Moments / Thoughts

A Cloudy Day

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Above: My absolute favorite puddle-loving, grime-attracting, pasta-throwing ray of sunshine.

It’s become a cliche to rattle off a list of relatively minor disappointments and then cover for it with a #firstworldproblems hash tag. A self-deprecating shorthand for acknowledging one’s blessings while apologizing for feeling anything but grateful and happy for them.

Gratitude–yes gratitude is important, but in a world that celebrates busy, rewards perfection and worships the pursuit of happiness only after it’s already been accomplished, I sometimes forget to value the alternatives to happy.

Pollyanna I may sometimes–annoyingly–be; but my favorite authors and artists aren’t the ones who write only about sunshine and rainbows and I’m no detachment-seeking acetic.

I was reminded of this yesterday, our first truly down-tempo day in a long time. A day with no comittments, no deadlines and no audience of either family, friends or staff to witness my every move and my every reaction.

I felt grumpy and uncharacteristically exasperated–with everything: a frustrating day at work for Chris. A teething, feverish, cranky toddler. An unexpectedly gloomy, rainy day in perennially sunny Delhi. A cancelled trip to Jama Majsid and an aborted attempt to go for chai and dosa on account of the teething short one. The beginning of the descent into the culture shock U. Having to cancel the Christmas surprise I’d planned for Chris–which would have been our first real date out in eons and last chance before family comes to town for the next 3 months. Embarking on a new project and realizing how horribly ill-suited I am for the work.

I realized though, at some point between Will face-planting into a puddle of pigeon-poop and me accidentally covering the kitchen floor in microscopic shards of glass from a broken vase, that perhaps it wasn’t so much that I was having a bad day, but instead that I needed–very much–to have one. I needed a short break from happy, from striving to be the most cheerful, well-adjusted person in the fish bowl.

I like busy. I like to-do lists. I like my work-like obligations, I like entertaining and cooking and having family and friends over and staying up late at night to pour over the photos I’ve taken from our adventures around town.

But there is an anesthetic quality to being busy all the time and the price I pay for moving constantly is a certain superficiality of both thought and emotion. As any mother, any parent, anyone who’s moving, working, striving every waking hour of the day knows–which is to say, most people–it’s difficult to truly think or reflect deeply, on either “first world” or “real” problems, when you’re falling asleep every time you have the chance to sit still.

Tuesday I crossed nothing off my to-do list, I ate far too many leftover cappuccino cheesecake bars. I bickered with my sweet husband (who empathetically indulged me). Instead of spending every spare minute busy with chores and commitments after Will went down for his nap, I read and I thought.

Frustration teaches. Disappointment begets inspiration. Sadness sparks creativity and occasionally taking a day to feel really miserable can sometimes be more pleasurable and even more productive than forcing good cheer.

Fulfillment isn’t a state of constant happiness. It’s a mix of whichever healthy emotional experiences will bring both the most joy and the most growth at the same time.

Tuesday was a day filled not with joy but instead with, ahem, “growth” (to put it rather euphemistically). But there’s nothing like a bad day or a few #firstworldproblems to recharge and feel grateful for those days when the sun is shining and happiness is so easy to come by.

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18 thoughts on “A Cloudy Day

  1. Learning to find solace in down times is on going, but necessary. It brings balance which brings true joy and gratitude to what is otherwise just being overly busy and as you said, shallow. Here’s to living life, fully and awake, in all its messy adventures!

  2. I can definitely relate to this. I’ve had more “down” days in the past two weeks than I had before our vacation to Kenya. I think our week at the beach reminded me how to sit still for a moment and now I’m “sitting still” with my girls during the day more. By sitting still I mean not running around accomplishing my goals for the day. Instead I’m sitting with ashlynn in my lap and reading her the same book 4 times in a row and flipping through a magazine while the girls play. Or even plopping down on the couch to drink a cup of coffee instead of guzzling it to hurry on to my next task. It’s been a nice change and I have caught myself a tad restless but also more calm and smiling with my daughters more.

    It also has something to do with the few weeks before Christmas when I feel full of ideas and creativity and want to create things with love to make my family happy. It’s nice to turn in toward your family this time of year.

    I really loved this post. Bad days aren’t really that bad. Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on all the good days. Were they, in fact good, or just full?

    • I love love love that line “Were they, in fact good, or just full?” You hit the nail on the head. It’s interesting to have down time right now when everyone in the America is so busy! But for us, most of the holiday busyness is over

  3. I love this post, can really relate as a parent. I forget how bad days are just as important as good days, even though I would prefer all good days! Thanks for the great post.

  4. I love this and needed to hear it: “Fulfillment isnโ€™t a state of constant happiness. Itโ€™s a mix of whichever healthy emotional experiences will bring both the most joy and the most growth at the same time.” So timely, too, as I start working on a post entitled “ennui”. I’m currently on the downward descent into the U and happy to have made friends like you who understand exactly what that means.

    • I hear ya. The culture shock or whatever that a-few-months-in crash should be called is definitely around the corner here. I’m so much looking forward to hearing your perspective and how Laos is treating you all one quarter of the tour in. You are right, It is so nice to have friends who don’t even need a blog post to know exactly what’s going on.

  5. Hi Dani – just love this post. Perfectly honest and so true! As some friends of mine say:

    Grace not perfection.

    Done is better than perfect.

    Christmas is often hyped as this amazing time, but it can be difficult when there is downtime between the chaos. You sound like you have a firm grasp on what matters ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I try to remember it all the time – not easy! Done is better than perfect resonates with day to day things. Sadly I am a bit of a perfectionist about other areas of my life and I am trying to see the value and joy in applying it to those places too ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for being so honest in your writings!

  6. Hello. This really struck a chord, even though I’m not a parent. It’s so easy to get caught up in the endless rounds of deadlines, meetings and general busy-ness at work, so that the first few days of holidays can be a difficult adjustment. Luckily I have close friends and a great husband to keep me grounded.

    • You are so right, you don’t have to be a parent to suddenly feel lost in a bit of downtime. Glad you have people to keep you grounded though!

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