How many ordinary, boring days do you have? How many days so unremarkable that you can barely remember anything about them? When I ask my confused patients if they know the date, I’m looking down at my watch. I forget too.
Life slips by like that and we find ourselves at successive days, not marked by outstanding or memorable moments. Some researchers posit that we really don’t remember our lives like a movie with a running strip of film, but as a series of moments that stand out. The rest, it seems, is rather a blur.
The blurry days aren’t necessarily bad; just unremarkable. They may include waking the children, making breakfast, feeding the dogs and cats, kissing everyone goodbye for the day, going to work, cooking again, helping with homework and getting everyone off to bed.
The blurry days are days of office work or study, days when we wish for vacations, or outstanding breaks from monotony. They are the days described by Dr. Seuss in the book, ‘My Many Colored Days,’ where he says ‘Gray day, everything is gray. I watch but nothing moves today.’
They are days when we are sometimes beset by ‘first world problems.’ I learned this phrase from my kids, who make it their mission to ensure that I know the latest funny concepts to emerge in culture. A ‘first world problem,’ for instance, is this: ‘my nice car isn’t as nice as my friends’. Or ‘when I go to work, I only have an hour long lunch.’ Or as one child suggested, ‘the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach my favorite bathroom.’
I imagine that on our ‘blurry days,’ when life just is, we may anchor on those first world problems for a little something to mark the time. A little stimulus, if only in frustration. A shot of adrenaline to feel alive. But it’s deceiving; our little complaints, even our numbness, blind us to an important perspective, especially at Thanksgiving.
The hard truth is that many people in the world would dearly love one of our blurry days, our gray days, our first world problems. Everywhere in the world, men and women would weep with joy for the safe boredom, the predictable monotony of our wonderful lives in our wonderful land. They would gladly surrender religious oppression or violent conflict, untreated disease or slavery for a dull day in the office, a magnificent day of messy children and cooking over a warm stove, a delightful afternoon of study in a place with clean water and good medicine and just laws. Their days are marked alright; marked by loss and by tragedy and with memories of things that this life will not likely be able to purge from their minds’ eyes. They dream of our boredom.
But it can get even more personal than that. How many times in each of our lives have we hoped and cried and prayed for the day we were currently experiencing to be different? To be average and forgettable – even uninspiring? Or to be thrilling or wonderful, or anything other than what it was; painful and miserable.
Many years ago, my son Seth, then five, was diagnosed with diabetes. I worried about his future. I wondered if he would escape complications and reach his manhood. I hoped for a regular day. And now, embarking on his own journey of adulthood, he is the very vision of a powerful young man. I’ll take any regular day with him.
Twelve years ago my wife was diagnosed with a stage four malignancy. At every point in her diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I longed for her to have normal days, days free of drugs and radiation, pain and fear. I ached for average, common, mundane days of work and joy and meals and health. I see every day differently now with her by my side. We arrived at normality, at days of blessed, glorious simplicity.
This Thanksgiving, consider for a moment a time when you wished you could hurl yourself away from trouble and forward to the future. And give thanks for where you are right now, a place and time you probably once wished for with all your might.
For those of you still hoping and still hurting, may your gray, boring day of thanks come swiftly. It may seem far away, but it will arrive at just the right time and leave you forever grateful for common things.