My life is good; so why am I feeling bad?

Have you ever had one of those days? Maybe not a day worthy of posting to the FML website, but one that reminds you of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Monday was like that for me. By the time the day ended, I couldn’t isolate anything that I’d call “terrible” about my life — I just was feeling bad.

Alexander No Good Very Bad

Feeling bad after the older kids leave

It started Sunday, when my college kids returned to school after being home for a week on spring break. I liked having our whole family together again, enjoyed seeing the older two tease their younger brother. It was just like old times. Then they went back to their “real” homes at college, to their friends and their lives there. While it’s nice to stop sharing my car and go back to my routine in our household of three, I know that next year we’ll be a household of two  — and I’m worried that’s not going to feel so great, at least not initially.

Knowing I wasn’t feeling particularly good, I thought I’d ease into Monday, use the morning to catch up on paperwork, do laundry, change sheets and clean up my older kids’ bedrooms. They left their rooms as if they’d been leaving a hotel — beds unmade, shopping bags on the floor, papers and receipts on the night tables. Straightening up in the quiet, I felt like a housekeeper — not the mother of three well-adjusted children.

Feeling bad about a lost ring

Then I realized one of my rings was missing. Not my wedding ring, but the one my husband gave me for our twenty-fifth anniversary. A little worried, I checked the bathroom, the kitchen counter, my jewelry box. Not there. So I looked harder: I put my hand down the kitchen sink to check the disposal, looked all around the house. Cleaned out my purse, checked the pockets of my clothes.

I called the restaurant where we had dinner last night. No, they hadn’t seen my ring.

 Life Good Feeling Bad_compost


Feeling bad and sorting through refuse

So I went through the last three days’ worth of garbage, then turned over the recycling bin and emptied it out to make sure the ring hadn’t slipped off my finger when I tossed out old magazines. Still nothing. I went outside and dug through the compost, running my hands through banana peels, coffee grounds, chicken bones, Saturday’s Indian takeout, and more slime I won’t discuss. But still no ring.

So at least we weren’t about to send it off with the garbage truck. But if the ring wasn’t in the trash, I’d have to look more aggressively inside the house. I cleaned out two bathroom drawers, then dismantled the sink drain. No luck.

Finally, something possessed me to check a closet I had looked in two hours earlier. This time I saw it.

But you know what? I thought I’d feel happy to find the ring, especially after looking all that time. Instead I just felt relieved. And emotionally worn out.

Feeling bad at tennis

I left to play a tennis match I had scheduled for the afternoon. It lasted only an hour. I lost 6-0, 6-0.

I wasn’t sure what was going on with me, but the day wasn’t getting better. I remembered my dad’s response whenever things got tough. He would say, “Want a cup of coffee, honey?”

So I went for a cappuccino and one of those delicious seven-layer cookie bars. I sat and stared out the coffeeshop window while I gathered my strength to go grocery shopping. I wondered whether I should quit playing tennis, spend my time on something I could do well. But wasn’t it okay to like a sport and want to play it, even if I played poorly?

On the other hand, if I couldn’t win, could I honestly say I liked tennis? I realized I was immersed in a conversation with myself, with my own Voice of Judgment. I had made this whole day about me, and I was over-reacting to a poor outcome in a match I supposedly had played “for fun.”

Life Good Feeling Bad_Vortex


The feeling-bad vortex

How did I get here, to this place of feeling bad? I have a great life: faith, family, friends, health, financial stability, and more. So why, all too often, do I spin down the woe-is-me vortex?

Sure, I know there are real people with real problems in this world. And I’m not one of them. It’s just a lot easier to stay in my personal vortex, than to get out of it and experience someone else’s.

I bought my groceries, went home and cooked a good dinner. At least that much of my day went okay. Actually, the whole day was fine, if you consider it in relation to the day of someone with real problems.

What drags you down, and how do you pull out of your vortex? Let me know in the comments!


Image credits: Amazon, Portland Observer, photoholic1 via flickr


  1. I can so see myself having a bad day like this for no good reason. Although any time I lose badly I find it hard to recover. I hope you have a good day for no good reason really soon!

  2. VictoriaWilson says

    I like your blog and identify with your use of tennis as a life metaphor. Tennis helped me rebuild my life after a disastrous and painful divorce. It gave me a social outlet with safe male friends, allowed me to rebuild my confidence, develop my defunct tennis skills and get exercise. I love watching the new great television coverage, find it very relaxing, it seems to reset me mentally when I spiral down, using your vortex image, into anxiety and depression. I understand the sport, study it, am interested in its history, and its potential for encouraging social change.

    An area I think tennis and our country’s leadership could develop is to expand on the international character all sports, but esp. Tennis. Sports analysis should add academically trained cultural geographers and historians to enhance a better understanding of the areas many of these players represent. I am thinking just today about Russia and Ukraine! Both areas are distinguished in the present day by sports figures and teams but uniquely in tennis, e.g. Ukrainian tennis include Dolgopolov, Medvedev, and Stakhovsky who knocked Federer out at Wimbledon last year. Of course, we know all the Russian players, but Maria Sharapova was recruited to do an excellent piece on Sochi, during the Winter Olympics, which is located on the Ukrainian-Russian border and to which her family fled after Chernobl. That is both interesting and instructive! The only one who tries to give some depth of commentary in this area is Cliff Drysdale and the other tennis experts/commentators, former players, seem to patronize him. The problem is that many of them are really undereducated, some barely finished high school, so don’t really come close to having a basis to comprehend. Sorry for such a long comment, been thinking about this for a long time. I thirst for that type of “color” when I watch any sport.

    • Thanks so much for these thoughtful observations! I completely agree that tennis can go so much deeper than it appears, and the commentary on professional tennis generally seems to shy away from anything outside of the sport itself. Keep on watching and thinking about it!

  3. Valerie O'Donnell says

    I think your pieces are very well written Anne and very honest. I really feel the emotional struggle that you are going through. Keep up the great writing.

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