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.


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?

Seeking Harmony

Every day, in most every situation, I have two choices: harmony or discord. More often than not, I prefer harmony. So I strive to choose it.

When a stranger is snarky to me, instead of imitating the behavior I amplify my kindness. I smile genuinely, assuming the individual is experiencing a level of inner discord that has left him/her in a cloud of negativity. Often, my decision to spread kindness instead of distain, prompts the individual to shift to a more pleasant mode. Sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s ok. Another’s negativity doesn’t have to doom my own harmony.

When I suffer a personal setback I redirect mental negativity, stopping harmful self-talk immediately and recharting unhelpful thought paths. Instead, I take a deep breath and work to shift my perspective. I strive to focus on the positive: a solution and a lesson. Then, I remind myself to be grateful. Solutions give me the power to overcome the hurdle, lessons enable me to avoid the pitfall again, and gratitude keeps me grounded.

When someone says something to me I have two choices: I can allow my mind to take a negative bend and tend toward offense, or I can keep to a positive thought path and consider statements in a positive light. Often, it is simply a matter of reframing. For example, if a stranger says, “Wow, you have a lot of kids!” I could either decide to be offended by a perceived attack on my family planning choices, or I could accept the statement as a truth that was delivered with a friendly intent. Often, I find, reframing a comment’s context — realizing the statement was delivered with positive, friendly, or helpful intent — helps greatly in maintaining harmony. Choosing to take offense easily and often is a mindset, and it entirely counteracts my goal of harmony.

When I feel I am wronged, I try to respond positively but directly to the offense. I decide whether the perceived slight is worthy of addressing, if vocalizing my sentiments would prove useful or simply spawn negativity, and how to either discuss or let go of the infraction. I am not a doormat but I need not be a warmonger.

I choose resolution over victimization. Resolution will fix or at least address the issue, characterizing myself as a victim is useless and debasing. Being a perpetual victim is a mindset, and it is not one I allow myself to enable. Instead, I aim to learn from the situation, move forward with my knowledge, and focus on positive momentum, not negative stagnation.

I’ve learned that negative can become positive if I learn from it, if I redirect it, if I repurpose it to fuel my positivity. But it’s my choice. It’s not always easy or appealing, but it has yet to disappoint me.

Seeking harmony is a choice and a mindset. It’s an active, constant effort. It requires willpower and mental retraining, self-awareness, and a sturdy ego. It isn’t always a natural inclination, but it’s rewarding.

I am a continuous work in progress, constantly reminding myself and correcting myself. I’m far from an expert, certainly not without daily falters, and definitely not entirely harmonious, but I’m better than I was. It’s becoming easier with practice and dedication. And I am, in turn, happier.

Harmony makes me happy. So I choose it.



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.