I had a crummy day yesterday. Not all of it was crummy, not even most of it was, but by the time I was heading upstairs to get ready for bed, I had convinced myself that it had been entirely crummy and that today would be more of the same. I was convincing myself that crummy, in fact, was going to be my new normal.
As I was brushing my teeth, my memory transported me back to another remarkably crummy day which took place about 8 or 9 years ago when my husband and I still lived in Alaska.
It was a Saturday. I had no plans for the day and I was all by myself because my husband was working a 12-hour shift. By the calendar it was mid-autumn but it already seemed like winter; a light coat of snow blanketed the mountains at the end of our street and our yard was frosted over. The days were getting noticeably shorter—we were losing 4 or 5 minutes of sunlight every day and my good cheer was disappearing with it.
If there was ever a day when I got up on the wrong side of the bed, this was it.
I mumbled my way through the morning and by mid-afternoon I decided I’d better do something to snap myself out of my bad mood. A good brisk walk is my usual prescription for days like this, so I bundled up, put my sneakers on, and off I went. I got as far as the end of the driveway before I realized there were patches of black ice on the street. Falling and getting hurt would have made the day even worse, so I went back inside and put on a pair of boots and ice cleats. I set out again only to find that I was slipping even with the cleats on. So much for taking a walk . . .
I was so frustrated! As I put away my coat and boots I desperately tried to think of something else that might improve my outlook. I suddenly remembered a recipe I’d been planning to try. It was for a flourless chocolate cake that sounded delicious and was complicated to make. This could be just the right project to help me refocus and feel better!
I got out the recipe and began gathering all the ingredients; I didn’t want to get partway through and then find I was missing something. Out onto the counter went eggs (I counted them—yes, I had enough), fancy cocoa (bought just for this recipe), sugar (a friend who was emptying her pantry before moving had given me a half bag—I’d use that), almonds, almond extract, lemon (I’d only need the peel), butter and salt.
Once I knew I had everything I needed, I relaxed and began to enjoy myself. It took well over an hour to get the cake ready to go into the oven. I ground almonds, separated eggs, sifted cocoa, creamed butter, whipped egg whites, grated lemon peel. Halfway through, I realized I was feeling much better. I was even humming as I worked! I blended, beat, folded and finally poured the batter into a buttered springform pan and gently set the whole thing into the oven.
I’d made quite a mess, so while the cake baked, I cleaned. Before long, the kitchen filled with the smell of warm chocolate, which made me feel better still. By the time the cake was finished baking, the kitchen was clean and back to normal. I took my masterpiece out of the oven and grinned in admiration. The recipe recommended letting the cake cool completely before cutting it, which was not easy—but I waited. At last, I cut myself a slice. This was going to be so good! I dipped my fork into the cake and brought the bite up to my lips. As I bit down, the texture felt perfect but as I began to chew I realized something was very wrong.
Instead of being sweet, my beautiful cake was salty!! Really salty!!)
I sat and thought for a minute, then went to the pantry and retrieved the half bag of sugar my friend had given me. I licked my finger, stuck it into the sugar, and licked it again. Good grief! I suddenly knew what had happened: my friend, in her hurry to get ready to move, must have mistakenly emptied a container of salt into the sugar bag. I couldn’t be mad at her—it could have happened to anyone. And I certainly couldn’t tell her, she’d have felt awful.
(Trust me, at that moment I knew a thing or two about feeling awful!)
I threw the bag of salty sugar into the trash then slowly and sadly spooned the cake into the garbage disposal. With all the evidence of my dismal day gone from sight, I trudged downstairs, put myself to bed and pulled the covers over my head.
Something I love about sleep is the way it separates one day from the next. No matter how disappointing or sad or scary or embarrassing a day has been, a night of sleep closes the door on that day. There’s no going back to it. We get to start fresh the next day.
And I did start fresh the next day.
After a good night’s rest I was able to get perspective on my miserable day. I saw that it was self-contained—not part of a pattern. It was just “one of those days.” I was able to see the humor in it, too—especially the salty cake baking fiasco!
And so, as I finished brushing my teeth last night, I bundled the memories of my crummy yesterday with the memories of that other crummy day years ago.
I placed them in the mental file I’ve labeled, “Days to Never be Repeated!”
I got into bed and turned out the light.
Photo by Kathryn Lerro