The Anatomy of a Truly Awful Day

The day in question being over in about an hour, I feel I can own up to it.  I do this in part to counteract any suspicion that I am a weirdly cheery person.  I am not.  In fact, I have been in a place of despair for a few days, probably because it has been raining a lot and that gets old.

  • The day’s awfulness has a sneaky  beginning — with numb fingers and toes — it is so cold in our house that I lose all feeling in those extremities.  I actually run hot water over them to see if I can restore them to their normal state.  When that doesn’t work, I make tea, because tea solves pretty much everything.  (And I am not even British.)
  • Then I spill the tea, all over a stack of books.  I look at the books and think (I swear to God), when I die, my children will look at these books and think, “What a mess.  These books have stains on the pages.  Let’s throw them out.  WHO CARES IF THEY WERE MOM’S FAVORITE BOOKS?'”
  • Did I mention that I cried when I thought of my children throwing away all my books, after my death?
  • I mop up both tea and tears and go to work.   Many hateful signs in the hands of protesters in front of the building where I work in San Francisco and where the California Supreme Court will, tomorrow, be holding oral argument on the question of whether it is at all constitutionally permissible for the voters of this state to say that gay people cannot get married.  Bad feeling in throat and in stomach.  How can people exist who insist that the only way to “save the children” is to keep my friends from marrying each other?  Far better that the children should be saved by specifying in my will that they MAY NOT THROW AWAY MY FAVORITE  BOOKS AFTER I DIE.
  • It is time for the Stegner people to call the lucky few who will be paid a $27,000 stipend next year for simply sitting in a seminar room once a week and talking about their fiction.  I see, on a website, that these phone calls have already happened.  Did anyone call me?  In fact, no.  I am embarrassed to discover how much I mind this.
  • I buck up, make a list in which I yell at myself to be a better writer and better person and, while I’m at it, to stop eating bad food.  And then I go outside to go home, semi-bucked up.
  • All for naught.  More insane people have gathered.  They are wearing white t-shirts over their outdoor clothing and holding creepy, mean signs.  I see a gay friend outside the building on his way home from work.  I hug him.  And then I walk by a rental panel truck that has a picture of an innocent child on it who must be saved from my friend. The child looks suspiciously like those pictures of embryos they wave around in front of abortion clinics, only aged a little to look like she’s exited the womb, totally shocked to find herself in the Sodom and Gomorrah that is San Francisco in 2009.
  • I can’t find my ticket to get out of the parking garage and I believe I burst into tears.  Okay, I did.
  • I get home and the person who’s invited all of us out to dinner to celebrate my birthday tomorrow decides he isn’t going to be having dinner with us after all.  Do I burst into tears again?  Why yes, I do.  By this time, it has become a regular part of today’s routine.  Momentarily wonder whether maybe all this crying is good for dry skin.  Decide that’s unlikely and feel depressed.
  • I pull myself together and we all walk to Gordo Taqueria, which we love, and then go to the library, which we also love.  Dawn, the world’s best children’s librarian beams at all of us.  Our Wednesday night library nights are becoming a regular event.  I find good books — a picture of which is at the bottom of the post, or will be tomorrow after I find my camera.  On the way out of the library an officious jogger brushes by us on the sidewalk.  We are obviously in her way.  She has a blinking red light pinned to the back of her shirt.  Jack says, “Good thing she’s wearing a light.”  He pauses.  At 13, he has already begun to remember the importance of a pause.  “That’ll keep cars from running her over on the sidewalk.”  I love my children.
  • Upon returning home, I learn that another literary journal has rejected one of my stories.  I do not cry.  I believe I emit a moan and use an obscenity.
  • Oh, do I have to go into the fact that when I returned home I couldn’t  figure out how to get the wireless network connection to work on the new mini-computer I’ve given myself for my birthday to replace my  laptop, the one that was crushed by a skateboard about two months ago, an event that has led to a notable decrease in the amount of writing I’ve been doing?  Or how I spent an hour looking up “what do you do when the little wireless icon disappears” and got nothing and then spent half an hour on hold waiting to be told something, anything?  Or that the answer to the problem is to hit the function key and the F2 key simultaneously?  Or that I said, in a tart and not very thankful way, that maybe this company could have a little bit better help documentation because that’s kind of a basic thing?  Okay then, I’ve told you pretty much all.  Except that I’m a very lucky woman to have a job and to be able to afford to replace my crushed computer.  That is not something I plan to forget.

It’s almost midnight.  The day is almost over.  Tomorrow, I will be a year older.  I have never minded being whatever age I am.  I figure I am just me, and that will not change, ever.  Still, something is not quite right here.  I’m hoping it will pass.  Like me, my blog is also having a birthday. It is only turning three, an event that gives me an enormous amount of pleasure.  My blog has never rejected me.  There are no tea stains on it.  My children cannot throw it away when I die.  It has never held up a hateful sign.  It has mostly been optimistic and happy and celebrated what is good in the world.  If I’m lucky, it’ll be around for another few years of days that are anything but truly awful.   I think I will put the spilled tea and the rejections and the hateful signs and the pain in the ass that is poor computer documentation out of my mind and focus on that instead.


38 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Truly Awful Day

  1. Chin up Lily, I love you. I do! I love the way you write even if I don’t say so often enough, and even when you write about an awful day. If my day had been like that (and it has, just recently in fact, more than once or twice actually) I’d have cried too (which I did, more than once or twice).

    I will say Happy Birthday today, especially since by the time you read this it might be tomorrow for you and then I would have said it on the right day anyway. I think you deserve an even bigger, better birthday present than the mini-computer, especially since that was a replacement for a skateboard-damaged laptop. Do be generous to yourself lovey; I know I’m going to follow suit in about 17 days!

  2. Dear Lily, your wonderful blog is an inspiration! Happy birthday to it and you. I have to say, although I am unhappy to hear that you have suffered, it is a relief to hear you admit that things aren’t always rosy. I’ve been going through a grim spell for no known reason, and perhaps it’s time to fess up too. For a day or two we can embrace our melancholy together, and then go back to being cheery, non?

    Seriously, I do hope that you wake up happy on your birthday, and have a wonderful day.

  3. Oh my, you had A Day didn’t you? But I think that means you got all the bad icky prickly stuff out of the way so you could have a fantastic birthday.

    Happy Birthday!

  4. Oh, Lily, I’m so sorry to hear about the awful day. Today, as I type this comment, is your birthday and I do hope it’s a better one. It has to be. It is a new year for you: a big, bold, beautiful year.

  5. Dear Lily, I’m sorry about your awful day. I wish there were no such things as awful days. I know people say that awful days are what make you appreciate good days, but I think that’s a crock, what a body has to say in order to get through the awful days, because, really, what else can you do, because awful days do in fact happen. But now it’s your birthday, so HOORAY, may it be the most non-awful day there is! xo

  6. Just as a dreadful dress rehearsal guarantees a good play, a dreadful day-before-birthday heralds a good birthday. Happy 49th.

    And you know … I bet your kids will keep your books, to remember you by, even if they’re completely covered in tea stains (the books, not the kids).

  7. Having been in the grip of the late-winter-grumpy-blues for some weeks now I read about your Bad Day with heart felt sympathy. Strange, isn’t? When feeling the LWGB’s or VBD’s, cheery people




    No, cheery people not mix will with the LWGB’s; on the other hand, reading an account of someone in a similar condition, told without self pity and not inconsiderable human wisdom, parts the clouds and lightens the heart as no cheery person could ever do.

    Thank you… and enjoy your 49th. It’s the only one you’ll ever have.

  8. Happy Birthday, Lily! I cannot imagine a more eloquently written VBD. I don’t think 49 will bother me (we’ll find out in a scant 5 months), but when I hit 50 I plan to start drinking heavily about a week ahead of time, and quit sometime in the fall…

    It’s raining here in Oregon, too, and despite a sunnier than usual winter for us I’ve been in a funk for the last few weeks myself. Must be some alignment of the planets. We all seem to be feeling it.

  9. Hang in there, Lily, and happy birthday! I hope that yesterday was the fluke you needed to get all bad vibes out of the way before celebrating.

    (And, if I had kids, I would cry at the thought of their throwing away my favorite books, too. So there.)

  10. Dear Lily, happy birthday! I hope you are in much better spirits today and having a beautiful day. Many thanks for your wise and wonderful blog.

  11. Ugh, what a total craptastic day. You weren’t kidding. But hey, happy birthday. And maybe 49 is just an age you aren’t meant to be…maybe you’ll hit 50 and feel more comfortable. I’ve been telling people for a year I’m 32 when I’m actually 31 because 31 is just such an odd, odd age and I don’t believe it really exists. Maybe 49 doesn’t, either.

  12. Lokesh, I am indeed in much better spirits. Good thing too because there is only so much soggy weeping a woman can do before the men in her house bundle her off to an institution that is probably not, alas, a spa, which is what it should be.

    Hey Genie, I’m looking foward to our lunch tomorrow. As for the children, I am going to distribute everything I own before I die, thus cleaning out the garage and finding a home for my books in one fell swoop.

    Ms. Dame — I believe I have had my crisis a year and a day early, and am feeling a tiny bit smug about getting THAT out of the way except of course when I read over the tale of my woes I’m embarrassed by how inconsequential my concern are. (Except Prop 8, but then that’s not up to me right now.) But oh, the rain, the rain! I know we are in a drought, and I am glad to see so many things blooming. It’s just the rain plus the cold that gets to me.

    Jacob Russell, what a gem you are — I mean, really, this point you make that you are only this age once pretty much sums up the appropriate approach to life. As for the grumpy blues, I think if it was better known how widespread this affliction is, and if there was, say a forum for grump-inducing events (twitter-like, except maybe it could be called bitter, or gritter or something and people could write 160 word descriptions of what’s getting them down, like, say “$193 ticket arrived in the mail today” ….) we would all feel if not better at least in solidarity with each other.

    Dear David, Just so you know that you were discussed this morning in the BlogLIly household, I mentioned this dress rehearsal idea to my boys. One child, the youngest and least experienced performer, repudiated the possibility that if you have a bad dress rehearsal you will have a bad performance. Rather, he said, “your show will suck even worse.” Older child, who has extensive performing experience, said you were quite right. It’s good to get the kinks way, way out and then all will be well the next day. With age, comes wisdom in my view, and I think you are absolutely right.

    Marie, It’s a most un-awful day. I’ve recovered. I was given cards from the dollar store (William was very proud of his budget move), breakfast at Peet’s Coffee, where the tea is fabulous and when it spills they give you a new cup, some lovely soap and lotion and the promise that everyone will come with me to see a romantic comedy tonight. What more could be required?

    Nova, Exactly. With every significant rejection, I decide to push myself to do things that I have made off limits. I’m thinking there should not be any more significant rejections, however, because I fear I might run out of appropriate off limits things and then I will become a batty old lady.

    Thank you Debbie! You don’t have to send me some sun, because it seems to have arrived today — at least for the next hour, which is good enough. (And OH — I’m so looking forward to seeing you soon!!!)

    Dear Ms. Sassymonkey — Every time I see your name I laugh — did you know that? It’s such a great screen name. Anyway, icky and prickly pretty much sum it up. But I do continue to believe there should be a twitter that’s devoted only to bad day-ish moments. Pritter? Icker? By the end of the day, I plan to have a name picked out.

    Charlotte — I embrace my melancholy! I do. Except last night, when I got up to bed and my stoic, devoted long suffering husband told me that he is growing “tired” of the weeping and the muttered obscenities and the banging of doors and the rending of garments and the other stuff you do when you feel grumpy. So, today I’m embracing something else, which is birthday cake, ice cream and romantic comedies. Okay, I’m not really going to hug the cake. I’ll confine that to people.

    Nadine, That is just the loveliest thing to say. 17 days? I’ll be there to tell you that all will be well. xo

    • Hey Tom, Thank you. You’re a wonderful brother. xoxo

      Courtney, craptastic indeed. I’m going with your theory on age, by the way. Except I can’t quite bring myself to march into the next century (DECADE, I mean!). Not quite yet. I have a whole year to get there though.

  13. What a horrible day! My sympathy (and in some cases, empathy) goes out to you. I hope the Birthday is a sign of a better day to come and a great year ahead. Congratulations on your blog turning 3 too – although I don’t always make regular comments I do love reading your writing so thank you for making it available!

  14. Hi Lily,

    Happy Birthday! Your post actually cheered me up – it reminded me that I’m not the only one! I just finished texting my friend, “I’m depressed, I don’t want to grow up” – a feeling that I believe, for both of us, was motivated more by rejections than numbers… I’m worrying about summer internships, and while I had one interview today, I know I haven’t gotten a few others. I decided to check your blog as I await a phone call to interview someone for a newspaper article I’m writing… and they have decided not to call me. And I believe my computer, too is about to crash.

    Just as your boys cheered you up, I’m going to close the computer and go to babysit three lovely, beautiful, hilarious girls who, no matter how many sad moments they may have on the walk home, a walk that always takes much longer than it needs to, always give me a hug before I leave. And when the woman who is supposed to call me back to talk about work-life balance for faculty at the University, I will tell her that I need to talk to her later, because right now I am enjoying the far-superior company of children. And while you’re in the company of children, you are definitely not growing old.

  15. Why Ella, I am sorry you are feeling down about the prospect of growing up. In fact, aging and maturing are wonderful, wonderful human experiences. It is too bad, of course, that we live in a culture that — if you pay attention to it anyway — can send the opposite message. But this, I’m pretty sure, is not what’s on your mind today, but more the difficulty of shaping your career in a way that makes you happy. I would love to know more about what you’re thinking, but whatever it is, I hope it involves writing wonderful things, the sort of things you were sent here to write. (As for your work-life balance person, I’m sure she’d be very happy to hear about your walk home with those fun girls.) The about-to-crash-computer? Man. Why do they do that? xoxoxoxox

    Hello Karen, Like you, I don’t always comment regularly, but I’m so grateful to you for your many helpful book-ish posts.

  16. Dear Bloglily – I can’t think of a more beautiful, creative or wise 49-year-old than you. You even give us your bad days made palatable so we can feel solidarity and comfort that we’re all there, from time to time. Happy, happy birthday. You have to have the bad bits so you can appreciate the pleasure, so maybe it’s not just a bad day but a harbinger of good things to come…. Big hugs.

  17. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! That was grim and enough to reduce anyone to tears. Hope you’re still having a very different day today – happy birthday!

    (And my own group of protesters yesterday, you might be amused to hear, were protesting the sacking of a union rep called Joseph Stalin. They were handing out leaflets with titles like “Rally in support of Stalin!” and “Reinstate Stalin!” Regardless of the rights and wrongs (and there are rights and wrongs), it was a little surreal.)

  18. What a dreadful day. I hope you have now recovered.. Happy Birthday to you, and to your blog – both are an inspiration!

  19. Are you pre-menopausal? Sounds like a severe case of hormonal overload to me! Especially all the crying. When I was doing that little hormone dance I had unreasonable rages that involved slamming drawers and doors and throwing silverware into drawers and basically acting like some sort of **tch.

    I does sound like a dreadful day, and as my dear mother is wont to say, this too shall pass. You are indeed lucky to have a job and your wonderful children — loved the comment about the light on the jogger.

    I will make a point of posting some pictures of crocuses that are blooming right now in my yard and hope that that will help cheer you up.

  20. Oh, Lily! I hate having days like that. And the rainy winters in the Bay are not very cheery anyway. I hope things begin to improve right away. Warmer weather and a little sunshine first, then maybe a letter begging for movie rights to your novel, with attached note from Clive Owen asking if he can play the lead.

    Did you know Henry has the same birthday as you? He turned four on the 5th, and had a difficult day before as well (runny nose, out of favorite cereal, dropped a book on his toes, lost a shoe, got his hair pulled by baby sister, dropped his ice cream cone, got put in time out for hitting baby – can’t really compare to being glared at by protestors, but many, many tears). So maybe it’s some peculiar Piscean thing and the stars are just not aligned correctly at the moment.

  21. Happy Birthday! When I turned 49 I did two things; a) gave myself my 49th year to prepare to turn 50, so if anyone asked my age I’d say “nearly 50”, and b) went out and found some interesting and interested elders to help guide me into a new era. I’m turning 52 this year and I’ve met all sorts of wonderful friends, who are showing me the way.

    Don’t know what to say about those mean-spirited and confused protesters. It must be hard to be living in a culture or times where their voice is still predominant. It’s hard to believe that they and the government think what they are doing is right. My grandmother would have said to pray for them. My instincts would be to hit them over their heads with their stupid signs. My “civilized self” would probably just react like you with despair.

  22. Bloglily, you know you are loved when your comment section is longer than your post!

    Being a guy, I’ll focus on the technology instead of the emotion! I also bought a mini-laptop and I love it too pieces. It’s quiet and my writing has increased greatly with it in my life. That being said, it DOES seem to be a bit troublesome connecting to my home wireless network. If I switch my desktop from Linux to Windows it pretty much guarantees I won’t connect until I reboot the wireless router.

    Mind you I blame the cheap router. I’ve never had a problem connecting at the library or coffee shop!

    Ah yes, protesters. Nothing defines our society quite like the presence of so many groups that disagree with us. Our strength and our weakness. So I can only say (semi-ironically) “Keep the faith” and hope that the number of reasonable, intelligent, compassionate people outnumber them.


  23. Happy Birthday deal Lily! As a fellow Piscean, I know only too well the days when our sensitive natures succumb to every sadness in the world and magnify it out of all proportion. Days nearing birthdays have a way of exacerbating this problem for me. Especially now that all my birthday numbers begin with a “5”. Not nice.

    I started my blog on my birthday (March 9) three years ago. It has been a lovely way for me to express my feelings about Piscean moments, both lovely and horrible. I’m glad you shared your “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” and I hope the following day was a much, much better!

  24. Dear Lily, This is a few days after your very bad day & I hope that you’ve had better days since. I had a truly bad day that same day, a day that had me awake for 27 hrs straight dealing with 2 crises, 1 work related and 1 family related that made me realize the first one wasn’t worth worrying about. And it wasn’t my birthday, so maybe it was just an alignment of the planets or something.
    A week ago I laughed that two of my siblings had a lengthy debate about whether I was turning 50 this year. A few days later, I thought of that again and came close to tears. As if 50 wasn’t bad enough, having your brother wanting to celebrate it a year early because he has forgotten what year you were born? Wow! That was a blow to my ego. There are days that I look at my hands, or my gray hair, fear I look old and fret about 50 approaching, wondering how I’m going to survive an entire year of approaching 50. But, tonight, after reading this post & all the wonderful ideas, I’m wondering if maybe turning 49 is worse than 50 and I only have to deal with the approaching birthday for two more months.
    Here’s to a year of trying to forget the silly societal reasons we fear 50.

  25. I hope you had a wonderful birthday, to help you recover from that awful day! It’s horrible how bad things come in waves. It’s never just one thing at a time — it’s everything all at once. But that means there will be days when absolutely everything goes right, and I find that a bit of a comfort. I hope you have one of those days soon!

  26. Oh Lily, I just read this post. What an awful day. I wish you’d call me when you are feeling so bad (or at least email me), so I can attempt to cheer you or, at least, commiserate. I love that comment that you’re only this age once. That is a wonderful way of looking at each birthday and I plan to remember it each year, though I’ve never really had a problem with birthdays. Dan tells me I am looking forward to “old age” but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I just see it as the only feasible option.

    I hope you are having a lovely weekend. Does the new computer mean that I don’t need to send those cords back to you (sorry I haven’t done so already). Is one for the phone?

    xoxo Debs

  27. Blimey, Lily, my commiserations (late, I know, I didn’t have any computer time this weekend, which is pretty nice actually). I just hope the weekend worked out better. Things like these could at least have had the decency of waiting for next Friday to happen, instead of surprising you so sneakily early like this.

  28. Hey Edwin, Great weekend — no blog time for me, either. Sometimes that is indeed a good thing. Anyway, I am past the pre-birthday meltdown and well into the year before I turn 50.

    Dear Debby — You are a wonderful friend. Thank you. As for the cords, I’ll collect them next time I’m in Santa Barbara. (I can’t believe the stuff I litter all over California. Very disorganized!)

    Dorothy, I like your thinking here — the economy of happiness being one where good things pour down as a way of making up for a rash of not so good things.

    Cam, First, I am sorry about the work and family crises. I will admit here that I have three older siblings and it never even occurred to me that, on their birthdays, they would be turning 50, even though of course it happened to all of them. I think the year before the year is indeed a little more difficult. But I also feel like I’ve had my weird bought of pre-birthday unhappiness and am here to tell you that it’s just fine on the other side.

    Lilian, You are so kind to check in! xo

    Becca, Happy Blogversary! I too wrote my first post on March 9th, three years ago. I love knowing we were both up to the same thing, at the same time.

    Thanks Sue. There will be boxes in my garage with your name on them. Actually, I’ll ship them to you way before my demise. We need to enjoy things now, don’t you think?

    Dear Doug, Many things about your post made me laugh and think. Thank you for the techno-talk moment — I love this netbook thing. It’s inexpensive, solid, and when I take it out on the train there are gasps of admiration (before I tune them out and begin to bang on the keyboard). And I agree with you — compassion and reason will arrive, soon enough.

    Lilalia, This is just fabulous advice — both using the year to approach the next one, and finding people to guide you along the way. I plan to do both. And next year, rather than having a meltdown, I hope I’ll be engaged in something so fun, and so worthwhile, that I won’t notice or care what age I am.

    Ruth — Yes, I will. In my big hoop skirt, I’ll scoop up some dirt and vow to live another day.

    Ella, Happy birthday to Henry! I love knowing we had the same day-before-birthday- day. xoxo

    Dear Ms. HMH, Thank you for the crocuses! I can’t tell you how happy they made me.

    To you Ms. Musing on the Sofa, I send my thanks — and the inspirational thing is mutual.

    U-Dad — No! Stalin must be Reinstated!! I love urban life.

    Dear litlove, Thank you. The wonderful thing is that I’ve somehow gotten beyond that day of rejection and loss, so much so that I can’t quite recall how it felt. xoxo

  29. oh dear…here i am reading this just now.

    i didn’t like 49 either. Can’t say why.

    I’m not likeing 57 much either.

    But i just pulled some weeds so that the pretty fragrant flowers that have come from bulbs that some former owner of my house planted — gifts on a drizzly day. The earth smells good, a fact I only noticed as the root of the weed pulled dirt from the ground.

    happy belated,

  30. Well, I am WAAAAY late to getting this! After I had written of my own horrible days of despair, and you cheered me up so well. I am now well enough, in fact, to remember that reading blogs cheers me up immensely–and this post is so beautifully written and uplifting that it alone could have propelled me back into mental health. That, plus your recipe for green smoothies! Thank you for posting this, and Happy Birthday to you!! Belatedly. Can’t wait to see you soon!


  31. Happy belated birthday friend! I’m sorry your last day of 48 was slightly … cursed. I think the moon was screwing with us all this time around. But that’s the great thing about a cycle – sooner or later each phase is bound to pass.

  32. Hello Carmela, Re-reading this post, I’m struck by how ridiculous that day was! I’m quite certain that whatever it was I was feeling had mostly to do with the Fellowship I Shall Not Name, and the Age I could not Yet Get My Head Around. I’m fine now!

    Dear Sandi, I’m so glad you like those smoothies, weird though they sound. And yes, I am so looking forward to seeing you — just a week now. xo

    Hello Gail, What a lovely vision of your garden. I am so glad we share a joint birthday. Someday, we will even get to celebrate it at around the same time.

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