Monday, April 20, 2009

On Bad Days

So today wasn't exactly a good day. I was sitting in class (around hour 3 of 6 straight), leaning back in my chair a bit, staring off into space, and my teacher suddenly chomped at me: "Grover! What are you doing? Why so glum? What's wrong?! Why aren't you sitting at the table with the rest of us!? Why don't you shave!?!"

He was kidding, of course, and I gave an appropriately dismissive response and scooted up. But in that first moment of confusion when he started at me, I thought he was serious and prepared a serious answer—well, a serious evasion. I started to say, "Oh, nothing," because that's what you say when something's not right but you don't want to broadcast your problems. So even though he was just mixing up the class a bit with a humorous aside, it set me thinking about what kind of day I was having and why.

Before I tell you about it, I want to say this: there's a difference between having bad days and being aware that a day isn't great. One gets the feeling that in choosing to call a day "bad," one is choosing to be negative, to see the worst in things. And while that may often be the case, it isn't always true. Sometimes the act of recognizing a day as a bad day is the first step to turning it around.

So that's what I was thinking in my class after being called out. I realized in that moment that the day I was in wasn't my best day, that I wasn't at my best for some reason, and that I was merely suffering through it in hopes of a better one tomorrow.

But that's not entirely true either. The day wasn't all bad. It started quite well. I got up early to do a spot of homework before going with some of my church fellows to the bishop's storehouse to do a few hours service. I'd never been to the storehouse before, and I quite liked it. The smell of cardboard there reminded me of my days stocking a Hobby Lobby, and the smell of the cooler reminded me of keeping the salad bar stocked at the restaurant where I waited tables. Also, my grandparents served a mission in a bishop's storehouse in Houston when I was a teenager, and it was nice to see what kind of service they had been doing all those years, especially now that both have passed on. And it was great to see some Church peanut butter, which is canned in Houston next door to the storehouse, a job my grandfather did for many years.

It was nice to see welfare in action, to see how much work is done and how handily and to become aware of just how many are in need.

So what was making me so unhappy in class? Could it be that I wasn't as prepared as I'd wanted to be? Maybe. I hadn't read the material as closely as I'd wanted to. Could it be the stress of finishing grad school? Maybe. School has been known to cause me undue stress, now as much as ever. Could it just be general chemical biological stuff, the randomness of genetics? Possibly. Spring has that effect on me from time to time (I take Claritin, usually).

But here's another hypothesis. My brother claims that any day on which he fails to shower is a good day. Whenever he's feeling great and wonders why, he inevitably concludes that the reason is that he did not wash away the natural oils that his body produces to protect him. People say that's crazy but he challenges them to find another common factor in all his good days. I, too, enjoy not showering all the dang time, but I think I may have a limit. Sitting in class today I realized that I didn't feel right because I didn't feel clean anymore. My hair was getting greasy and, as my teacher kindly pointed out, I hadn't shaved in more than a few days. I was wearing the same clothes as the day before (and the day before?), and I was a little damp from walking to school in the rain. Earlier in the day I had wanted to shower but hadn't had the time. I was feeling grubby, crummy.

So, could the reason I suddenly felt the day wasn't a good day be that I wasn't clean and wanted to be? Is it that simple?

If so, tomorrow's going to be so good it'll hurt. See you in the morning, shower.