A few weeks ago, a friend came over to my place to talk. He was really going through it, so I fed him some homemade chicken soup and made sure that the lighting was appropriately soft, warm, and cozy. As our conversation transpired and enough time passed to warrant my making of a second course – stovetop popcorn and fresh mango slices – he finally asked me, “Don’t you ever wonder, ‘What’s the point?’ You know, to life. Like, what’s the long-term goal here?”
I swiftly replied, “I think the long-term goal is to just have a really good day.”
My response wasn’t a pat answer that I already had tucked away somewhere in my mind. It just struck me and I said it. After I said it, I decided I liked it.
And thus began my latest personal project for living, complete with the adoption of a new hashtag: #HaveAReallyGoodDay. Sure, you can use it if you’d like. Let’s start a movement…
Here’s the deal with this whole “really good day” thing – it’s not about shallowly living as if our Facebook pictures actually depict the robustness of our real experiences. Nor is it about pretending that EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Because, in life, not everything is awesome. Sometimes shit gets real, things are tough, and we have to go over to our friend’s place to talk it out over chicken soup and popcorn. And sometimes we feel compelled to raise big questions about why we would even want to go on existing. (To be totally fair, I’ve approached this friend many a time when things have been hard in my own life, so we’re cool like that). I’m not one for avoiding hardship, denying struggle, or appreciating pain and strife through delusional, rose-tinted glasses that distort them into “blessings” or “lessons.” Fuck that, because sometimes things in life just blow. Hard. And sometimes it seems more unhelpful to turn an experience into something that it’s not. Heartbreak hurts. Struggling to pay the bills and afford housing and food is really awful. And cancer is the worst. Pain and strife are just that – pain and strife.
But what I like about the idea of striving to have a really good day is that it’s totally doable, even as everything that happens in life continues to happen. Like today. I had a very “adult” day that consisted mostly in doing chores, running errands, making phone calls to customer service representatives, and paying medical bills. But after scrubbing the toilet and begrudgingly depleting my levels of available credit, I went out for a walk in the bright Colorado sun, chatted with new people at my favorite coffee shop about my poor taste in music and their anxieties in grocery stores as I ate a piece of my favorite blueberry pie.
Earlier this week, my days were made really good by catching up with a friend over our lunch break, going for a walk in the warm rain with tea in hand, laughing so hard at inappropriate jokes with friends and wine on a weeknight, making a special card for someone in another state, visiting my grandparents and being sent home with my grandpa’s shrimp dumplings, and eating those dumplings for dinner a couple of days later. As far as I’m concerned, those are the sort of things that make for a really good day.
Clearly, the whole day doesn’t have to be amazing from sun up to sun down in order to qualify as a really good day. A good day just needs to contain one or a few things that are really good. And sometimes, even more than a special event, an unusual circumstance, or a stroke of good luck, what that requires is just a little more intention behind our casual choices and a little more presence of mind when it comes to the everyday things that typically fill our days.
In addition to hashtagging my Instagram pictures and writing this blog post, I’m putting the intention to have a really good day into practice by recording my really good days and briefly noting the things they contained that made them good. It’s not a diary of my personal thoughts and feelings. It’s not a gratitude log of three things each day for which I am grateful. (In fact, to be honest, there have been a couple of days so far that were fine enough but not exactly really good, so I didn’t write anything). I don’t really know what it is – but I’m curious to see what a handwritten book of noted good days looks like a year or so later. Right now, it looks like this: an unassuming notebook on a quiet evening in my apartment with tea and the first season of Bill Nye the Science Guy playing in the background.
Enjoy Every Day And Live a Good Life
I remember being quite reflective about death while growing up, but it was in college when I started to think about death in the way that changes how you live your life. I got a tattoo of a little bird on my shoulder, the intention behind which was to encourage me to wake up each morning and ask, “Is it today, little bird? Is it the day that I’m going to die?”
In my most exuberant and hyper-aware moments I also got into the habit of rattling off some version of a ridiculously choppy mantra-of-sorts that goes a little something like: “I’m alive right now. This is my life. When I look back on my life and what I did, this is it. Right now. This is what I am doing with my life.” Like right now. What I’m doing with my life right now is writing this sentence. And you’re reading it. That’s what you’re doing with your life. That’s it.
In November of 2009, my 28-year-old relatively-distant-step-cousin died from stage IV lung cancer, a week or so before I was able to fly home for a surprise visit that I had booked so she and I could have our first conversation since the weekend when I was thirteen and she “babysat” me. I was devastated that we didn’t ever get to have the conversation I wanted to have. But I was really, really grateful for the few messages we had exchanged over those long months, which included one very special text message she sent me in the spring of 2009: “You look beautiful and happy. Enjoy every day.”
The question for my little bird, that weirdly disjointed mantra, and my cousin’s note are all quite unremarkable, just as unremarkable as they are meaningful. I think they’re also the seeds of my current effort to have a really good day. Perhaps there’s something slightly reminiscent here to Mr. Keating’s lesson on Carpe Diem and James Dean’s sentiment to live each day as if it’s your last. But my sense of having a really good day and making this the goal of life is not the sort of mindset that manifests as a “YOLO” rationale for doing foolhardy, ridiculous things or even as checking off bucket lists to bungee jump and walk the Great Wall of China.
It’s so much more mundane than that.
There isn’t anything extraordinary about having a good day, which I think is why I like it so much – it’s just nice, relatively easy, and, actually, quite fulfilling.