How to have a bad day

I have bad days. And I have really horrible days. I would really like all my days to be good days–but that’s not realistic. I’m going to have bad days. I’m going to have days when I wake up tired and cranky. I’m going to have days with bad news and things that go wrong.

So how do I learn how to do deal with the bad days so they don’t become downright awful days that I deeply regret?

Here are five ideas.

1. Acceptance. 

I can’t change the past. Or predict the future. And sometimes, I just have to accept what is right now. Even if it isn’t what I want. I can’t change certain things, and trying to change them by worrying about them over and over isn’t going to help me or anyone else. I have to accept things I don’t want to: I make mistakes. I get cranky. I have off days. But I can accept those things, because they happen. They are real. Accepting it makes it way easier to deal with.

2. Forgiveness. 

I need to forgive others, I need people to forgive me, and I need to forgive myself. Forgiveness means I’m going to let go of anger and resentment and shame. I’m going to realize that mistakes are not definitive. And I’m going to keep trying to do the best I can.

3. Release Expectations. 

Sometimes the reason I have a bad day is because I was very much expecting Plan A, and then I have to deal with Plan B (or C or Z) instead. When I hold on to Plan A, I am miserable. But Plan A only exists in my head. I can let go of it. I can get rid of the expectations I had for perfection and happiness and just exist with life as it is. I can embrace Plan B and accept things aren’t going according to plan. Because Plan B is the right plan: it’s the plan that actually exists.

4. Remember Priorities and People. 

Sometimes I prioritize things that are not very important–like having a clean house or getting everything done on my list. I need to take a step back and realize my real priorities: family, becoming a better person, and serving others. People are more important than things. When everything goes wrong, there are still people who I love and who love me. They are more important than the things that went wrong.

5. Let the bad moment stay inside that moment. 

Sometimes I have a bad day because I had a singular bad moment and I spent the rest of the day worrying about it. Sometimes I have a bad week because I had one bad day. I’ve been learning to isolate those bad moments and not let them ruin my whole life. I made a mistake–it happens. I don’t need to drown myself in guilt and then punish myself over and over by making more wrong choices. I can forgive other people for their mistakes. I can choose to move forward and upward.

And if someone around me is having a bad day–I can apply those same things. I can accept that they are struggling, forgive them, release the expectations I had for them, love them, and then hope for a bright future. I’ve had bad days where I’ve sat on the computer dealing with problems in a sour mood–and my husband starts to make dinner, reassures me that I’m fine and it’s okay, and loves me instead of criticizing the fact that I have gotten way off track. I am so grateful for that. I try to give him the space and love he needs when he has a bad day too.

Bad days don’t last. Because usually, life is pretty awesome if we care to remember how many good days we actually have.

 

Changing Passions

I’ve changed a lot over the years:

  • At one point when I was young, I wanted to work with animals when I grew up because I loved animals so much. I grew up, and I don’t even like animals very much anymore.
  • I also thought I would write and publish young adult novels. I used to read young adult fantasy novels all the time and I thought I would read them for the rest of my life. And while I still read them on occasion, they are not my favorite books. I read more boring books now, like lots of nonfiction.
  • I loved Harry Potter. And I still like the books, but with everything Harry Potter is now, I don’t care for it very much.
  • I majored in English and philosophy. And it was great for that time in my life. But if I were to go back to school again, I would major in something like economics.
  • I was quite a shy person and I would have considered myself an introvert, but then I became a stay-at-home mom and I suddenly figured out that I love being with other people.

Now, these things were huge parts of who I was. And they changed. And I know that I’m going to keep changing as my life continues. I’ve gone in completely different directions than I ever thought. I’ve changed so many of my opinions, viewpoints, and fears. I’ve changed what I like to do. I’ve changed parts of my personality and how I act.

There are certain things that have stayed the same and I expect will stay the same the rest of my life, particularly my deepest held convictions like my faith in God, my love for family, and my desire to be a good person.

But so much of my life and who I am right now is temporary. It won’t be that way for forever. It isn’t really who I am in the long run–it’s just what’s happening right now.

Sometimes we think when we are young that we’re going to decide who we are going to be for the rest of our lives and we’re just going to go forward with our plans and live the life we imagined. But in my experience, life gets a whole lot more complicated than that. We change and evolve. It’s a good thing–I think I’ve gotten better over the years, after all. And while I’m not achieving the same life goals I had when I was young, I’m still working towards good things.

Change is good. Because the person who I was before is not quite as capable as the person I am now. Some things I thought were really important turned out not to be very important at all. Some things that were afterthoughts have become the primary focus of my life.

And I’m happy to be here, right now, even if this isn’t the life I envisioned. Because who I am right now and the life that actually happened is a whole lot better than I ever expected.

Happiness

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Happiness is not dependent on circumstance.

Every other time we’ve moved, we really wanted to move. We moved after months of job searching, or after living with my parents, or after living in places we didn’t like. But this last time, while we felt like it was time to move, we liked the life we had. I felt like I was part of a community that I didn’t really want to leave.

Some days, I miss my friends, schools, and my house. Our new life is frankly a whole lot harder: I’m homeschooling now, my husband works longer hours, I’m really far away from town, and I gave up my green yard for a yard full of cactus and red sand. My house is smaller too. It’s taking some adjustment.

But I realized something one morning: my happiness is not dependent on my circumstance. Which means that I don’t have to like where I live to be happy. Happiness does not wait for life to be perfect–it can be here now.

Sometimes I fall into a trap of thinking that I have to see the good in everything. And sometimes, things are just hard and unpleasant. And I can accept that. It’s part of life.

I don’t have to love the paint color on my walls or enjoy my rather narrow kitchen. I don’t have to love every minute of spending all day, every day with my four children. There are things about my life right now that I don’t like and I don’t want. And that’s okay. Because I can still be happy.

It’s takes a lot of pressure off myself to say that I don’t have to enjoy every minute and I don’t have to like every single part of my life–and to then realize that I can still wake up smiling.

There are so many good things, and the good things are enough to outweigh everything lacking. And even when the difficult and hard things are completely overwhelming–it’s okay to cry. I don’t have to be happy all the time to have a happy life.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to dream of something better. It’s okay to feel whatever I’m feeling.

Sometimes I beat myself up for things that I do that aren’t even wrong. I expect myself to fit in a weird, impossible framework that I built up in my own mind. The perfection that I think I want isn’t practical–and it doesn’t exist.

Life isn’t perfect. Life isn’t fair. Life will always be sort of hard. That’s what life is–a roller coaster of ups and downs as circumstances constantly change.

So happiness does not need to wait–it can happen right now. Even if my house is a wreck. Even if I’m really tired. Even if I didn’t accomplish anything in a day. Even if I don’t particularly like where I live. Even if my life looks so different from I ever imagined–and I still wish for dreams that I’m not sure will ever happen.

My happiness isn’t dependent on any of that. Happiness comes not in the accomplishment, but in the trying.

So I’m feeling happy. Not because my life somehow got easier, but because I decided to stop expecting the impossible.

Fitting in

Do you feel like you aren’t good enough? That you don’t fit in? That you’ll never quite be able to connect with other people? That you are too different?

We all have those feelings at some point or another.

I just moved from a very tiny town in Wyoming to a tourist town in the middle of a whole bunch of national parks. The vibe here is so completely different. I need to relearn how to drive because there are actually lots of people. And traffic. It’s weird.

There are days when I feel like I don’t fit in. People like adventure here–hiking, biking, camping, rafting, whatever. Outdoor recreation is why this place exists.

And I like small adventures, like going on quarter-mile walk and leaving my house. Right now, I only go on short hikes and short camping trips. I do like to canoe, but I still have no idea what I’m doing and I go in the wrong direction. I usually have to force myself to exercise.

I’m surrounded by off-roading Jeeps, river trips through rapids, and mountain bikes–and I suddenly feel a bit inadequate. I’m a suburban-type of person who keeps ending up far away from the suburbs.

But instead of worrying about fitting in, I can be happy with where I’m at and recognize my own talents. Sometimes when I tell people I’ve written books, they seem impressed–but I don’t think it’s really that impressive. I just have a whole bunch of rejection letters and incredibly low sales. It’s mostly a hobby I’m a bit embarrassed about.

I look at people sometimes and I am so impressed with them: taking amazing photographs, or running races, or owning their business, or putting on effortless and beautiful makeup. Or doing all of the above.

But they probably don’t think of themselves that way. Because there is always someone who does more and does it better.

So instead of comparing and worrying about fitting in, it’s a whole lot better to recognize your strengths (you have them–you have a lot of them) and to learn from others and celebrate differences.

I fit in here. Not because I fit the mold, but because I am who I am and that’s enough.

Having it all

We can’t have it all.

As mothers, sometimes we feel pressure to do everything: work, stay-at-home, go back to school, start a new business, sign our kids up for various programs, do a better job at taking care of our house, whatever.

I know a lot of moms who work–and it’s really hard to balance work with family and home. You often feel like you are always in the wrong place. I know a lot of moms who stay at home–and it’s really hard to feel like you have purpose when you stay at home. Sometimes you battle loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. And there are a lot of moms who are somewhere in-between.

There is always too much to do.

Motherhood requires sacrifice, no matter what your life looks like. And your life will never be quite the ideal. Something always seems to be missing.

And we are often worried about what others think. No one has the ideal life, really–it’s just a whole bunch of messiness. No one has it figured out in a way that’s right for everyone–we have to figure out our own specifics.

Sometimes that means working. Sometimes that means going back to school. Sometimes that means saying that now is not the right time. Sometimes it means really long days at home with your children.

We need to stop judging other people for whatever choices they make. But more importantly, we need to stop judging ourselves and instead just continue on the best that we know how.

We can count our blessings and help each other figure out how our individual lives should look like. We have to learn to make sacrifices of good things that we want in favor of what is better for us and our children.

And we should remember that our lives are going to be different from we expect, and instead of worrying about having it all, we should worry about having the right thing for us.

Right now, I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m starting to homeschool my kids. I didn’t choose homeschooling as much as it was simply the right thing to do. With all four kids at home, I don’t have as much time to do some of my own projects. I’m also planning on going back to school in the fall. I don’t know how it will all work out. That’s okay. I’ll figure it out.

I do know that when I trust in what is right for me and my family, things will be all right.

It’s not going to be perfect and we’ll have horrible days and really good days. But we just keep trying.

Praise

From a young age, I have been involved in numerous choirs. I like to sing, but I haven’t had a lot of praise or criticism related to my ability to sing. I’ve some mildly positive comments, but that’s about it.

I am grateful for this. First, I’m not a great singer in the first place. But I’m also not a bad singer. So when I sing, I’m not worried about whether I’m doing it well or not. I’m just singing because I like to.

There are other aspects in my life where I have been much more sensitive to any praise or criticism that has come may way. I built my self-image around being good at academics or writing. The things I received the most praise about became part of who I am. And that wasn’t really a good thing.

Because no matter how good I am, there are always so many people who are better than me. I always have room for improvement. Sometimes, I’m not quite as good as I think I am–I have failed miserably at things that someone once praised me for.

I should never do things just to get praise. Who I am is different from what I do.

If I never received grades throughout school, I would probably be a different person. I would have a different, more resilient view of myself. I might be more willing to ask questions and admit what I don’t know. I would have learned more quickly to seek after learning for the sake of learning, not just to receive top marks.

Praise often does not lead to resiliency. It can lead to increased pressure and an inflated ego. Our self-worth needs to be based on who we are, not just what we can do in comparison to other people.

That doesn’t mean we stop praising people all together. But we need to be careful about the praise we hand out. Instead of saying, “You sing really well,” we can try, “I love to hear you sing.” Instead of saying, “You are really smart,” we might say, “I really am proud of how hard you have worked in school.” I am working on this with my children, but it’s hard, and I often shift back into the easier way of talking about things.

Sometimes we do things whether we are good at it or not–we do it because we enjoy it. In my experience, I find a lot more fulfillment and joy when I do things not because I’m good at them, but because I want to do something for its own sake. I learn to learn. I write to write. I like when I am focused on the work I am doing, instead of focused on myself and my reputation.

I am slowly trying to stop praising myself. I don’t have to be a good writer or a good singer or good at anything. I can just be me, and I can do those things and love them and that’s enough.

Mistakes

I’m not very good at making mistakes. I hate making mistakes, which means I find myself falling into a pit of despair. Sometimes I become unable to function as I think that I’ve irrevocably fallen off my (completely imaginary) pedestal of perfection.

Here’s the truth: everyone makes mistakes on a daily basis. It’s part of life. We are all very far away from perfection and we all do horrible things.

But still, one small mistake can ruin my day. I fall into my abyss of guilt because I want to go back and change what happened (which is impossible). I feel deep discouragement because I think there is no way to fix it.

And sometimes we make mistakes that we can’t really fix. We might hurt someone’s feeling so badly that it changes our relationship forever. We might wreck our car. We might wreck part of our life.

We can’t change the past. Mistakes happen, and the consequences can last a very long time. That hurts.

But I’ve been learning how to avoid the pit of despair and move forward. Here are ways to deal with mistakes better:

1. Accept what happened.

Not too long ago, I learned about “radical acceptance.” This means accepting life how it is, totally and completely. It means we accept that things happened and we can’t change them. Acceptance can be very difficult. We might think life is unfair. We might want something different.

But reality is what it is–and it’s a lot easier to accept it (possible) than to fight against it (impossible). It can take practice and patience, but we can accept that we made mistakes and we can’t change what we did.

2. Fix what you can.

Instead of dwelling on what we did, we can take some time to think about what we can do to make right. When I yell at my children, I can’t take back that yelling. But I can apologize. I can start speaking kindly to them. I can give them hugs and cuddles. I can work harder to not yell as much in the future.

Fixing things doesn’t always make the mistake go away completely–there are often scars. But people can forgive–and we can forgive ourselves, knowing that we’re trying.

3. Laugh at yourself.

Often, many mistakes we make are small and unimportant. And they can be hilarious, if we have the right perspective. We may slip and fall, but we can also laugh at how silly it all was. We can laugh at botched recipes, bad haircuts, forgotten information, fumbled words, and awkward encounters. We can laugh when our mistakes don’t define us, when we realize everyone makes mistakes, and that we don’t have to be perfect (or even close to it).

4. Learn from mistakes.

If we do something wrong, we don’t have to keep doing it over and over again. We can learn. We can know that we can do better. We can change. That offers a lot of hope to keep at it and to keep climbing towards being a better version of ourselves.

5. Repent.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it so that we can be completely forgiven and change for the better. It means that even those scars can be healed and there is almost nothing we can do to completely ruin our lives. We can be saved from our mistakes, not matter how small or how big. There is always hope.

 

6 Ways to Get Things Done

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I have a lot to do right now.

Some people have asked me how I do everything–I don’t think my list of accomplishments is overly impressive or unachievable. I’m mainly a stay-at-home mom, but I also have a lot of things I do on the side. I write books, I blog, I take photographs, I read books, and I try to keep learning. Here is how I do it–and how you can probably achieve a whole lot more than I do.

1. Set goals.

This is the first place to start. You won’t achieve much of anything unless you set it as a goal. Wanting to do something is not enough–it will always remains a wish. A goal must be specific and it must have a deadline. Examples: I will write a rough draft of a book this year.

2. Make a timeline.

After you have a general deadline, you break up the goal into smaller tasks. For example: I will write a 10-page chapter every week. I will write two pages five days a week.

3. Schedule out the day.

I did a lot during nap time when my kids actually took naps. Quiet time can also be helpful–quiet time is when you tell your kids to quietly entertain themselves for a while. Also, sometimes my kids really like playing with each other and I’m not needed. And they go to bed early, so the evening provides some more time for me to work on things.

When you plan out your day, you are much more likely to accomplish the tasks that help you complete your goals.

4. Focus efforts.

Sometimes my kids get ignored for a minute. Sometimes dinner is late and not very fancy. Sometimes the dishes wait. No one can do it all and everyone has to learn to make sacrifices in the right places. If you need more time, try sacrificing social media, reading the news, or watching television.

5. Allow for wiggle room when things don’t go according to plan.

When I wrote a novel in a month last year, I had a goal to write 2,000 words a day instead of the suggested 1,667–because I knew I needed some wiggle room and some space where I could breathe and have a bad day. I probably should have increased it to 2,500 words a day (or just written a novel in two months), because I still got very behind. We all have really good days and really bad days. Don’t get discouraged when you fall behind–it’s better to try and not quite get it done than to not try it all.

6. Believe in yourself.

You can do more than you think you can. You might already be doing more than you realize–and instead of feeling overwhelmed about life and your circumstances, you can be proud of your strength and your efforts. If something is hard, you continue forward with the understanding that you are learning and growing. You can believe that you can accomplish your goals, and you will keep working towards them.

You are the only type of superhero this world has: ordinary people doing one small task at a time. All those small things combine to make something amazing.

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Remembering in Hard Times

Lots of my extended family members are going through difficult times. Health problems, marriage problems, life problems. Sometimes I want the problems to go away. Sometimes I selfishly don’t want to worry anymore. Sometimes I genuinely care about someone and I want them to have a break from painful experiences.

I can only do little things like sending a note or a text or saying a prayer. I have been praying a lot for others lately. It has at times been a little overwhelming, particularly when it combines with some of my own worries.

So how do we deal with hard times?

I have found the best way is to remember Jesus Christ. The suffering of the world is so great, yet He has experienced it and so He can succor us and help us through it. We cannot go lower than He was. We cannot go to a place without light. The light of Christ is always there, giving hope in difficult times.

That makes it okay. Hard times happen and people struggle and there can be so much pain, but it is never too much because of Him. He provided a way through it all.

It will get better eventually, even if it gets worse right now. There is hope. And there is happiness in that hope.

 

Happier Without Technology

The internet is a wonder. When I want a movie streamed on a computer, I have 24 frames per second being sent to me over thousands of miles almost instantaneously–and not over wires, but straight through the air in waves of information. I don’t understand how that works.

I can look up about any question whenever I want it answered–like what the standard frame rate is for movies. Which started a rabbit hole about why we have that particular frame rate, and I’ve learned a bit about the history of recording video, CGI and video games, high frame rate, and augmented reality.

I could go into a rabbit hole about the origin of the phrase rabbit hole, which I’m pretty sure is related to Alice in Wonderland, but I will resist. Her rabbit hole was a dream, actually–a fall straight into absurdity.

And that’s what the internet feels like. It feels absurd. It feels like disappearing cats that pop up in unexpected places. It feels like mixed up life that doesn’t sound quite right anymore.

I am pretty sure I would be happier without the internet. And without smart phones. And without computers, even.

The thing is, I don’t have to use them. I don’t have to turn on my computer or check my smart phone. I don’t have to have a Facebook account and I don’t have to follow people on Instagram. But I do.

What stops me from cutting the cord, from waking up from this dream of absurdity and actually living my life instead of falling into the rabbit hole?

Quite a few things: connecting with people, searching answers for simple questions, creating and sharing posts and videos, watching television shows, reading news, taking classes, shopping, listening to music, etc.

There are so many good things that technology can do.

I have invested in blocking software–blocking websites in the morning and limiting distracting websites to certain time limits and numbers of launches.

But on days when I feel tired and cranky, I still find myself wasting time, going around the limits I’ve made for myself and falling down the rabbit hole.

I don’t have an answer of how I can balance this in my life. It’s hard. Having too many options is hard.

Here is what I do right now:

  • I only check social media once a day.
  • I have a fifteen minute time limit on YouTube.
  • All websites are blocked until 11:00.
  • 10 or 20 minute limit on websites I commonly get distracted on.
  • I don’t have access to a web browser or a search engine on my phone.

But I feel like I’m falling down a slippery slope, one that I can’t seem to master. Good days, when I’m feeling happy and motivated, I do fine. But the days where I just don’t want to follow my rules. And I don’t.

I’ll keep working on it. I want some sort of conclusion, but I don’t have one.