alexander-childrens-book-disneyI struggle with a destructive habit of constantly tabulating the mistakes I’ve made and the things that have gone wrong when I’m having a bad day. I know about counting your blessings. I know the things for which I am thankful are abundant. But some days are just not good and I tend to make them worse.

My past two days were Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days. Actually they were mine. And I cannot seem to stop perseverating about my failures, large or small. I learned that word from a therapist who said I did it and I was embarrassed to not know what she was talking about. A failure in and of itself. My birthday is next week and somehow all these little injuries feel like bad omens. Shouldn’t I have my life more under control when I’m about to be 42?

Today I had part one of my first root canal. Tomorrow is part two. I have been a diligent tooth brusher my entire life, and only had one cavity ever until now, when I have several, including one so deep that it required a root canal. I felt convinced my tooth decay represented moral depravity on my part. I have an extraordinarily strong gag reflex. So I spent the time today in the dentist’s chair alternating between silently weeping and loudly gagging. Sometimes I did both simultaneously. The dentist was patient and nice about it. I was embarrassed. I felt sure that she and her entire staff sighed with relief when I left, although not that much relief since I have to come back tomorrow morning. She handed me prescriptions for antibiotics, ibuprofen, and valium in the hope that I could tolerate the rest of the procedure with less drama.

I won’t actually share my litany of troubles, because no one likes a complainer. Although many people like to complain. And I don’t like to complain. Just remind myself internally of all of my shortcomings and the world’s brokenness.

For several weeks now I’ve been listening to audio books in the car when I’m driving alone. I love music and I love NPR, but there came a point where every time I turned the car on I would hear, “And the death toll in [name any place] continues to rise.” Or “Today Donald Trump said [any revolting thing].” And I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I listened to The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy, as a tribute to one of my favorite authors, who recently died from pancreatic cancer. Although I knew something about Conroy’s family from his autobiographical novels, this memoir laid bare the lifetimes of abuse, drama, and emotional disfigurement that Conroy and his family experienced and foisted upon each other. Plus Conroy’s writing is inventive and lush. He describes so much pain with so much beauty. Part of what struck me about The Death of Santini is how, despite suffering cruel and bizarre treatment from each other time and again, most of the family never gave up on each other. I felt thankful that, however eccentric or idiosyncratic my family is, we are fundamentally kind. That counts for a lot.

I am thankful for my family, and for modern oral health care, even if it is unpleasant and uncomfortable. I am thankful that I could come home today from the dentist and take a long nap. I am thankful that I was able to help Zoe with her math homework, and that Zeke asked me to read Where the Wild Things Are, and The Mommy Book, and Maisy’s Book of Seasons to him at bedtime and that he snuggled in deep on my lap under his favorite crocheted blanket. I am thankful that my family liked the dinner I cooked for them, courtesy of my friend Trader Joe, even though I couldn’t eat any of it. I am thankful that people were cleaning our house today while I was at the dentist. I am thankful for the music I listened to at the dentist, and all music that brings me joy.

Yesterday Zoe and I listened to this song about 25 times. The fabulous youth choir at our church sang it and we found this recording on YouTube that the song’s composer created with a choir at Texas State University. I think I need to listen about 25 more times.