Some days you should just stay in bed. If you knew ahead of time what days those were, you could stay in bed. Unfortunately, you have no warning. Bad days just happen.
Sunday was one of those days for me. I had a lesson to teach in Young Women, and a whole lot of stuff needed to be gathered up and hauled to church. Then Clark and I slept in — not too much, but just enough to put me on edge.
It was a downhill slide from there.
As we were driving to church, I realized I was wearing the same dress I had worn last week to church, but with a different scarf. Alas, although I have never claimed to be a fashion diva, I do try to rotate the few wearable outfits that I do own. I know from past experience that most people in our congregation would never even pick up on such things, although there are some who would notice, and who would criticize me for it. The edge got sharper.
As I contemplated my wardrobe, I went on to think that what I’m wearing to church is the least of my problems. It is harder than anyone knows for me to walk from our car into the chapel, and to walk from the chapel to the Sunday School room, and from the Sunday School room to the Young Women room, and then back to the car to go home. Taking a trip to the restroom is out of the question, so at least the last hour I am in moderate to severe discomfort.
Thinking of the walk from the car to our pew, I went over the edge. I realized there was a knot in my stomach the size of a bowling ball from the tension. I just wanted to go home.
Once the self-pity train had left the station, it was a nonstop express. Still thinking of my wardrobe, I started brooding about the state of the clothes I do have. I haven’t been able to go to a dry cleaner for more than three years. Dry cleaners are among the first things to go when you lose a job. My clothes are clean but usually wrinkled, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t have the stamina to iron for myself, and if I got money, I’d use it to pay bills instead of going to the dry cleaner.
That got me worrying about how I’m going to pay next month’s bills, and that’s when I started crying. I cried all through sacrament meeting, and I only hope people either didn’t notice my tears or thought I was transported into some sort of religious ecstasy.
It didn’t help that the hymns and the talks focused on God answering prayers. One talk focused on how we had to get out of debt, and 1 Nephi 3:7 was quoted: “The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” That was rock bottom for me. I have tried my hardest for more than three years to get a job, without success. Meanwhile, the debt keeps piling up.
Things picked up later. My lesson went fairly well. I had my friend Michelle pass out exactly one potato chip to each of the girls, and I made the connection that it’s just as unsatisfying to be halfway committed to the Church as it is to eat one potato chip. Michelle played it up as I knew she would, and by and large the lesson was a success.
Once we got home I didn’t have to worry about being late or what I was wearing or not being able to go to the bathroom. Fluffy and I spent a lovely afternoon together, and a nap restored my normally cheery mood.
I got a real boost a few hours later by a note from Michelle. She wrote, “Heading out to our car after church today Emma turned to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, mom! Isn’t Sister Kidd the best teacher? She has good stories and potato chips and the Spirit all at the same time!’ I had to laugh. That is you in a nutshell.”
That note made me feel infinitely better. Life is good, if I just focus on the good things.
That’s the challenge, you know — focusing on the good things. One good thought usually leads to another, and the result is a peaceful state of mind. Happiness and gratitude are two of the results of thinking good thoughts.
We all have things in our lives that aren’t good, though, and the moment we start focusing on one of those things, the rest of them get in line and demand attention. On Sunday I set myself up for a cascade of misery. That first negative thought started me on a downhill tumble, and it didn’t take long until I was no good to myself or to anyone around me.
The challenge is to not dwell on that first negative thought. You notice I didn’t say the challenge is to not have a negative thought. We all have them. We’re human. But if you focus on that negative thought, you open a door. Just as I opened a door on Sunday, you make yourself vulnerable to every other negative thought that is lurking in the shadows.
None of my problems have gone away. My clothes are still unstylish and wrinkled, I still have trouble walking across a room, and next month’s bills will be due — well, next month. But today, those aren’t the things I’m seeing. Today I choose to focus on the good things in life, which far outweigh the bad ones. By and large I have a terrific life, as do most of us. If I choose to focus on the blessings rather than on the things that are not so good, my life will be a lot happier in the long run.