Roberto and I were having breakfast out the other morning and a friend came up to say hello. He and Roberto are fellow combat veterans, although a generation apart. Roberto was in Vietnam and Daniel was in the first Iraq war. He asked how I was and I said automatically “Doing fine, thanks, and how about you?”
“For me,” he said with a slight pause, “I’m doing great.” He explained that given who he was, given his particular set of challenges, it was actually a great day.
He is a counselor, working with a population that is battling a lot of demons – veterans, addicts and those with mental illness. A client of his once answered the “how’s it going” question with “I’m at one hundred per cent, top of my game!” even though by outward appearances none of us would want to trade places with him. He was tired, hungry, needed shelter and a shower. But for him, given what he was dealing with and how he often felt, this was an excellent day. If he had been using another measure – mine, or yours, probably — it would have been far from a good day.
I am not saying that we should settle for less than we deserve. I hope the 100% man can look forward to, and strive for, a day that is 110%. But only he will know what that looks like. It’s not for the rest of us to set those standards for him.
I like that concept. You use your own metrics to measure the “goodness” of your day. You don’t have to measure yourself up against the metrics of some ideal mainstream American. You should be able to rejoice in a great day that to the outside “normal” world might look pretty bleak. And on the flip side, you don’t have to be having a great day just because people think you should be. What looks like success to the rest of us may not feel like success, and what looks like failure may not feel like failure.
We are having a new roof put on our ancient flat-roofed adobe house. We are into our third week, living with plastic draped over everything, dust and pumice and all kinds of debris sifting down through the boards and beams in the ceiling as the workers pry, smash and scrape the old roofs off. Yes, that’s plural “roofs,” for those that came before us just piled new sections on top of the old, so that in places the workers have identified five different roof jobs as they do their archaeological excavation. It is all much worse than I thought it was going to be.
The first few days I thought I would go mad with the noise and racket that shook the house and made the doors rattle in their frames. It was as if my house was an old tooth and I was inside it as the dentist tried to save it. I was afraid to leave because of the unpredictable rains of debris that were happening. I snapped at Roberto, glared at the cats, and muttered to myself that I could not stand this.
And then, on the fourth morning, with the racket just as bad, I found myself in a good mood – nearing 100% even! I heard the workers chattering happily as they earned a day’s wages, their ranchera music blaring from the radio. The wrenching and pounding and tearing sounds were simply signs of progress toward that beautiful new roof. I decided to climb the ladder and look at the scene.
It was as I imagined but rather than jump off in despair, I smiled, greeted the workers in Spanish and thanked them for their good work. I climbed down, went back inside and went back to work. Yes, I thought, as a piece of plaster landed on my head, this is a very good day!
18 thoughts on “For me, I’m doing great”
I love this concept. Thanks for your voice of optimism in a world that could use more of it!
Thanks, Anne. Yes, tough to find these days. All the more precious when we do.
Once again you leave me with much to think about. Sometimes what appears to be a less than great day eventually becomes one as I look at the lives of others. Linda
I agree. It’s relative for sure. We are complaining about our roof torn apart, and yet we have one! That is a big deal!
Dear Lucy and Roberto, what a tremendous undertaking – roof replacement during the rainy season!! You two have always had that “110%” outlook on life, no matter what, and I admire you for it. This reading was especially needed for me after a bit of scare for me (I will one day tell you personally about it) — all is bright and optimistic again for foraging on with life. Thank you for your blog. We love you, admire you and utterly respect you, our shining ‘Justice of the Peace,’ and hope to see you soon. Love to you and Robeto always. Hozho Nahasklii.
What a dear friend you are, Ella. And how far we go back, through thick and thin, ups and downs. I love you for your spirit and your spunk and your readiness to laugh!
it is a rare day when I don’t answer that question with a heartfelt, “Outrageously well, given the state of the world.”
I’ve heard you say it, Ken, and I always smile. Thanks.
A great message indeed! We all need these kinds of reminders to realize how blessed we are compared to others whose struggles we do not always know. I cannot remember where exactly I heard it, but in answer to someone who asked the question, What is the secret to longevity?, the answer was to never envy anyone. I volunteer at a school where a large number of the students are immigrants from a variety of countries and others are from highly dysfunctional families. When I hear some of the stories they share, I definitely feel 100%>>the more so as I approach my 81st birthday.
Very interesting — the idea that envy reduces longevity. I believe it. I can feel it eat away at me…yes, it happens, every now and then.
As my mother used to say, “try to make the best of it.”
I’m ok, but the world ever weirder.
you have always been wonderful in keeping good humor through difficult times.
Your mom was a wonderful, wise woman and I admired her activism immensely. How many signs do you think she held in her lifetime? And what would be written on hers today????
Excellent point Lucy. Love it. Post a picture of your new roof.
…yes, will post picture…hopefully before year’s end!
Love this. As per yooshze (my daughter gave me that word for ‘usual’). I like your friend Ken’s response and will use-given the utter curious weirdness of our world at this moment. Xo
I often think of Alice in Wonderland — curiouser and curiouser
21 years in my house & the gas range leaked gas, the radiant heat boiler leaked gas and the dishwasher just leaked. and i’ve felt under seige. it’s not easy to buy appliances in the store anymore. home improvement stores have much to improve. the gas range salesperson had a twangy way of talking and tried to sell me attachments for an electric range. the dishwasher installer – upon over hearing something from the NPR news on my radio, gave me an earful from the very far right edges of his ways of thinking. a 45 voter fan in my own kitchen. the first plumber to come look at my boiler issue was held up by his suspenders & brought an assistant & he treated his assistant like an old african colonial would his “boy”. i take poorly to racism in my own house. the next plumbers installed a $2K propane boiler in my natural gas house. and so i started wondering, what was it that Lucy wrote about the roof & all & so i came back to read it, the 100% part. i get that in the morning, from NM skies. i felt a kinship with you Lucy, my vexations ephemeral.
Thanks, Susan, I always appreciate your “riffs.”