“So, how was your day?”
It’s a question my husband James and I have asked of one another every evening for seventeen years. I am sure it is a question that’s asked millions of times every day. Spouses and partners ask one another as they cook their evening meals. Friends check in with each other. Parents ask their kids when they are grabbing a snack at the end of the school day.
And here’s what I am guessing. 90% of the time, the answer to that question is what went wrong that day. Things like: “Traffic was horrible.” “My client wouldn’t return my emails.” “You wouldn’t believe the line in the grocery store.” “The check didn’t arrive in the mail like they promised.”
But why? Of the thousands of things that happen in a day, why do we always let these small irritations become the events that define how our day went?
I really think it’s because when things are going well – when the traffic is moving, the client is returning emails, we move right to the front of the line at the grocery store, the copy machine is cranking out copies, and the check arrives at the appointed time – when life is flowing just as it should we tend not to notice. We are in a state of flow and nothing in our body alerts us to flow. But as soon as something goes wrong, we feel the jolt of the machinery grinding to a halt. And it really does have that sense of physical sensation. When things go wrong, from the trivial to the traumatic, we can feel it in our bodies. The tension, the tightness in the chest, the vague feelings of nausea – these all set up a mind body connection that make these moments memorable. So when our friends, our spouses, or our family members ask us how the day went, the first think that occurs to us is what went wrong. It’s not that these events were the most important moments in our day, it’s just that they the things our bodies have told us to remember.
And the cure? Take note of what’s flowing. Make a conscious practice of when things go right and tune into the much more subtle sensations of flow. I’m not talking about feelings of deep pleasure (which have a similar way of establishing a mind-body connection), I am talking about feelings of just-fine-as-they-are. Take mental note of when things go right by literally saying to yourself, “That went right.” When you uncap a pen and the ink flows: That went right. When you turn the key in the ignition in the car and it starts: That went right. When you wake up without a fever: That went right. When you turn on the tap and water flows out: That went right. Tune in to the sensations of ease that accompany “That went right.” They are much more subtle that chest pain and nausea, but they are there (in fact one of the reasons meditation is such a wonderful tool is that we learn to identify feelings of ease and flow while we are in repose so that we can identify them during the day while we are active!)
For every one thing that goes wrong, there are hundreds that go right. When we don’t take note of them, we are missing out on the greater portion of our lives.
Now, granted, if someone asks you how your day went and you report, “My pen worked and my car started and water came out of the tap and I didn’t have the slightest fever,” they may look at you like you are a bit crazy.
So you might try saying, “My day went very well.”
And you’ll mean it.