There is a woman who works at my local rec center who is usually decked out in yoga pants and comfy shirts like the rest of us slobs—I mean, exercisers. But the other day she looked as cute as a proverbial button, bouncing down the hall in a swingy polka-dot dress, glossy flats and, even (!), red lipstick. I couldn't help it: "Don't you look nice!" I blurted, like a nosy old lady. "What's the occasion? Wait, I mean—not that you don't usually look nice—I mean..." She just laughed and said, "It's Fabulous Friday!" She explained that when she first became a stay-at-home mom/yoga instructor, she found herself shuffling around in glorified pajamas and feeling a touch on the dowdy side. So she invented Fabulous Fridays, which call for as much fabulousness as possible on Fridays: the cutest clothes, blow-dried hair and, yes, lipstick. I told her she was a revolutionary. She said she knew. Think about it: Make Fridays fabulous, and they'll seem less like something else to slog through on the way to the weekend, and more like pure sparkling fun. The way Fridays should be.
Once, on a road trip in the middle of nowhere, I saw a banner in a dusty church that read, "When I Change, the Whole World Changes." It's a good, hard thing to remember: Although you may be a powerful person, you are not so powerful that you can make everyone else do what you want them to do. Willing the world to appreciate you, or wanting (with every ounce of your being) for things to be different? Not going to make a lick of difference. Work is terrible—so talk to your boss. You're exhausted and stressed-out—so get some rest, make time for a yoga class, say no to the PTA meeting. You had a fight with your best friend that left you feeling a vague sense of despair—so send her some flowers, or at least one of those really funny Someecards
. You are the agent of change. You must be.
The other day my daughter was working diligently on a drawing of a "bad guy," so naturally I asked why he was a bad guy. "He just is," she explained. "His parents named him Bad Guy because they had a lot of bad ideas. It's not his fault."
Isn't that so true, so much of the time? We never know why people are acting awfully. People forget to be uplifting and helpful and heart-swelling. They let the door slam in your face when your arms are full. They talk over you in meetings and steal the credit for your mumbled brilliance. They cut you off in traffic and then shoot you dirty looks as if your existence were an inconvenience, causing you to fight the temptation to psychotically follow them for the rest of the morning...um, right? But, as Plato preemptively paraphrased my preschooler: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's the mantra to remind you that all these people who are being crummy, they are just people, just flawed, sad, happy, yearning, scared, exhausted, beloved, loathed, lonely people. Who knows, maybe your terrible coworker's parents just had a lot of bad ideas and accidentally taught her to be terrible.
This snippet of wisdom comes from everyone's favorite spiritual teacher: 30 Rock
's Tracy Jordan. I know, I know—but think about it. Many of us grind out our weeks like Model Ts off an assembly line, each one exactly the same. Sometimes it pays to make it Shark Week. Or Reading a Chapter of a Page-Turner Novel at Every Lunch Week. Or Bicycle Week. Or, when things get really terrible, horrible, no-good—and very bad
: Éclair Week.
The most helpful thing anyone said to me when I was about to become a parent was to buy all white socks so you don't have to sit there constantly sorting pairs. The second most helpful thing was to remind myself, in every miserable moment: "This too shall pass." It's true of childbirth; it's true of toddler tantrums; it's true of mind-numbing team-building exercises; it's true of traffic jams; it's true of all sloggy life blahs. Sometimes you just need to give in to the yuckiness of the day, throw your psychic hands up in the air and trust that tomorrow will be an improvement. As Oprah says, "The sun is pretty certain to show up tomorrow." And of course you know this—what you are sure to find whole, entire, unlived and waiting for you when you wake up: the future. After all, tomorrow is another day.
How does Nora Roberts, the queen of the romance novel, write five books a year? She never has a bad day, her muse is a body builder and writing books is just supereasy. Okay, fine, not really. In a 2009 New Yorker interview, Roberts divulged the secret to her near-unparalleled productivity: "Ass in the chair." You sit yourself down, and you Just. Do. It. And when things are bad, and the work you have to do seems undoable, remember that half the battle is staying present. The only way to get the work done is to do the work. You grit your teeth. You stay in the chair. You do it. After all, it's not coal mining. And if it is, well then, just tell yourself, at least it's not teaching seventh grade. (And if it so happens that you're teaching seventh grade in a coal mine, well, then we salute you.)
There is a moment in the film Annie Hall
when Jeff Goldblum is on the phone at a party saying, "I forgot my mantra." In case this happens to you, remember that it may work just as well to simply take a moment, reconnect with your spine and reach out to the meaningless, meaningful, goofy, profound, pure om-ness of it all: Sometimes, it's enough just to breathe, just to say, "Om."
Next: 11 simple ways to show yourself some love