Monday, September 27, 2004

Have a nice day

What makes a day good? I've been pondering this not only because I like to have good days, but also because I want my children to have good days--and I think what I do will be the primary factor in determining that for quite awhile. (Maybe permanently. Happiness is in large part a habit.)

There is an irreducible number of bad days in life, I suppose; yet on reflection, some of the days in my life that ought to have been bad were not. Like the day that the car broke down on the way home from the dentist, my grandmother had to go to the emergency room, and my dad got laid off--all within about two hours. At that point the woe had piled up so far it was almost funny. (Grandma turned out to be fine and Dad eventually got a new job.) Or the day last December when DOB was so sick with the flu and I was so sick with the baby that neither of us could get up. In retrospect, it turns up on our "best days of last year" list.

A big factor in whether a day is good or unpleasant is whether what you do in it corresponds with your expectations. (One reason why catastrophic days are often not "bad days" is one automatically adjusts expectations--"Well, we've all got the Martian Death Flu, so we'll just have to survive without cleaning the bathrooms today.") Going on, day after day, without being able to do the things you want to (or think you need to) do is what drags a day down. Feeling like you got it all (mostly) done makes for a satisfactory day.

Making a day's activities match expectations is a challenge; it involves both planning and organization to maximize what you can do in a day, and mental and personal adjustments so that your expectations fit with reality.

Another important part of an everydayish good day is balance: some work, some play, some learning, some physical activity, some mental activity, enough rest, some time just to contemplate. And cushioning between different things so you have time to stop and catch your breath and notice that you are alive. Personally, I'm happiest if the day is front-loaded so I get stuff done early on and can then savor the last few moments of the day doing only things I want to do. I also find it an important part of a good day that the food tastes good and my clothes look good.

Is it feasible to try to make most of the days around here like that? Is it a worthy goal? And am I missing something?

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