I’m standing in front of the work refrigerator, my eyes scanning the shelves. Although it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I’m just now getting around to eating my lunch.
I’m having one of those days. I’m tired, my head hurts, and I have too many things going on: too much pressure, too many demands, too much work, too many things to remember, and too many cups to fill other than my own. I feel like I’m peering over the edge of a cliff, knowing full-well that one false move will surely send me over the edge.
But as my eyes do one more quick once-over of the fridge, it appears that one thing I don’t have too much of is my lunch. In fact, I don’t have any at all—someone has stolen my yogurt.
Although I’ve verified it’s not in the fridge, I’m still standing with the door open, baffled. Why would someone take my yogurt?! I wonder to myself. The kind I eat isn’t even the good stuff—you know, like Noosa, the kind that tastes like dessert, or Fage, where the fruit puree has its own little compartment so you can pour it in yourself, making the yogurt-eating experience feel oh-so-fancy.
Nope. The kind I eat is the boring, plain-Jane Greek kind, the kind that—when eaten alone—tastes like you’re eating a dollop of Daisy sour cream. So here I stand, knowing my absentee yogurt is the false move I was worried about. I’m over the edge and half-way down that free-fall into whatever waited below.
I close the fridge, open the medicine cabinet, grab a pack of Advil, and head back to my office. My make-shift lunch of two easy-to-swallow caplets and a steady stream of salty tears is going to have to do.
* * *
The rest of the afternoon, I try to rally, but I just can’t seem to escape my funk. My drive to pick up my daughter, Zoey, is accompanied by an afternoon thunderstorm and a traffic jam, and I sit in my car, antsy and feeling my frustration grow. By the time Zoey and I finally get home, it’s late and then there I am, trying to do too much on top of all the other too much: cook dinner, start the laundry, make Zoey’s lunch for the next day, and convince her that reading a book with a side of fresh-cut veggies is much better than watching the iPad with a popsicle.
And then I’m doing the dishes and folding the laundry and trying to repress the thoughts of all the other work I need to do and making a plea for teeth and hair brushing. But when Zoey doesn’t appear out of her room to start her wind-down routine, I realize I’ve had it. I’m still tired. I still have a headache. My patience has completely run out, and I feel like I’ve got nothing else to give.
When I call Zoey’s name and she doesn’t answer again, I head into her room, ready to give her my last ultimatum.
“If I have to tell you one more time….”
I stop short at the sight of Zoey. She is on the floor, hunched over in a ball, her little shoulders shaking, and my impatience immediately disappears as I kneel down next to her.
“Peanut, what’s wrong?”
She looks up at me, her face sad and wet. I see blood on her foot, and her toe is haphazardly wrapped in a unicorn-covered band-aid.
“I stubbed my toe, and it won’t stop bleeding,” she explains. Zoey moves the back of her hand against her eyes as she tries to stop crying.
I sit down next to her and cuddle her close.
“But I’m fine,” she says softly.
Normally, this little girl rallies herself within seconds, but here she is, still in my arms, a total mess of tears. And since this is so out of character for Zoey—and because I see so much of myself in so many parts of her—that’s when I know: she isn’t really fine.
* * *
I am an expert at avoidance, at brushing away the painful things, at not letting anyone help me, and at putting on my game face and saying through my gritted teeth, “No worries. I’ve got this. I’m fine.” I’m like this now, and I was like this as a child. As a gymnast, I once tumbled on an injured foot for a month before finding out it was broken. I tore my ACL my freshman year of high school but didn’t have surgery until my senior year of college. I was not in a healthy place both physically and emotionally last year, and I told myself I would be “fine” if I kept doing what I was doing. But the truth of the matter was that had I kept going down that road, things would have gotten really bad.
Because the problem with this mentality is that when you’re not acknowledging the pain and struggle of the big important things in your life, things tend to build. And then there you are, standing in front of a work refrigerator ready to almost lose your you-know-what, all because your yogurt’s nowhere to be found, and no matter how hard you cry, you don’t seem to feel any better.
Over the past year, I’ve been learning so many things about myself. Like how sometimes, I’m really not just fine. That sometimes I don’t have it all together. That sometimes maybe things are just a little too much for me to handle. That sometimes something like a missing lunch or a stubbed toe will send you over the edge. But you know what? It’s okay. Because as much as I would like to be, I’m not perfect. I’m human. We all are. Our highs and our lows make up the fabric of who we are, a cloak that we wear from day to day. When you let them co-exist together in a healthy way, you end up feeling just a little bit more comfortable.
And like I said, I see so much of myself in my daughter. I want to teach her that it’s okay to let herself feel sad or hurt or in pain sometimes. That it will probably do her—and everyone else around her—good if she just talks about the things that are bothering her, because talking about those things is what will make things better. That she doesn’t need to be perfect and that it’s perfectly okay to have some bad days. But on the flip side, I also want to teach her that having a healthy perspective on things—like the The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow kind—will help her realize that at the end of the day, this too shall pass. That we keep on keepin’ on. That tomorrow, as always, the sun will rise, and we’ll get another blessed opportunity to make things better than just fine.
* * *
“What’s really wrong, pea?” I ask tenderly.
Zoey’s tiny little body shakes as she keeps crying. “I… I… I don’t know.”
“Then why are you still crying?”
“Tomorrow’s my last day of school. I’m not going to be a kindergartner anymore, which means I’m getting older. I’m not going to be your little girl anymore. And…. and I’m going to miss my teachers, and… and it’s still raining outside,” she says, the words tumbling out into the small space between us.
With Zoey’s admission, I realize that her toe was the equivalent of my yogurt that day. Like I said, she’s just like me.
“First of all, you’ll always be my little girl,” I say emphatically. “And the rain will stop, and the sun will come out tomorrow. When it does, things will be better. You’ll have completely forgotten your silly stubbed toe, you’ll have a fantastic last day of kindergarten, and then we’ll go celebrate the fact that you’re a first grader! Everything is going to be okay, I promise.”
* * *
The next morning, I stand on my patio, drinking a much needed cup of tea. In the distance, I see the sun, low in the sky, rising to meet the day. I close my eyes and let its rays kiss my cheeks and wrap me up in a heavenly hug.
I hear the pitter-patter of little feet and then feel the force of my earthly “sun” propelling herself against my legs. I feel Zoey’s arms wrap around me and I look down at her smile, one that rivals the brightness of that early morning sun. I pick her up and point up to the sky.
“See, I told you the sun would be out today.”
She presses her hand against my chest, and I feel my heart beating against it.
“I knew it would be, too, because it always is when I’m with you,” she says.
I mimic her gesture and meet her eyes with mine. “Yes, always. And even when we aren’t together and the sun doesn’t show its face, let’s try to find a way to make or find some. Deal?”
Zoey holds out her pinky, and I curl my own around it. “Deal,” she agrees.
We’re only an hour into our morning and it’s already shaping up to be a better day—because of the sunshine of course—but also for the simple fact that we want to make it that way.
Because that’s the real secret of all of this, isn’t it? Taking everything in stride, step by step, day by day, one beautiful sunrise after another, realizing that our daily struggles—ones that come disguised in things like stolen yogurts and stubbed toes—are no match for our resilience, determination, and strength. They are no match for our belief in the promise and hope for a better day. They are no match for the arms and hearts and words of our family and friends. And they are no match for light inside us that strives to shine brightly no matter what curve balls—both big and small—life tries to throw our way.
We get in the car and drive away to start our day. I drop Zoey off at school, and I head to work. When lunchtime rolls around, tears are no longer on the menu: we have a company barbecue, and I get to eat at a normal time, outside in the sunshine, laughing and talking with friends. Zoey has an awesome last day of school, and when I pick her up, she tells me how excited she is to officially be a first grader. We celebrate by going out to dinner and curling up on the couch later with popcorn and a movie.
It’s a good day. But let’s be honest: they all are, in some way or another. (Because now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that yogurt was expired—so to whoever took it or threw it away, thank you. You saved me from a terrible stomachache.)
Let Us Know: How do you turn your day around when it’s not going the way you’d like? What do you do to make sure the sun comes up tomorrow?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.