Once upon a time, I had a bad day. Nothing was going right. The entire day had gotten the best of me and I was beaten to a moody and tired pulp. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but my then-boyfriend called and proposed making a pasta dinner for me.
"Noooo," I whined. "I just got in the door. I don't feel like going out again."
"Please?" he insisted, "It'll cheer you up, I promise."
"No, it won't," I replied, "I'll just be cranky and unpleasant. Trust me."
"C'mon," he said, "Just start walking over. I've already started cooking."
"Fine," I said, begrudgingly.
But instead of leaving, I dilly-dallied in my apartment, being completely inconsiderate of the time. I contemplated calling back to cancel, but decided to go, just so that I could tell him how terrible my day was, in person.
I grumbled as I walked through Washington Square Park. This better be good. He'll probably overcook the pasta and I'll probably have to correct the sauce. Ugh! I told him I was tired! I should've just gone to bed. My mind kept generating negative thoughts. By the time I got there, I was ready to unleash Hell. So what if I was half an hour late.
As I knocked on his door, I was jolted by the sound of a loud crash, which was immediately followed with him howling "Fuuuuuuuck!!!"
"Oh my God, are you OK???" I shouted, knocking harder.
He opened the door with his hand on his head, wincing with pain.
"The olive oil fell on top of my head. Argh!!! I hate this stupid kitchen! There's no storage space!"
Apparently, the only place this bottle of olive oil could fit was in the cabinet above the stovetop and, when he reached for it, it tumbled out. Glass and oil had splattered everywhere, including the salad bowl and the large pot of pasta that he had made.
I looked around. He had set out candles and put on nice music. Wow, I guess he really did want to cheer me up. I was touched. Here I was, complaining about a shitty day at work, and, here he was, with olive oil all over his hair and, most likely, a bump on the head. Now that's shitty. There was something poignantly comical in that moment. It was the Universe's way of telling me that I had been acting like a complete ding-dong.
It could have been the perfect opportunity for me to be an asshole. "Thanks for making my day even worse! Now I've walked all the way over here to help you clean up this mess!" But I couldn't. He was genuinely distressed that dinner was ruined.
"Argh!!! This is not what I planned!" he wailed, falling backwards onto his bed with a sigh, "Do you think it's salvageable?"
"I don't think we should risk swallowing shards of glass," I rationalized, "How about you go shower, I'll start cleaning up, and let's go have dinner at the bar at Otto."
I couldn't believe it. Instead of being a grump, I stepped up to the role of cheering him up. The second that I made the choice to put my attention on something other than my bad mood, it dissipated on its own.
We ended up having a great time at dinner and laughed about it all. I only recently looked back on that night as a point of reference for a valuable lesson. That night taught me that, at any point in time, you always have the opportunity to create a happy moment.