On the last day of our kitchen renovation, the day when the sink finally got plumbed in, I was late for my daughter’s dentist appointment. I had written down the time wrong and thought we had arrived early, but the receptionist greeted me by letting me know we were late. We’d have to reschedule and she had just drafted a letter to me. This may sound like no big deal, but it became one because I had completely missed the last appointment; I was on my second strike (in 15 years). The receptionist wasn’t happy. My daughter wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. I held back the tears. I don’t like to make mistakes and two in a row felt unacceptable.

The first strike was understandable — during school vacation when we were refinishing our floors. Our land line stopped working and I didn’t even know I’d missed the appointment until I retrieved the message days later when we were driving to get polyurethane. I let that mistake go more easily than usual because I was so distracted by all the labor we were pouring into our floors.

The second mistake, the one with the wrong time, I couldn’t forgive that. I was mad at myself. Of all days, I thought to myself, Why did I have to screw up on a day that was supposed to be so happy?

Surely you’ve had days that you anticipated great happiness, but circumstances changed your day. Expected celebratory days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, vacation and holidays. Events that you prep for and get excited for and an unanticipated poor performance sours your day. It’s disheartening. The undesirable circumstance gets all of your attention.

An undesirable circumstance could be a lot worse than a missed dentist appointment and a celebration could be grander than a fixed-up kitchen, but it is all relative. What do you want to focus on?

It took me two hours to really release the guilt in my chest after leaving the dentist office. I had to keep making a conscious effort to think good thoughts instead of bad ones.

That early evening a thunderstorm came in. The skies got dark. The wind whipped. The rain poured. All in about 15 minutes, then the sun came out. I washed a few dishes while looking out at my green backyard, instead of at a laminate white wall, and I let myself live my kitchen dream.

I focused on celebration and gratitude when I could have easily reverted to guilt mode.

When something goes wrong on your anticipated good day, what do you focus on?

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Originally published at medium.com