Have a Very Human Day

I left a phone message today for a truly lovely person who closed out their voicemail greeting with the popular saying, “Make it a great day.” Am I the only one who cringes when I hear that directive?

Or maybe you’ve read it on a bumper sticker or seen it on a sign? Sometimes it’s rephrased as, “Have a great day, or don’t. The choice is up to you.” That irritates me even more.

Because, frankly, some days are not going to be great no matter what, and they don’t need to be. That’s simply the human experience. If your grandmother just died, you have permission to be sad about that all day. If you were unjustly fired from your job, you have permission to be angry. If you didn’t sleep last night because you’re waiting for your medical test results, you have permission to be exhausted and worried. And if you are experiencing depression or serious heartache, you might not have a great day for quite a while. In those cases, we know you can’t simply will yourself out of it, much as you may like to.

I think it especially bothers me to see those “great day” directives on posters hanging in school hallways or the children’s section of a library. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid who is still learning how to distinguish, process, and experience their emotions, to say nothing of trying to control them. I’d far rather we hang a sign that says, “Whether You’re Having a Great Day or Not, We Love You” or “Laugh if You Can, Cry If You Need To.”

I truly don’t mean to offend anyone who sees those “great day” expressions as invitations for us all to maintain a positive attitude. You’re 100% correct that looking on the bright side is helpful much of the time. Taking a moment to put things into perspective can help re-establish equilibrium. Focusing on the things you’re grateful for can lift the spirits. Finding humor in the toughest situations can be lifesaving. The trouble with urging people to, “smile,” is you don’t know if smiling is what they really need right now.

As I’m writing this, I’m having a good day. I sincerely hope you are, too. If not, that’s okay. One thing’s for certain, regardless of how it turns out, each and every one of us are going to have a very human day. And, thankfully, that’s all we must truly make of it.

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