Almost every month, I used to have a day where I got stuck in the mud of me.
I blamed hormones and PMS. After I hit 50, I blamed the lack of hormones. But men get stuck too, so it must simply be the human condition.
Those fragile days are handle-with-prayer days. I end up repeating the simplest prayer I can muster just to get out of bed. If I don’t have enough strength, energy or will to cling to God, right up front, I ask God to cling to me. I don’t just ask, I tell God, “It’s one of those days, God. The burden is on You, so hang on to me.”
I once heard someone say that prayer is more than words. It’s a stance you take, a position you claim. You throw your body against the door to keep the demons from advancing and stay put until they go away.
Over the years, I’ve developed a simple emergency response plan to use as soon as I feel the hurricane of those blue days blowing:
Have a 9-1-1 list of people who get it. Not the Type A’s who will tell you to suck it up and offer 20 ways to multi-task your way through it, but people who know your favorite ice cream, candy bar, music or movie to coax you back.
Avoid mean people, especially at work.
Don’t do anything you don’t absolutely have to do that day.
Make no major decisions about your marriage, your career, your diet or your self worth. You are under the influence of a bad day.
Don’t “awfulize” what you’re feeling. The world isn’t ending. You are just experiencing turbulence. The plane is safe. The pilot is good.
You’re in the right seat of life. You just hit a patch of bumpy air. Wait. It will pass.
I admit, on those rough days, I’m tempted to call off work and take a mental health day. Instead, I give myself permission to lower my standards for the next 24 hours. I take my friend Don’s advice: Get up, dress up and show up. Trim life down to its bare essentials. Once you do those three things, anything can happen. On some of my worst days I end up doing my best writing, parenting, loving.
My friend Don, who taught me that motto, is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met and has had one of the hardest lives. He greets everyone with a loud, “Yo!” and leaves each person with a hug and these words, “It’s been a slice of heaven.”
Don’s had more blue days than most. When he was 11, his mother ended up in a mental institution. His dad was an alcoholic who couldn’t raise the six kids. One Friday, Don was told he was going into an orphanage on Monday for three months. He didn’t know he’d never ever live with his family again. He was 16 the night a priest at the boys home broke the news that his mother died from a brain aneurysm.
Years later, he lost a brother to alcoholism. His brother got into a fight. The other man won by hitting him with a car. Don’s brother was in a coma for a month. Don always tells the good side of that story: God gave him 30 days to say goodbye to his brother.
Don became an alcoholism counselor. He married a nurse and they had two kids. Then his wife had an affair and the marriage unraveled. Through it all, on all those days when he didn’t want to go to work, return calls or listen to other people’s problems, he practiced those words: Get up, dress up, and show up.
His words inspire. No matter how I feel, I get up, dress up and show up for life. When I do, the day always serves up more than I could have hoped for. Each day truly is a slice of heaven. Some days the slices are just smaller than others.
Excerpted from "God Never Blinks" by Regina Brett. Copyright 2010 by Regina Brett. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
Regina Brett is the author of "Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible." You can find links to her radio show, blog and column for The Plain Dealer at www.reginabrett.com