Last week I had a doozy of a day. The day wasn’t rough compared to most of my bad days, but it was a day where everything seemed to fall apart. A regular life, plain old bad day. My list of tasks to accomplish grew by the second. Instead of fewer check marks, I noticed a multitude of list transfers, unfinished to dos from old lists. I glanced at it in the morning and felt stifled by the overwhelming feeling, of god I have so much to do.
This anxious, rushed feeling that feverishly tried to gnaw away my inner peace, fed an out of control energy that causes items to break and missed steps. Right away, I broke a glass dish. The dish slid right out of my hand, crashing onto the tile floor. The small, round dish promptly shattered and Belle’s pureed pumpkin splattered all over my kitchen. Orange muck speckled my back splash, cabinet fronts, the floor, and the window. I carefully dodged the jagged edges of the strewn pieces of glass because my wheelchair tires don’t respond well to glass shards. I swept the floor. I wiped down the pumpkin, attempted to feed the dog again, and started the day one more time. I decided be all zen and just start over, press play again, as if the day was fresh. This plan worked for about a minute. I unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned up the never ending trail of dishes that comes with cooking everything from scratch. After all of this cleaning, I was covered in pumpkin and dirty dish water. I thought I should just take a shower instead of trying to clean up all of the orange goo. And as if I was featured in a comedy of errors, I saw my shower bench was a bit askew, chose to ignore it, and paid for this lack of diligence. I lost control and started to inch closer and closer to the bottom of the hard porcelain tub. Luckily, I lifted my half limp, dead weight body to safety and continued the shower. I dropped the soap six or seven times because of course that's what happens when I'm in such a mood. The entire day continued this way, just one thing after the next. I lost my cool on several occasions, but remained determined not to let the hard stuff get to me.
After the goofy morning, I, finally, hooked up Belle's leash and headed out of the door to the river. I needed to clear my head and exercise always feeds and increases my inner peace. This day was exceptionally hot for this time of year. My body doesn’t seem to do too well in the heat and this walk wasn’t any different. I almost fainted a few times, pushed forward to the end of the walk, and finally crossed the finish line of the long walk.
The river walk helped my head as we continued on the trail, but once I returned to the car and started to drive home, my head noise started again. I felt anxiety creep back in and anxiety started taunting me with thoughts like, how will you every accomplish anything other than wheelchair care, you rely on so much equipment that you should forget trying to be so independent and what are you doing with your life. The bad thoughts chased me like a wild hyena. I worked to release the thoughts, but gave up, and turned on the radio instead.
My favorite station was in the middle of a fund drive, so I flipped the channels and landed on a pop station. The music was the perfect medicine. And before I knew it, I was rocking out and singing at the top of my lungs and dancing while driving. We stopped at a light, sunroof wide open and windows all rolled down. I continued my dance party of one. And then, I looked around for some odd reason and quickly noticed this was not a dance party of one anymore. The three cars around me, with open windows and blaring music, had drivers and passengers dancing and rocking out right along with me. I turned bright red, but kept on dancing. The joyful noise and dancing hearts were the perfect remedy for a day gone awry. I escaped the struggles of the day and latched on to the joy. And in this blissful state, I pulled onto my street, Belle jumped into my lap, as she always does, and I drove up the hill to my house, temporarily unaware of the bad day I determined I just recently lived. My car rounded the edge of the driveway and my neighbor’s care giver was pulling up at the same time.
My neighbor, Gerttie, is over ninety years old. In the last few months, she has a care giver that comes in the evenings to sit with her. Bonnie, her caregiver, arrives at the same time every evening and that time coincides with the time I take Belle out before she eats dinner. Bonnie and I always chat for a few minutes before she heads in to Gerttie’s house and then I walk the dog. On this day, she looked at me with the most perplexed, yet excited face, ran to my car window and with her mouth hanging wide open she breathlessly shouted, “What are you doing, how on earth are you driving?”
I chuckled and explained to her that I drive with my hands and use hand controls. Instead of focusing on the why and how too much, she just said, “And with the dog on your lap?”
I laughed again and shared that Belle is unaware I am paralyzed and when she wants to look out the window, she looks. We shared another good laugh, she asked a few more questions, and I started to wave goodbye. And as we were saying our goodbyes, she stared right at me, with the world's largest grin and excitedly exclaimed, “You get on with your bad self.”
I inched my car down the steep driveway and, admittedly, thought, well this driving thing is just about the easiest part of my day. You should have seen me earlier. I even had a moment, where I thought, you think this is a big deal, you think I am really doing something here, just driving and walking my dog. And then I caught myself, finally. I caught myself beating my spirit to a pulp.
This spirit I have gets me up everyday, it fought through years of crap, much less one bad morning, and it continues to remind me to keep going. And how did I choose to respond to this one bad day. Well, with a bad attitude because things just weren’t going my way. Instead of honoring her, I started to beat this spirit up and tell her she was worthless and pathetic and would never amount to anything. And once again, as it always, always happens, a louder voice prevailed. This time, the voice wasn’t from above, it wasn’t in my head, it wasn't found in a deep meditation, it came with a huge and loving smile from sweet Bonnie who was completely unaware of her perfect timing. Get on with your bad self. Basically, go on, you are doing just fine, better than fine.
So, I made a promise. I added a new mantra to my ever growing list of mantras. Get on with your bad self. I break a glass dish, manage to clean it up without popping my wheels, get on with your bad self. I fall in the shower and get right back up, get on with your bad self. I attempt the pile of dishes, get on with your bad self. If I choose to rest because my body is tired, get on with your bad self. If a piece of equipment breaks, I get upset, and then I make the best of it, get on with your bad self. If I smile and am kind, instead of a crab, get on with your bad self. And if I just simply make it through the day, get on with your bad self. Bonnie taught me nothing is too mundane for a little encouragement and congratulations.
Sometimes, the get on with your bad self will congratulate a huge accomplishment and, sometimes, it will be the phrase I use to return my thoughts to sanity. It doesn’t matter when it used, just that I use it and use it for everything.
Peeling ourselves out of bed every morning to face a day of uncertainty and a life we know is hard is worth a get on with your bad self. We risk broken hearts as we love our friends and family and children and animals and this certainly, even though we know we can lose them at any minute, calls for a get on with your bad self. Showing kindness to every single person we meet, get on with your bad self. Stepping up and choosing to be that person who smiles and holds doors, get on with your bad self. And even when we have a day filled with junk that we just want to file in the garbage pile, we deserve a get on with your bad self. Life is hard. It breaks our hearts and our bodies, but we can’t let it break our spirits, no matter how long the to do list grows. Every moment we choose to be alive and awake and experience the wonder of this life, good and bad, deserves a get on with your bad self. We all are doing just fine, muck and all. So, go ahead and get on with your bad selves.