again live-in fiancé, indicted on first-degree murder and using a handgun to commit a felony, plead down to manslaughter and a gun charge. He got 10 years, with the mandatory 5-year gun sentence to run concurrently with the manslaughter time. He served 6 years.

My 34-year-old cousin who loved life, took in his children as her own, helped him through medical challenges, supported him through addiction, and aided him during financial hardships was dead due to his actions. Yet he served 6 years.

It took me years to let go of the unfairness, to release the nagging questions about the fated night’s events, to accept it all as a part of the family path and my story. It was what it was.

10 years later, I put myself in Joy’s place; she was just a year older than I am now when she was killed. I look back on how I’ve changed, how my life has changed, who has been added to and subtracted from our living family since she left us. I think about how different life may have been — how different I might have been — if Joy was still alive.

I reflect on how the holiday season is different without her. How family gatherings are quieter. How I’ve had to actively redirect my initial reaction to all the signs and decor featuring “JOY” in bold, festive letters from an aching pit in my stomach to a contented reflection. I can now smile outwardly — though not always inwardly — at the sight. I am a work in progress, but I am determined.

I reflect on how I’ve purposefully trained myself to react to poignant dates with a celebratory demeanor to honor her life, instead of pointlessly lamenting her death. How I’ve reminded myself over and over that Joy’s death was but moment in the vibrant life she loved so much. How I’ve instructed myself that her death isn’t — and shouldn’t be — demonstrative of her life. How focusing so heavily on her death diminishes the beauty of her existence.

I reflect on how I have to think before answering questions about how many cousins I have, or what tense to use when referring to Joy. Because, “my cousin was murdered by her fiance” isn’t exactly prime conversation material. I don’t want to lie, I don’t want to pretend she was never a part of this world, but few have experienced murder with any closer proximity than through a television series.

10 years later, I have resigned myself to the truth that we will never know what really happened that night, that nothing will ever feel just, that nothing will bring her back. Closure is simply not ours to have.

Some things in life we aren’t supposed to know, control, or understand. We are just to live. So I do.