It was a day like all others and a day like no other. As was the day before, and the day after. As are all days. Just days. But often so much more.
A friend mentioned it was her wedding anniversary. She was in a celebratory mood, and rightly so. I asked her the date, because I wasn’t sure, and when she told me I realized it was an anniversary for me as well. Except mine was a sorrowful milestone.
I felt a cloud descend and a pit grow in my stomach. I’d forgotten, or at the least failed to remember. Guilt crept in like a spider, weaving its web in an ever-tightening snare. I should have remembered. I should have felt bad because the day – for me – had been marked forevermore as marred and damaged.
Dates take on personal meaning for us. But they can be widespread as well. On the day in question, thousands — millions even — experienced shock and sadness at the unexpected death of a pop icon. A cloud fell over the already descending sadness of my day as the country mourned together.
At the same instant, babies were born, creating joy in one hospital room, while just down the hall a family said its goodbyes to a sick father or mother or spouse.
I mulled over the dichotomy. What do we make of each day? How does our approach affect the type of day we have? Why does the date on the calendar make any day good or bad?
It doesn’t. Or at least it doesn’t have to.
We can be dictated by our circumstance — and often are — but I believe we can break free and see and experience the world through a lens of our own choosing.
Just because I had an extremely sorrowful, terribly awful thing happen to me on a certain date doesn’t banish that date to the regions of horribleness forever. If that were the case, and I was able to remember every distressing thing that has ever happened to me, every day would probably be a bad, sad, mad, I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed kind of day.
That wouldn’t be any fun.
Initially, I felt guilty about not remembering I was “supposed” to be having a bad day because somehow that made my loss less significant. Then I realized that line of thinking was pretty dumb. Feeling bad because I thought I was supposed to feel bad was akin to needlessly throwing the day away. It was giving power to the negativity and guilt and spiders.
Nothing I can do now can have any impact on the loss I experienced seven years ago. It is real every day. And I still feel sorrow sometimes — like now, writing about it. But I don’t have to mark a date on the calendar and set it aside for mourning. The day doesn’t have to be labeled as a loss for the rest of my eternity.
Life is hard enough as it is without us putting up our own roadblocks. Which we all do — all too often.
On the day in question, I forgot my grief, but I didn’t forget my loss. I think that means I am moving on. In slow steps the joy and happiness return. And they can be just as real as grief. More real, even — when you’ve earned them.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.