The Imperfect Day: Moving Ahead When Life Happens

She woke up late because she stayed up too late.  The kids were already off track with their chores and the dishwasher didn’t get started the night before.  After attending to an unexpected detail on the computer, she barely had time to pull on some clothes before an important hour-long phone call.  The school schedule was blown and there was no bread for lunch.  Time for a meltdown?

You’ve probably already guessed that “she” is Me, and this day happened This Week. It was one of those days that, at one time in my life, would have sent me spiraling downward into discouragement, causing me to give up in despair and throw in the towel on following through.   Instead, we had a cheerful, productive day and got everything important done.

Earlier in my life, waking up late would have been the start of negative thinking about myself and the day to come.  I would have watered and fertilized those thoughts with every glitch that came up from there.

With that habit of runaway thoughts it didn’t take much to lead me into despair about the morning, our homeschool, how much grocery money I had left and the national debt.

Then it was an easy next step to get overwhelmed and discouraged, thereby leading to decisions such as skipping tasks and justifying laziness.  Ouch.

Somewhere along the way to getting overwhelmed, I would make sweeping generalizations.“I ALWAYS get off track.  I NEVER follow through.  These kids NEVER get their stuff done.  I’m so STUPID for not getting bread…”

On and on, down to the pit of despair, much like the one under the tree in the funny old movie, The Princess Bride.  Knock, knock and the door opens.

While this particular day is fresh in my memory, let me walk you through a couple of keys that helped me manage the day quite nicely, thank you.

Purpose I know WHY we have a school schedule, so that purpose keeps me on track even when the schedule gets messed up.  The purpose is more important than the schedule because the schedule is only a tool to help me get what I want.  We just adapt and figure out a way to still get what we want.  In other words, no freaking out, rearrange and adapt.

Awareness  By getting out of the emotion of the moment, I can make calm decisions about what is actually happening right now, including decisions about what to think and do.  Every time I had a fleeting thought of panic or self-reproach, I chose to stop and come back into the moment.  That panic and self-reproach is usually linked to wild, sweeping thoughts about either the past or the future.

These two elements kept me moving through the day calmly.

I gave instructions to the children to move forward with things while I took the phone call.  We worked through school lessons an hour late and got it all done.  I took a shower after lunch and made a quick trip to a nearby store for bread, returning home to have an interesting discussion with the high schoolers about post-Civil War Reconstruction.  Everything got done with time to spare, and we had a pleasant and productive late afternoon.

No drama, no despair.  Ahhh….a much better way of life.

We all have “off” days that start out wrong and go downhill from there.  The next time you wake up to a less-than-perfect day, try these tools to keep moving forward without discouragement.  You can do more than salvage the day—you can actually enjoy it!


  1. Susan Smith says:

    Thanks for the post, Charlotte. For years I used to “water and fertilize” negative thoughts having a difficult childhood hearing the words, “ALWAYS” “NEVER” “STUPID”, and I will add the word LAZY. About 20 years ago when I was seeing a Christian counselor, she pointed out something to me about my negative thoughts. She said that I was “replaying those old tapes” in my head whenever I got to thinking like that, and this was keeping me stuck and not moving forward. Wow! How freeing this concept was to me as a young mother at the time! It isn’t to say that I haven’t ever found myself again “replaying those old tapes”, but I now had a tool to use which could stop those negative thoughts dead in their tracks before they become overwhelming.

  2. Adina Campbell says:

    Thanks Charlotte so much for this. I find myself falling into the pit of despair at times when my days don’t start off right. But I felt encouraged as I read this and will try these steps when in a similar situation again!

  3. Pat Schaeffer says:

    I am so blessed by you & I just saw how you took a day that was like a horse running wild & got it tamed & led it back to its corral! That is how some of my days or nights are when I’m dealing with chronic pain & can’t sleep so I seek the ways God has taught me to rest with my ice packs & curl up in His arms in my recliner. That is only a night. Sometime I’ll share about a day! You are a heart to heart sister in the Lord!

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