When I was a kid, my mom used to read to us all the time, and one of her favorites was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Poor Alexander’s day just gets worse and worse, and he’s thwarted at every turn. He dreams about getting away from it all by moving to Australia (this strategy is a variation on adorable’s childhood desire to “find a family that would treat her decent”).
Yesterday I kept thinking of the book – not because my day was a terrible horrible one, but just because I didn’t feel quite right. Everyone has the kind of crazy days where things are busy and they go badly, and of course I always want to be the graceful and gracious woman totally on top of everything as I hold court in the eye of the hurricane. On rare occasions I succeed at this, but most of the time not so much. Things go wrong and it’s a typical bad day, and I feel comforted by the fact that there is, in such a day, a visible, tangible cause-and-effect relationship between upsetting events and upset feelings. When bad things happen it feels safe, it feels ok even, to feel bad about them.
My problem with days like yesterday: nothing bad happened (in fact, very little happened at all) but I still feel as though something did go wrong, like I’d lost my way somewhere. It’s easy to get lost in the negative feelings that come, completely unwelcome and without any obvious nexus. Like Alexander, I used to dream as a child of getting away, of becoming someone else, of moving to Australia (until I heard about the death of the Great Barrier Reef and the killer jellyfish that inhabit nearby waters and decided it might be better to stay home). When I got all achy and fussy and hormonal yesterday, for no apparent reason (no, I am not pregnant, yes, I am sure!), when all I wanted to do was just throw a tantrum and hurl my stapler at any and all cubicle passers-by, I thought of my mom’s voice and the moral of Alexander’s story.
It’s a kid’s book, so of course there’s a moral: bad days happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes the badness comes from without, sometimes it comes from within. Fighting it does no good, fighting yourself only makes things worse. As Mary Oliver says, all you can do is “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
There was no time for knitting yesterday, but I did have lots of time to think about my anxiety over the hows and whys. The type-A part of me that worries that I’m not doing things right just has to let go. The knitting will come out the way it comes out. I am doing the best I can to enjoy the process and to get as much out of it as possible. If I can drive myself to an extremely productive near-fugue state by sinking back into The Baron’s deep blue velvet chair, working my needles and drinking in literature that I would otherwise not have the chance to imbibe, well then, so be it. Thanks to those who responded to my moment of panic – I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who needs other entertainment while knitting. All of this will take reminding, but then again, all I’m trying to do here is just keep myself honest. Whatever the mystical, magical “more” is, any and all of those elusive things that I think I’m waiting for, all I can manage is to stay open, be involved, and enjoy whatever moment I’m creating (cue the harp music and crystals here . . .).
As I mentioned briefly a few days ago, I’ve got something a-brewing and it’s coming up quickly. I’m having the requisite nightmares and hey-did-I remember-to-put-on-pants-today moments. So please forgive my extra wiggly philosophizing, today and in the future. As mom used to say (hi mom, thanks for reading!), sometimes you just have to wiggle your waggles out, and today the recipient of my waggles is the blog.