Yesterday was not a good day. It started out okay, and really spiraled downward in a great big vortex of awfulness.
Here’s the kicker. I brought it on myself. It started with an innocent text from someone very dear to me, and I did what I caution my kids against all the time: I read between the lines. I created subtext that may or may not have even existed and without giving the sender the least benefit of the doubt, I created a whole dreadful dialogue in my brain in which I came out as the pathetic loser.
And since that really wasn’t enough, I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself for every perceived wrong in my life that I have ever committed, and how the whole entire world was against me, and really, in general, behaved like an irrational premenstrual adolescent. It was not pretty.
I reveled in it. I wallowed in it. I even cried. Three or four times throughout the day. I hate crying. Everyone says it’s cathartic and will make you feel better, and THAT IS A LIE! I just end up feeling itchy-eyed and puffy. And a little bit snotty. It is truly unpleasant.
What is particularly horrifying about this shameful episode, is that there is no reason on God’s gorgeous green earth for me to EVER feel sorry for myself. My life is sweet. I am smart, healthy, and well-educated. I have a supportive husband, brilliant funny kids, a nice house, plenty to eat, a car that runs… basically I have every amenity and blessing that this country has to offer. We’re not rich by any first world means, but by golly, we have MORE than enough. And more important than any of that, by the grace of God, I am his child. He sent his Son to make things right for me.
All true. But in the whirlpool of emotions, I forget.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I suspect that almost all of us sink into this abyss once in a while. It is not something to be proud of. But maybe there are a few things we can do to try to offset our bad attitude and “turn that frown upside down!” (Does that make anyone else want to gag as much as it makes me want to? I
HATE strongly dislike platitudes.)
May I humbly suggest:
1. Take it to your knees. This should really be the first thing you do. But why so often is it the last? Why do I always seem to wait on this one until I’m sobbing for forgiveness, rather than begging for help? The truth is, that if I would just grab my Bible, open a Psalm, pray it, cling to it, write it on a piece of scrap paper and carry it around, my whole worldview would probably come back to where it belongs. Nothing like a little love of Jesus to re-orient priorities.
2. Tell Satan to take a hike. Jesus tells us that the thief (Satan) comes only to steal (my inner thoughts) and kill (my happiness) and destroy (my peace of mind) John 10:10 (parenthetical remarks are mine. Any good thing could be put into the parentheses).
Satan loves to first bring us down, and then kick us while we are there. Ever have a thought that goes something like this?
“I can’t do anything right. I am totally useless, fat, ugly, stupid, worthless. Nobody could ever love me. Not even God could love me. I’ll never amount to anything ever. I suck.”
Ever had those thoughts? I have. Yesterday. These are lies. These are lies that Satan delights in whispering in your head and getting you to believe. Satan is a liar. Jesus is the truth-teller. Listen to him. He calls Satan on the lies. Put Jesus in front of you, the armor of God on you, and tell Satan to bug off. The only thing that should suck is your vacuum cleaner.
3. Go for a walk. Or a bike ride. Or a run. Or the Ben & Jerry’s. All the experts tell us that exercise releases all kinds of feel-good endorphins that will completely revolutionize our outlook on life. Unless of course you hate to sweat. Like me. But if you are one of those people, just do it! Even I, who hate to exercise and would only run if a madman were chasing me with a knife (and even then I might just lay down and let him get it over with), find that a walk sometimes helps. And when it doesn’t, dipping a spoon into a pint of Chubby Hubby might just do the trick.
4. Speaking of Chubby hubbies… if the beloved of your heart is not the cause of your distress, or even if he is, maybe especially if he is, a little action on that front might work some wonders. (Trying to keep it clean, people. My children might read this. Nah. But maybe my mom.)
5. Rework the internal dialogue. Even in my most pathetic moment yesterday, I started to laugh a little at myself because it was so ridiculous and I knew it. It was when I reached the “how could God even love me” phase that I knew I had sunk to new lows. What I should have done at that moment was turn the narrative around. Which I did albeit a few hours later. This is a good time to start counting all the graces in your life. Fix your mind on what is true, and noble, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and excellent, and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8) When you think you are ugly, amend it with “but at least the hair on my legs is blonde.” Or “I may be fat, but at least I own some stretchy pants.” Once you start down that path, you realize pretty quickly how ludicrous the negative statements were.
If you are fighting in your head with your spouse/child/boss/neighbor, rewrite the dialogue so that it is positive. The truth is you really don’t know how they would respond to your accusations, so try to put the best-case scenario into play.
6. Get in your car, roll the windows down and crank the Country Western music. Let’s be honest. Either you will totally relate to the lyrics and derive some comfort there or you will laugh your head off. I don’t CARE if you despise country western (I’m an opera singer for pity’s sake), it is the most highly cathartic music ever written. And you can even sing along because it is entirely predictable!
7. SLEEP! Sometimes that’s all you need. A good night’s rest. If brain chatter is keeping you awake, have a warm bath and some warm milk.
8. Get some help. Here is a truth. Sometimes life is hard. Even if we bring it on ourselves. You don’t have to go this alone. Call a friend. Have her join you in any of the above steps. (Except for number 4. That would be immoral. And creepy.) When things are overwhelming, find somebody you can talk to. If you really don’t feel like you have anyone, wander into your local church. They are in the business (or should be) of listening when things are tough. If you are truly in the pit, not just visiting for a day, then talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. My suggestions aren’t meant to deal with true depression. Just an occasional bad day brought on by a bad attitude.
May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. 2 Thess. 3:16.