When You’re Having One of Those Days

Note: I'll be back with more of the God is a Laboring Mother series soon, but I thought I write a quick post today about battling the blues. After all, it's day five of rainy weather here in Minnesota and SNOW FLURRIES are predicted for this weekend. Take a deep breath, make some tea, and share your bad-day-survival tips in the comments. Rainy Day

They happen a couple times each month, those dogged depress-o days where I can’t get outside my head. Often it’s tied to not getting enough sleep, of not meeting my own high standards, of comparing myself to other people who “have it together” in ways I can never seem to match. Sometimes I’m having an especially difficult parenting day – child won’t nap, child gets up at 5 AM, child is pushing ALL MY BUTTONS.

Do you have those days, too?

Maybe it’s the weather change, maybe it’s the impending due-date of baby #2, but I’ve been having more than my fair-share of these days lately. And, when I’m home with a 2 ½ year old, I can’t simply soak in the tub and light candles and binge watch some mindless TV show on Netflix. For my daughter’s sake, I know I need to pull it together.

So, how do you snap out of it? I’ve been working on my action plan for downward spirals and I thought I’d share some things that are working for me. Also, I want to hear your suggestions… God knows I need them.

  1. Go outside. Is it raining? 20 below zero? Blustery winds? Even if it’s just a walk to the car, getting out in the elements helps. The fresh air, the wild-waving trees, the sight of other people walking around reminds me there is a big ol’ world out there beyond my molehill-turned-mountain problems. If you can go for a walk or a run, even better.
  1. Take a shower. I realize this is hard when you have multiple kids or a newborn, but if you can find a way to shower DO IT. Feel the water streaming on your face, give thanks for indoor plumbing, do a few deep sighs.
  1. Call a friend. It’s hard to admit when I’m struggling, but I have a few go-to people who I know will listen and not judge me when I’m moping and ridiculous. Some of my best friends are the world’s greatest encouragers. So call a friend, and bonus points if you can schedule a time to meet-up with them in person.
  1. Turn off the melancholic music. Turn on the top 40 station. I have a long-standing love affair with sad music. Give me some Patty Griffin and I’m lying on the couch feeling deliciously forlorn. But add a toddler who is jumping on your head and, no, this is not working. It’s time to turn off the Bon Iver and find something more upbeat. Nostalgic music from your teenage years (for me it’s 90s grunge music or ska, remember ska?) also works, or Motown.
  1. Wash the dishes. I know, I know. You can’t get off the couch, why am I telling you to do chores? All I know is that, if I can just turn on the happy music (see #4) and tackle one thing (dishes, put away laundry, make the bed), I feel better. If you are lucky enough to have a toddler in your house, washing dishes is a great activity to do together.
  1. When you start wasting time online, have a plan. I really struggle with the internet time-suck, especially after my daughter is in bed for the night. The worst part about it is that it often compounds my negative feelings. I have some writer friends who use Freedom to help them block time-wasting websites (hello Facebook) for a set amount of time so they can focus on being productive. One thing I’m going to try is making a list called “THINGS I’D RATHER BE DOING” and tape it to my laptop. Things like: writing, reading a book, going to bed early. What things have you tried? I’d love your advice.

I should also mention here that depression is a real thing so if you are having more down days than not, it’s time to get help. Even if you’re not ready for counseling, try telling one trusted friend how it’s really going. Just make one step at a time. Life is too short to be ruled by this disease.

What am I missing? What do you do when you’re having a hard day?

***

Image via Flickr's Creative Commons can be found here.

Sand and Spoons: This is 30

I turned 30 this weekend. I woke up on Saturday morning, flipped the calendar from February to March. I made coffee, helped my toddler climb into her high chair, got out yesterday’s waffles from the refrigerator. Really, not much was different. I was still here, in my life, doing my mom-things.

Why does turning 30 cause us to pause, reevaluate, and freak out? Is it because we had an idea of where we would be by now? Is it the faint crow’s-feet at the corner of our eyes, a symbol of how we’ll never be “young” again?

Maybe it’s realizing that, whether we intended to or not, we’ve all made some irreversible decisions this past decade. The world is no longer our oyster. We’ve all gulped the saltwater out in the real world, and some of us have gritty sand remaining in our mouths.

When I was in college I would collect study abroad brochures, glossy and bright, and lay them out on my narrow dorm room bed. Each one felt slippery between my fingers. Semester in Fiji. Printmaking in Italy. Mountaineering in Patagonia. I liked to make four-year plans with my freshmen roommate, devising plots of how we could maximize our time away from campus.

And I loved having my options spread out before me, glistening like heavy spoons on a country farm table. I liked picking them up one at a time, feeling the weight of each piece, admiring this one’s filigreed handle and that one’s clamshell grooves. I would smell their metallic smells and slide their cool silver stems against my cheek in chilly strokes. My distorted reflection would stare at me from their arcs. And I treasured them as I counted and recounted, always returning each spoon to the table with a gentle thud, never fully grasping one and walking away.

Spoons

It’s terrifying to hear the sound of spoons clattering on the hardwood floor, to realize some options are gone forever. That early 20s hubris, that feeling of limitless time and possibility, has disappeared.

Yet, there is grace in spoons clanging to the ground. It shows that I did choose: in my case, I married, became a mother and decided to stay home with my daughter while she is young. I am grateful most of the time, yet I admit that there are days when I watch my peers advancing in their careers with jealousy. Those days, I can feel the gritty sand in my mouth. I taste the sour brine of expectations being unmet.

It’s in those moments that I remind myself that life, God willing, is long. I remember hearing a 90-year-old woman talk about her life, her voice tremolo as she recounted 25 years serving as a missionary in Korea and 20 more years working in affordable housing. And that was after the 15 years she stayed home with her kids.

Nowadays I don’t spend much time considering the spoons left on the table, or mourning the ones heaped on the floor. Instead, I am welcoming my limits and living in the dirt of now. Along with the laugh lines at my eyes, I have more confidence. God is showing me again and again that he didn’t make junk when he fashioned messy old me, and I am starting to believe it.

I cling to the belief that God is moving toward me, pursuing me, taking that sand in my mouth and pressurizing it into something beautiful. Maybe the world is my oyster after all. Ask me at 40, and I may just spit out a pearl.

* Photo by NikiMM, Creative Commons via Flickr