One of my all-time favorite stories to read to my children when they were little was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz. In this book, Alexander has a horrible day with absolutely everything going wrong. All through the day, as things continue to happen Alexander repeatedly threatens to move to Australia to escape the calamity that his life has become. At the end of the story his mother assures him that everyone has days like that.
I offered to read this story so often that my daughters would eventually beg for me to read them, something, anything, different. I loved the rhythm of the story and how it lets children know that they’re not alone when they have a bad day. The story also illustrates that the problems of childhood are just as serious to children as adult problems are to adults.
I still love this book, but since my children were little, I have grown as a person. I have learned that some days do seem like everything is going wrong, but how you react to these bad things is totally up to you. You can choose to wallow in the bad things, or you can accept what’s happened, figure out how to work around them, and move forward.
Last week there were many occurrences when I could have decided that everything was going wrong and sat in my frustration, letting the negativity multiply. There have been many times in my past when I would’ve done exactly that. Now, I try to react differently.
I closed on my new (to me) house on Tuesday, which was very exciting. However, less than an hour before my appointment, which was a good 30-minute drive from my home, I found out that I had to have a cashier’s check to close on the house. Never mind that no one had told me the exact amount I needed to put down, much less that they would not take a personal check. I took a deep breath, verified what the amount of the check, threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth, and ran to the bank. The teller at the bank was exceptionally helpful and I made it to my appointment with time to spare.
After the closing, I proudly drove to my new home. As I walked to the door to walk in for the first time as the owner, I found a tag on my door from the gas company. The seller of the house had turned off the gas the day before, leaving me with a cold house to walk into. Because I have had closings go wrong before, I hadn’t proactively moved all of the utility accounts to my name in advance. After a few choice words, I took a deep breath and started calling utility companies. Everyone was very understanding, but they could not get the services turned back on until the next day. The good news was that the roller coaster weather in Kansas City had brought warmer weather and I didn’t have to worry about my pipes freezing overnight.
The utility companies, functioning as they always do, gave me a window of time between 8 a.m. and noon when they could arrive. I calmly explained to them that I needed a shorter window due to work obligations and they told me they would do their best. Arriving at the new house bright and early on Wednesday, I met with a contractor who is going to do some minor renovations to the house. The temperature was uncomfortable, but above freezing, so he was able to get the measurements he needed for my quote.
By mid-morning I began receiving calls from the technician from the gas company. He was polite and kept me abreast of his schedule. I kept assuring him that I would make him my best friend if he would get over there was quickly as possible because it was cold and people were in the house trying to work. When he was called away from my house to respond to an emergency, he and the dispatcher both kept me advised. I reminded them I had to leave by 11:00 and that even though I knew the situation wasn’t of their making, I would really appreciate them doing everything they could to get my heat on. Those kind people called a tech from another city to come to my house. By that time, I was ready to give the new tech a hug, even if it was just for the warmth. He had everything up and the heat back on within about 10 minutes.
In the course of the week there were other minor aggravations. I kept taking deep breaths and I kept moving forward. I could have been Alexander and bemoaned how terrible things were. Instead, I accepted them, readjusted and moved on. By the end of the week, I began getting good news every direction I turned.
Are there going to be more aggravations as I make this journey of moving into my new home? Absolutely. But I will do my best to see each of them as setbacks to be overcome and I will not let anything that happens make it a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Because things just happen. Even in Australia.