Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Oh, Shit!" Antidote

I loathe self-help aphorisms. The distraught impulse to dote on that sort of thing reveals a need for stronger measures than the gathering of nuggets of smiley sunshine. But this one's a good one. Really!

I come from an "oh, shit!" family. I was taught from a young age that even the most petty of life's travails warrants an eruption of embittered pique. The world compels us to freely voice our displeasure at the ongoing pattern of cosmic persecution of which these misplaced car keys or that stubbed toe was the latest in a long series of examples. Given that few turns in life fulfill our expectations, the "oh, shit!" reflex can grow to eventually poison one's entire existence.

Here's the antidote. In place of the exclamation, swap in this question: "If this is the worst thing that happens today, would that mean it's been a good day?"

In several years, I have yet to answer "no", though a few legitimately bad things have occurred. That's because while human beings irritate easily at minutiae, we are remarkably resilient in the larger picture. And the act of stepping back to a wider view forces us to react to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from our oceans of resilience rather than our thin puddles of irritability.

Eventually, the question morphs into an exclamatory, triumphant statement: "If that's the worst thing that happens today, this will have been a really good day!" A parking ticket or a lost wallet can feel like a relief - a small sacrifice to the Gods of entropy. It works for cracked cell phone screens and red lights, but even for blown job interviews and romantic breakups. In fact, it works for everything.

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