Friday, January 8, 2010

Reflections from the day after an allegedly "bad" day: Keep your joy to yourself

I did not sleep very well last night. My mind was racing way more than is compatible with a good night's rest. For multiple reasons, yesterday wasn't my favorite day, which is really unusual considering every day is usually my favorite day. A series of events stacked on top of each other and did the unthinkable--it ruined my day. But like the Pollyanna that I am, I stayed up all night coaching myself into believing that this new one would be better.

All that coaching was exhausting. Zachary appeared on the side of my bed at 6:45 a.m., and it felt more like 1:45. Now he has mastered opening our bedroom door and climbing into our (very high) four poster bed. He patted my face and, trying his best to whisper, said, "Mommy, you awake? You eyes are open." He straddled my chest and pushed his nose into my face. Again the baby baritone whisper. "Mommy? Mommy!" I sat up and pulled him into my chest. His little boy smell gave me just enough energy to get out of bed.

I headed into the kitchen to start breakfast and coffee as Zachary scampered into the playroom. I could feel myself dragging. I felt like a robot, reaching for coffee, Splenda, and creamer without even thinking about it. I nuked the kids some microwave pancakes (one of the best inventions EVER), and pulled a container of fresh strawberries from the refrigerator. As I sliced the tops off of the fruit, I got caught in another mind-racing tailwind. I let myself replay parts of the previous day that I didn't like, which is never smart. I nearly cut myself when Isaiah snuck up behind me, pulling on the back of my t-shirt.

"Mommy, are you still sleepy?" he asked earnestly. "You look like you are still sleepy. Or sick." Aaaah. From the mouths of babes.

I turned around and looked at his innocent little face, complete with early morning eyecrust and dried something or other on the sides of his nostrils.

"Hey there, sunshine boy," I answered softly. I offered him a half-hearted smile. Then I decided that I would just talk to him "regular." " No, sweetie, I'm not sick. I just didn't sleep so well last night."

"Why not, Mommy?" (Of course, that's what he said. I asked for it.)

"Mmmmmm. . . .I don't know. I think I was just thinking too much."

"About what?" (Again, another predictable response.)

"I think I was thinking about a lot of things. Sometimes Mommies just think about a lot of things, and then it is hard to sleep. I didn't have a really good day yesterday."

Isaiah just stood there staring at me for a few moments. "You mean like Alexander?"

I cocked my head and gave him a puzzled look. Then I realized to what he was referencing. He was talking about Alexander from the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." The main character of Judith Viorst's classic children's book spends the entire tale lamenting about his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Nothing at all went right for him on this day. Nothing. And the book ends not with him suddenly finding a pot of gold, but instead with his mom simply telling him (after he threatens many times to move to Australia) that sometimes days are just bad (even in Australia.) At that point, I decide that I like Isaiah's point of reference.

"Yeah. Kind of like Alexander," I chuckled. I shook my head and returned to the strawberries. It amazes me the things that comes from that kid's mouth.

"Mommm-myyyyy. . . . " Isaiah sang my name with a big smile creeping over his entire face,"I bet you I know something that will make you have a great day today!" He grabbed my hand and quickly pulled me from the kitchen into the sunroom. He clapped, laughed, and pointed out of the window. "Look, Mommy! Look!! SNOW!!! Mommy, Snow!!" He began jumping on the couch and dancing like a four-year-old madman. The sight of him dancing about a half inch dusting of snow in Atlanta already firmly placed this day ahead of yesterday.

I remembered that school was supposed to be closed due to threat of snow, but I guess I didn't expect for any of it to stick. It's nothing for an Atlanta weatherman to belch something that sounds like the word "snow" and for every school within a fifty mile radius to shut down. After living in Cleveland for five years, I think I know what a real snow day looks like--and this ain't it. A few minutes later, Zachary sprinted into the sunroom and joined the madman dance party. They sang in unison while shaking their bottoms, "It's snowing! It's snowing! A - boo! A - boo!" (My kids pretty much make that the song they sing for anything happening in their lives. Usually it's "I beat you! I beat you! A - boo! A- boo!")

"Guys, don't get too excited. It's not much snow. It probably isn't even enough to play in," I said, throwing my wet blanket over their celebratory snow day jam session.

"Yes, it is! Yes it is!" Isaiah exclaimed gleefully ignoring my Debbie Downer take on the weather. It was endearing. I thought about an elderly widowed patient I once cared for with severe arthritis who was always smiling. When I asked her how she stays so positive, she laughed and told me, "Don't never let nothing steal your joy." Looks like Isaiah subscribed to the same school of thought. I felt my own icicles beginning to melt as I watched them pressing their little noses and hands against the sunroom windows.

Now that I think about it, my day yesterday wasn't quite like Alexander's. There was nothing good about his day. But my day? My day included Isaiah and Zachary. My day included Grady Hospital, talking to my residents and students, and listening to NPR. It even started with one of my most favorite things--thinking I was scheduled to cover the clinic when I actually wasn't. (I'm still looking for a good word for that . . ."clinico-dipity?" or a "schedule-gasm?" Hmmmm.) Yesterday included a perfect cup of coffee, my favorite oatmeal from Trader Joe's, and laughing out loud with my girlfriends in the hair salon that afternoon. No, it wasn't all bad.

I sat across the table a few moments later watching the boys gleefully chatter about the snow over strawberries and pancakes. Not a care in the world. Suddenly, I felt a little ashamed for brooding. What exactly is a bad day anyway? Do I have any idea?

I once took care of a patient dying of AIDS who was the third child in his family to be losing a fight with AIDS. One older sister and one younger brother preceded him in death. Nope, not a family of hemophiliacs succumbing to some unfortunate aftermath of blood transfusions in the early days of HIV, but an inner-city family struck by something also hereditary--addiction and poverty. I thought about that patient's mother, who lived to see all of this. Losing one child is awful. Losing three children to anything, especially a preventable disease? Unbearable. Now this lady knows what a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day feels like.

My kids and my job are both responsible for doing something very remarkable in my life. Both help me put things into perspective. Just about every day they help me redefine emotions like "happy" or "worried" or even "disappointed." Today was no different.

"Don't never let nothing steal your joy."

Isaiah was right, and so was that elderly patient.There was just enough snow for them to make snow angels, and watching them do so made this day quite the opposite of Alexander's--it was a wonderful, memorable, so good, very blessed day.

My angels making angels this morning. . .reasons to keep my joy to myself.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to be writing this on posting it on my locker today. I needed to hear this. thanks


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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