published Friday, October 21st, 2011

Leber: Even Hayley Mills has bad days, right?

I'm no Pollyanna.

I'll give you a moment to recover from your shock.

OK, now? Good.

It's true though. Sometimes, despite my best effort, or no effort at all, I have really terrible days. Simply put, I misplace my sense of perspective.

I can be cynical, bitter, ungrateful and downright mean.

Or more specifically, I want to be mean. Really mean. There are days when I really just want to crush people's dreams and make someone cry like a little girl with a skinned knee. I don't, but I want to.

I call those my "cat in a burlap sack days."

Other days, sometimes the same days, I have a very difficult time being happy for other people.

Joe, my beloved and sometimes beleaguered significant other, tried to gently confront me on this matter recently.

"You need to..." he trailed off, searching for the right words.

"Be less of a witch?" I filled in, only I didn't say "witch."

"Yes," he replied.

I wasn't insulted. Sometimes I can be a ... witch. I know it. And I think the reason I can accept this about myself is that I know I'm not alone in the matter. I don't know a single person who doesn't have such moments.

But so long as I'm not the target, I'd much rather deal with someone else's bad day than with my own. I have a much clearer vantage point.

"Go out for a long walk," I've told particularly moody, cranky friends. "Do some yoga breathing. Take five minutes and write down a list of things you have to be grateful for. Tell me three things you like about yourself."

I have other, longer-term insights as well. Get more sleep. Eat better. Exercise regularly. Learn something new. Do community service. For some people, a more spiritual approach to life might be helpful, but I consider that topic to be an extremely private one, so I won't go there.

The point is, so long as I'm not having a cat or witch day (I swear, this is not a Halloween-themed column), I'm great at taking care of others. And even on those days, I can usually put my own issues aside to help a friend. I can talk people off any number of ledges. It's taking care of myself where I need to actually do some more work.

Strange, isn't it? Perhaps not. But all those ideas I've told my friends or my partner, the sleeping, eating, breathing, gratitude ideas, sometimes elude me in practice. I don't have a shot at remembering to do them until someone else brings it up.

Which is why, if I can't remember to keep a sense of perspective about anything else, I try to remember that there are people I'm lucky to have in my life. I've said before, life hasn't exactly turned out the way I'd planned. Certain things have had the absolute gall to not happen on my timetable. I've made some choices that could be seen as less than entirely productive.

And on the bad days, I have regrets.

On the better days, however, those regrets are tempered by the people I've met along the way. Was it William James who said "wherever you are, it's your friends who make your world?" I think it was. It was The Beach Boys who said, "God only knows what I'd be without you." I maintain, best love song ever. The people in my life can't prevent me from having bitter days, but they keep me from being a bitter woman. Even if I am still a witch sometimes.

And on the good days, I'm really happy.

But I still don't play the Glad Game.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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