How To Never Have Bad Days

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I was offered a job when I was 28 that would have basically eliminated financial concerns for the rest of my life.

The job was 500 miles away, and ultimately, I had to turn it down.

I had dared to dream of a life where I was never again worried about how a bill would get paid. The future would not be: “How will I afford to send my kids to college?” but rather “Do I want to go drink wine in Tuscany or the south of France next month?”

I got sucked in.

Money for nice clothes. All my dream cars. The kick-ass inground pool and outdoor bar and kitchen I’d always wanted.

Then, poof. Gone. Not happening.

And all the sudden, my very decent car seemed like a massive piece of shit.

My very decent home seemed wholly inadequate.

My wardrobe? Ugh.

Those goddamn bills? Maddening.

The not-amused Universe started delivering messages, one at a time.

Message #1: You don’t know how good you have it.

I lost my newspaper reporting job on Dec. 31, 2009 as part of another round of corporate layoffs. I’d hold my one-year-old son—just watching him. How will I provide?

My wife went to work, dressed to kill, and exceptional at the work she does.

She’d come home. I’d be watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my son in sweatpants and a t-shirt. I must have seemed like the biggest loser imaginable. I was unemployed for 18 months. I finally felt real financial hardship. I finally learned that we are not guaranteed employment in this life. I finally learned that having a very decent home and driving a very decent car in a very decent town isn’t such a bad thing. I learned that having a good job is not something to complain about or take for granted.

Message #2: Money won’t help you.

About 18 months after losing my job, and after a decent run writing freelance copy from home, I was offered my current job as a writer in the internet marketing department of a reasonably large company. We do good work. It’s a very pleasant, professional working environment. I’m good at my job. Seem to be liked and appreciated. And I’m paid much more than I was as a news reporter.

Suddenly, we were prospering financially. Whew.

A few weeks later, we had a death in the family and my marriage totally fell apart.

No dollar amount could save us.

Message #3: Inner peace and happiness is what we should be chasing.

She left me.

My son was gone half the time. And I totally lost it.

And I learned my most-important life lesson so far. NOTHING is more important to our individual human experience, than feeling peace and contentment. (I like the word “happiness” which I incorrectly use in place of “contentment,” which is what I really mean.)

When you can’t even sit quiet and still because of fear, stress and anxiety, you’re left with almost nothing.

Trillions of dollars and exotic vineyards can’t save you. With every breath, you wonder whether you’ll ever feel like yourself again. It’s hard when we deal with change. Even small ones.

When you actually lose yourself? When you don’t know the person in the mirror and are afraid you’ll never find them again? I’m not sure I’ve ever known fear like that.

And that’s when I knew: There are few things in this life that really matter. And so much of what I’d been chasing is not on that list.

Bring It

I’ll never ask for hardships. I’ll never hope for trials and tribulations. I’ll never revel in tragedy.

But I have been thinking: What if I could learn how to embrace obstacles and life challenges, knowing I’m going to come out a better person?

When my wife left, I thought I might lose my house. I was afraid of adding more drastic change to my life. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid of losing my home.

The same house I resented when I thought I should be living in something more elaborate.

The same house I didn’t think was good enough for me.

When I was thinking one way, the house brought me misery. Now that I’m thinking another way, the house fills me with joy, comfort and gratitude.

Can that same phenomenon be accomplished with the hardships we face?

Of course it can. If we’re brave enough to not be victims. If we’re courageous enough to embrace growth opportunities. If we’re strong enough to take on all comers knowing defeat doesn’t come easily.

If I can find a way to not blame the world and other people for my life circumstances—to look at obstacles as they arrive and relish the challenges—I believe this life can be incredibly fulfilling.

Bad shit is going to happen no matter what. No matter what.

And we have two choices: Be afraid. Or embrace opportunity.

With mind tricks, really. With psychology. With perspective.

Tough challenges make me stronger.

Hard times make me wiser.

Moments of fear make me braver.

And I want those things. I want those things for me and for you.

Strong. Wise. Brave.

Courtesy of life, just, happening.

Gratitude.

Turning bad things into good things.

Turning darkness into light.

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19 thoughts on “How To Never Have Bad Days

  1. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

    Of course we can never hear this message when we are at the start of hardship, it’s only after we’ve accepted and battled through that we can see the good work happening inside of us. And just maybe…one day….waaaay down the road, we can be grateful for it. (I’ve heard that’s a “thing.”)

    Great post…as always….not biased if it’s true BTW <3

    Like

  2. I was looking for the word perspective and there it was. Glad you have a better view. Nice piece. The human experience. Take care.

    Like

  3. nykeypad says:

    Thanks again, Matt, for saying what I’m feeling. I never saw a class called “Pink Slip 101” in college, either. Adversity made me stronger over time.

    Like

  4. Perspective has been my word this past year – mainly because I was teaching my son to drive, and it’s amazing how different the perspective is from the drivers seat vs the passengers. And, it was a good life lesson that I took off the road and into my life. It’s all about perspective, and I have made the decision to embrace the bad with the good, knowing that I will get through it and getting through the bad will help me appreciate the good, the joy, even more.
    And, when I’m stuck behind an insanely slow car, I’m keeping the perspective that maybe they are keeping me from a wreck. Maybe the Universe needs me stuck and losing my brain because it has to save me from an event even worse :)

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  5. […] had a lot happen to my family and not just me, but when I read the blog post this morning called How To Never Have Bad Days, the above quote just jumped out at […]

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  6. martha0stout says:

    Thank you for this post. It taught me something that I hadn’t thought about before. We don’t have to be victims.

    Like

  7. Dawn says:

    In order to have the mighty oak the nut must first crack.
    I’ve always been a glass half full kind of girl…grateful to have the glass at all. Always always believing things will be ok. Life has shown me that it will…eventually.
    Right now I’m having a rough time of it, mentally. I worry (which is totally out of character for me). More often than not I think things will not work out…It’s driving me nuts. Fortunately I’ve still got enough sense to get some help…even though this process is making me push people out and hide. I hate it…but I’m NOT giving in to it.
    Gratitude…I “preach” that a lot…especially about the bullshit. I believe it with all my heart.

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  8. PerfectWife says:

    My husband had a good job when we met and I didn’t work. I had been laid off and was struggling to care for my son with my severance package. We decided that is stay home with my son and a baby on the way. He got my house out of foreclosure. A year later with 2 children, he had to go “on vacation” to pay for a crime he committed years earlier. All of a sudden, we had no money coming in. I had just started college and didn’t want to quit. I struggled on government assistance to make ends meet while he was gone. We were POOR! He came home and struggled to find a job. Through that entire time we learned to live with less and appreciate what we had. We were so grateful and happy for the little things. We had each other and our family. Times got better financially but we never forget the how happy we were when we had nothing. I earned a degree and taught school for a year. It didn’t make me happy working so much while I neglected my kids. The choice was made for me to stay home. We didn’t hesitate, we knew we could be happy with less. There are some things that are worth having less materials things for. I enjoy living simply because I get to see my kids off to school, work part time teaching adults English, and then back home to welcome my kids from school.

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  9. Well stated, Matt!

    And an inspiring reminder for me at the right time. Thank you!

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  10. Samara says:

    One of the books all the Sisterwives has read (it’s a requirement) is “Carry On Warrior- The Power of Embracing Your Messy Beautiful Life.”

    I love this book so much I’m going to type out a whole paragraph on my shitty phone:

    “Life is brutal, but it’s also beautiful. Life is Brutiful. So I look hard for the beauty. I try to drown out my fear voice, which wants me to run away from the pain, and listen to my love voice, whom I call God, and who is asking me to run towards it. To allow my heart to be broken open, because a broken heart is both a badge of honor and the most powerful tool on earth.
    That love voice- she’ll help you find treasure. But she’ll guide you right into the minefields first.”

    Lizzi got us started on this book. Read it. We’ll have you counting in Kairos time in a week. :)

    Like

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