It would begin with a long, luxurious bath, followed by a full hour of applying lotions and potions, and a mini manicure. I would look something like Ashley Judd after all this and my outfit would be a quintessential blend of expensive and luxurious, a study of sophistication in dress. I would then be whisked away by my husband to a posh restaurant downtown for a fancy brunch with friends. Parking and traffic would not be problems, and the morning would be a blur of cerebral conversation intermixed with lots of laughing. Later that day, I would fix an early dinner of superb culinary quality, and my family would extol the virtues of such a meal. There would be no tantrums, no exhaustion, no worries about the next day, or regrets about the previous, and we would all get to bed on time.
Then I wake up.
My work days are chaotic just by the nature of my business, this I have come to accept, but I can get really frustrated by not being able to “control” my days off. There is no such thing as the perfect day, it does not (cannot?) exist. At least it cannot be allowed to subsist as long as I rigidly hang on to my expectations. I find sometimes that clinging to a preconceived notion of how my day “should” progress can cause me more angst than not.
These are the concepts that can help keep me on an even keel and discover the joy in my day, especially when my spoiled, OCD brain is fixated on particular outcomes.
Plan for Alternative Outcomes
Try to plan ahead for a few of the most plausible alternative outcomes. Bring snacks for your small child in case of traffic. Organize an easy dinner option for if and when you get home late. Come up with a different brunch option just in case there’s a closure or a line.
You can’t plan for everything, but there are probably a couple of likely hiccups possible in any arrangement; try to stay prepared for the most conceivable deviations.
Find the Good
Try to suspend expectation if you can. This allows you to experience the moments more fully and appreciate the good that does happen. It’s always prudent to make a plan, but not allowing for variation from a predetermined goal can rob you of the meaningful, brilliant bits that happen whether you are focused on them or not.
If you can’t concentrate on the positive in the moment, it may be helpful to create a gratitude journal and attempt to recapture the pleasurable activities of the day after the fact.
Bad things do happen, by any one’s standards; sometimes there is no silver lining and no way to justify an outcome. Some of us have a tendency to “go back” and try to sniff out the ways that we “could have” altered an event or instance. This, I have found, is a dangerous game. For one, allowing yourself to feel guilt over something you were not accountable for is soul killing. This practice also implies that you have more power, and therefore more responsibility, than you actually do.
When bad things happen, grieve the moment (depending on the severity), and try to move on. Most loathsome incidences of the day-to-day variety don’t need to be dwelled upon, as doing so doesn’t change the past, and only hijacks your future contentment.
Maybe the day didn’t go exactly as planned, perhaps milk was spilled, or the delivery was delayed, etcetera. Try not to let the small issues of the day decrease your joy. Attempt to concentrate on what is going right, and let the problems go. Guilt and cynicism, while common in our current culture, don’t accomplish anything, and they can sap your energy and undermine your goals.
How do you stay happy and mentally flexible? Wishing you all an as-close-to-perfect-as-possible day!