Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cheer Up, It Could Be Worse! (and other meaningless sayings that make you want to punch someone in the nose)

People mean well. They really do. Think about it: When you encounter a friend who is facing a crisis, there is an almost primal instinct to try to take away the pain and make it all better. No one wants to see a loved one suffering, and more importantly, no one wants to listen to said loved one whine and complain.

Unfortunately that primal instinct to make things better usually leads to panic and desperation. (Oh no - she's sad. What do I do? Think think think. Uh oh... I'm pausing too long... I better say something... Are those tears in her eyes? I better say something NOW... AAARGH! Ok - here it is - "CHEER UP! IT COULD BE WORSE!")

Let me just say that I KNOW things could be worse. They can ALWAYS be worse. I am very blessed to have what I do, and many, many parts of my life are absolutely wonderful. In addition, I am so mindful of the fact that we live in a country of great wealth and happiness, and that my children have access to some of the best healthcare in the world (although we can't really afford that healthcare, but that's another rant for another day). If they had been born in another time, or in another place, their lives would be very different and most likely those differences would not be good. I am thankful and grateful for the blessings we have.

That doesn't mean that certain things in my life don't blow chunks.

So when I'm down in the dumps and wallowing in misery, and someone tells me to cheer up because it could be worse because they saw this one family on TV that has 6 kids with autism so I'm lucky that I only have 2 kids with special needs, MY primal instinct to scratch someone's eyes out comes dangerously close to the surface.

As a side note, that family really exists and I met the mom at my son's preschool graduation. Her son and my son both went to a school for children with autism. And certain parts of this mom's life really, really suck. So the comment that my life could be worse is definitely true, and it's important for me to remember that sometimes. However, it's still not smart to tell me that. Better for me to remember it all by myself. Trust me.

So my point to all of this is that although things can always be worse, that doesn't mean you don't have the right to be sad and angry and frustrated about the challenges you are facing. You have the right to mourn, and in fact you SHOULD mourn. There is a grieving process attached to every loss we face and if you don't deal with the grief when the loss happens, you will deal with it eventually. It's one of those inescapable facts of life. And even when you feel like you've dealt with the grief, it may decide to come back out of the blue and smack you upside the head. One moment you could be a perfectly normal person sitting in the movie theater watching Zombieland 2: Revenge of Bill Murray, and the next moment you could be sobbing over your diet Coke, popcorn (with butter), and Everlasting Gobstoppers because that sweet old lady with the black goo coming from her mouth reminds you of your third grade teacher, and you really miss your third grade teacher. See, that's how grief works. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, it comes back to show you who's boss. So just to be safe, it's probably a good idea to carry a pair of sunglasses with you at all times so if you do burst into tears for no discernable reason, you can hide behind them and tell everyone you meet, "Dude, I got so wasted last night that I can't even open my eyes. Do you know where I live?"

Having said all of that, let me just point out that it is not a good idea to spend the rest of your life sad and miserable. Even though you have the right to cry and yell and scream and rant and rave, it's probably best to try to figure out ways to live with the grief so you can find the joy and happiness in your life. I don't know about you, but in all but my darkest hours, I can find so many things to be grateful for that at times I wonder how I could possibly be so lucky. And for me, the joy and gratitude feel so much better than the pain and anger.

So to sum up, when people tell you to cheer up because it could be worse, do your best to take a deep breath, lock your wrists behind your back so you can't punch or scratch, remember that they mean well and just want to make it all better, and after you've done all that, THEN you can release the look of instant death and/or tell them to stick their platitudes where the sun don't shine. Then later, much later, when you've had time to heal a bit, you can remember that things really could be worse and maybe life isn't so bad. And then after that you can maybe think of Rule #37: Take Time to Enjoy the Little Things. At least you aren't a zombie.

My apologies to anyone who hasn't seen Zombieland. If you are able to get your hands on the airline version of the movie, I highly suggest watching it. It's the stinking most hilarious movie I've ever seen in my life.


  1. Chill out California (you did say you were a Cali girl, right?), things could be worse. ;) Great movie!
    Some days, thinking about how much worse things could be is the only thing that keeps me sane--but, I'll agree with you about not having other people point that out.

  2. "They told me to cheer up, things could be worse…
    So I cheered up, and sure enough, they got worse…"- words from a previous generation