Today Was a Bad Day
Words by Bonnie LaRusso
Today was a bad day.
Everything about today was bad. Okay, so not everything. There was this one moment when I called my two big boys in for lunch. They’d been playing in the forest, collecting tiny flowers to use for their stuffed animal monkey’s pee pee treats (can you tell we have potty trained three kids in the last four years?), and I hollered out the back door, “BOYS! Lunch!” To which my two-year-old, standing next to me, yelled, “BOYS! Do you want some orange juice? Come inside!” in his adorably garbled speech.
That made me laugh. One.
And there was another moment when I crawled into bed next to my three-year-old at nap time and whispered, “I love you, little boy,” in his ear and he whispered back, “I love you, little mommy,” with the most joy-filled smile radiating his whole face.
Heart eyes emoji. Two.
Today was a bad day. Today I had to count on my fingers the joys, the moments of good. Most days there is no counting because most days we laugh and play and, yes, life is not perfect and we all get angry and have our moments but the vast majority of the day is good. The vast majority of the day is joy.
But that’s most days, and today was not most days.
Today was a bad day.
I didn’t make it through my freshman year of college. When I came home for Christmas, I was so far into a deep depression it took a hospitalization, medication, steadfast love from my people, and a year of therapy to find my way out. And I did find my way out, slowly but surely. But I also found something else. I found myself.
That year of therapy was filled with a million “Aha!” moments. I learned about how debilitating my quest for perfection was, and I learned to let that go. I made peace with the knowledge that I wasn’t the happiest, bubbliest person who ever lived, and I learned to love myself even on the days when I rolled out of bed more "oh, another day" than "YES! Another day!" With each of these small acceptances, I learned to love myself for who I really was, not just the person I thought I could make myself be. There’s freedom in that, you know? There’s freedom in knowing who you are, knowing who God made you to be and trusting His design of you so much that you stop pretending to be something you think is better or more acceptable and you start figuring out how best to be you with the tools He has given you. I was learning to hone my skills, to sharpen my tools.
The boys and I are at my family lake house for the week. My husband went home Sunday afternoon, my parents left Monday evening, and my four boys and I have spent the past couple of days on our own in the middle of the woods fishing, swimming, and enjoying the peaceful quiet that comes from being in the middle of nowhere on a tiny lake in Northern Wisconsin. It’s a little slice of Heaven.
Except not today. Today was a bad day.
But, now that I think of it, we are here enjoying lake life and, if we didn’t homeschool, my oldest would have started school yesterday. I saw all the pictures my neighbors posted of their back to school kiddos and I thought, “Thank you, Jesus, that’s not us.”
So that’s a joy to count, for sure. Three.
And earlier this evening we all went down to splash around for a bit before dinner. We played King of the Island on our little floating island and I had those boys cracking up trying to throw me off of it. They didn’t know their tiny mama was so strong and they assured me that, “when daddy comes back tomorrow, he FOR SURE will knock you off.”
We laughed and laughed as we tackled and toppled over each other. Four.
And daddy comes back tomorrow. Five.
I found out I was pregnant with my second child a week shy of my son’s first birthday. We were elated, to say the least. After all, this is what I’d always dreamed of. Babies: bam, bam, bam. I wanted lots of them, close together, and it seemed we were finally on our way. But, at 12 weeks, we lost our baby. We were pregnant again within a couple of months, but lost that baby seven weeks later. We’d lost two babies in four months and the harsh reality of that is I still can’t quite put words to the depth of the devastation I felt. When I became pregnant again, I was 10% happy, 20% not letting myself be happy, 70% angry, and 100% terrified. It was a rough nine months, inhabited by many bad days. Days so bad they were reminiscent of my depression days. Days I could barely get out of bed, let alone stop crying. Days I cancelled plans because I couldn’t stomach putting a smile on my face. But I also remembered what I had learned in my year of post depression healing: I had tools, and I had been hard at work sharpening those tools.
That’s the year I began counting.
On the days when it felt like I couldn’t keep the fog from swallowing me whole, I counted. As I counted each good moment, each tiny joy, though I remained in the fog, I could see the sun peeking through. The bad days were still bad, but I began to see they weren’t all bad, and that helped.
My days now are different than they were during my season of miscarriage. They are mostly characterized by good moments, laughter, shiny smiles, and infectious joy. But, thanks largely in part to the unending roller coaster of hormones that is pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, weaning, and menstruation all happening each year (four times over), there are still bad days. I used to be afraid of bad days because they threatened my sense of perfection and joy. But I realized long ago that bad days are a small part of who I am, not a definition of my whole person, and it’s okay to be a person who is sad sometimes. Like I said before, there is freedom in knowing who you are and loving yourself anyway, and there is freedom in using the tools God has given you to help you be your best self.
Today was a bad day.
I’ve been willing this day to be over practically since it began. As with most of my bad days, I felt the heaviness descend on my heart almost immediately upon waking up this morning. I’ll admit, the hardest part of the bad days now is I don’t do a very good job of being kind and patient amidst my heavy heart and, when you have four tiny people to take care of, your whole job is basically to be kind and patient. I really sucked at my job today. When I tucked the boys into bed tonight I whispered the usual I love you and I also whispered I’m sorry. My ever pragmatic five-year-old responded, “Why are you sorry, Mom?” To which my heart broke a little bit. How do you explain to a tiny child the (albeit small) grip that depression holds on your heart? How do you expect someone so small to excuse your bad behavior when, all the while, you counsel him against his own? “Mommy felt a bit sick in her heart today and it made me act unkind toward you guys, which wasn’t very fair and for that I am really sorry,” I said.
“It’s okay, Mommy,” they said.
“I love you, Mommy,” they said.
“Tomorrow will be better,” they said.
Hugs. Kisses. Six.
Today was a bad day. But it was also sort of good, too.
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About the Author:
Bonnie is a stay at home, homeschooling mom of four crazy boys. She married her summer camp sweetheart and now lives in a cozy lodge in the suburbs of Chicago. You can usually find her chopping veggies in the kitchen, sweating it out at yoga, or playing backyard baseball with her crew.