Hello! Long-time no speak. I hope you had a good new Christmas and New Year and all the other festivals and holidays and days since then. Didn’t I promise you I wouldn’t bother you too often? I’ve run too many “Sorry for not posting more!” blogs to fall into that trap.
What I’m sharing today is a scratched-out thought piece which I think is going become a chapter in All Better Now. If you make it to the end, I’ll reward you with a photo of my two lovely cats, whose relevance will become apparent as you read on. Sound good? Great.
So, late last year I found myself trying to explain to one of my cats that he wasn’t having a bad day.
The idea of a “bad day” is a pretty ubiquitous one. Those days when everything seems against us, when mistakes and failures stack up on each other, and our moods turn aggravated and sour. We can’t be doing with nonsense or bullshit, and withdraw ourselves from social contact into almost apologetic isolation. Like the song says, It’s been a bad day, please don’t take a picture.
Yet when I was struggling with anxiety and depression, Bad Days™ were one of my saving graces. Throughout 500ish Days In The Quiet Room I use them as get out jail free cards for abject shitty moods, reminders that the bad day I’m stuck in isn’t my entire life or who I am, but just one day. It ends, and a fresh new day begins.
That new day might also turn out to be a bad one, and indeed many of those 500ish days went bad, but acknowledging them as isolated incidents was one of the many tools that helped me through my recovery, and helped me relearn that me and my life weren’t failing, only some of the 24 hour periods that I struggled through.
Excellent stuff. Although, as I was trying to explain to my disgruntled feline house-mate, this idea can go further. If a life can be broken down into good days and bad days, then surely a day can be broken down into good and bad moments?
You’re not having a bad day, you’re just upset because the critter you were chasing escaped. Okay, you wanted your dinner biscuits earlier than usual, and the critter you were chasing escaped. Right, the critter you were chasing escaped, you wanted your dinner biscuits early, your sister pounced on you from the dresser top, you ran into the wall when you were playing earlier, and the humans you keep as pets won’t let you into the kitchen at the moment even though it smells like salmon.
These are individual bad moments, things that disturb or avert you, things which make you feel like you’re not the best version of yourself. But the day isn’t to blame. The day has no intrinsic value that affects your mood and self-worth, it is only the container for these moments, just like your life is only a container for your days.
These aren’t even “bad” moments, they’re just unwanted or unwelcome. Often something vital to your needs or agenda tomorrow might be nothing but an obstacle today, an intrusion that you “can’t deal with right now”* but might face later with excitement.
*translated from meowing
Removing the idea that events and actions sit on a good-or-bad dichotomy (di-cat-omy?) could possibly have the effect of reducing your dread towards these previously “bad” things or cancel your dismay when they throw pits and barriers (kits and cat-carriers?) in your way.
Still… explaining this to cats is problematic, not least because of the language barrier.
Cats are pretty good bullshit-detectors, and don’t suffer hypocrites gladly. If they see the big human cat eating the fancy Waitrose salmon, they’re not going to listen when you tell them to leave it alone.
They’re not going to trust you unless you lead by example, and stop taking the easy route of blaming the day or blaming the moment for things not progressing in the way you’d prefer. Just because it isn’t your fault doesn’t mean there’s a higher order to things, or a bad sign hanging over this calendar period. Sometimes things are just things.
Cats need to see you practice what you preach, and engage in a little mindfulness when remembering to yourself that no, this isn’t a bad day, it’s just a series of unwelcome events grouped by daylight.
You can’t lie to these faces.
So! This piece probably falls more on the creative side of creative non-fiction than most that I’ve shared with you so far. I’m intending that All Better Now features a decent 50/50-ish split of factual and whimsical. It’s not about giving advice, but sharing ideas that might make you think a little more about the healing process, and the idea of having a “fixed” state of mental health.
As always, I hope you are well,
P.S Do you talk to your pets (or plants? or plushies?) about your mental health? Does it work, or help you uncover new ideas? Hit that reply button to tell me about it.
P.P.S At the moment I’ve got a couple of essays spinning their wheels just before the point of writing. I like to get those ideas as hot as they can be before putting them to paper. Given that, I don’t know which you can expect to see next.
P.P.P.S. Remember that as a member of this community, only you will get the opportunity to pick up 500ish Days In The Quiet Room at a scarily low introductory price, and after launch only you will get a digital copy of the companion collection All Better Now for absolutely free!