Recently I had one of those days when nothing went smoothly.
The chores I’d planned to do before going to the office were thwarted by unexpected circumstances. Clients didn’t show for appointments. I found myself aimlessly checking for emails that never came. I couldn’t get behind anything on my To-Do List to salvage some productivity out of the day. All in all, the day was a complete dud.
At some point I realized that I was having a frustrating, unproductive, boring, wasted day. It was decision time. In a flow chart, this would be symbolized by a diamond with the words, “What now?” inside it.
As I saw it, I had two choices.
1. Try to push on with a positive attitude, or
2. Go with the flow
Option 1 presented me with the promise of further pain. Putting a positive spin on something you’re experiencing as negative means ignoring your actual feelings. And doing that seemed unkind after the morning I’d had.
I chose Option 2 and decided to go with that day’s “flow.” Of course, to me the day had all the flow and none of the charm of a smelly bog; nothing seemed to be moving, and I kept thinking, ‘This stinks.’ But that’s only because my personal plan for the day conflicted with reality.
The Power of Surrender
Nothing important, enjoyable or satisfying would happen that day; I would feel stuck in it until it was over. I allowed for this possibility while going about doing the things that had to be done. Nothing changed on the outside, but mentally I let go of the need to make the day something other than it was shaping up to be.
I know I’m supposed to be able to shape my own reality, and turn a bad day into a good one. But while I believe whole-heartedly in personal responsibility, I’m not actually omnipotent. If I were, vegetables would taste like candy.
On this particular day, I felt like a small twig being carried along on a big river. So that’s what I decided to be. And in making that decision to act as if I were a twig, I took responsibility for my experience; I chose surrender over struggle.
To Ebb is Human
Call it personal biorhythms, the alignment of the stars or karma; some days are simply not as enjoyable as others, no matter how you slice them. What helps me get through these is to trust in the larger flow of things, and know that better days always follow the worse ones.
There’s a phrase, “ebb and flow,” which refers to the movement of the tide. When it ebbs, it’s on its way out. It’s such a weird word, many people just say the tide “flows in and out.”
It’s worth remembering that Nature’s patterns repeat in all things, including human lives. We too have our natural ebbs and flows. We don’t need to fear the ebb; it always gives up its hold eventually. Far from being stuck or going backward inexorably, when the tide goes out, it’s just part of the momentum of the whole process, the flow of the tide.
Disappointing days are like that for us, I think. They’re part of the in-and-out, up-and-down flow of our lives.
Once I gave up the need for the bad day to be a good one, my expectations lowered all by themselves.
I had to keep deciding to go with the flow at various points throughout the day in order to remind myself that it was okay. But eventually it was.
A couple of days later I was bursting with ideas and energy, and had an exceptionally productive, enjoyable and satisfying day. It was as if I’d come out of a mini-hibernation. That good day made up for the bad one.
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