Excelsior.

I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’ kind of a girl.
Pollyanna, Anne Shirley, Leslie Knope — those girls are my peeps.
My mantra for pretty much all of the stressful situations in my life — my adult life, at least — has been, “things can always be worse.”

When I had each of my girls over two months prematurely and would be holding their impossibly tiny bodies every day in the NICU feeling sorry for myself that I was cheated out of the normal newborn experience; when I was terrified for the countless procedures and setbacks they endured but confident they’d emerge strong and healthy (which they did); when I’d get on the elevator at the end of the day to return home, once again without my baby, and find myself standing next to set of parents with their toddler, bald from chemo and in a wheelchair with an IV pole connected to her little body, I’d get hit in the gut with perspective.

Things can always be worse.

Fender-benders, cancelled flights, our entire family getting a stomach virus at Disneyworld, cans of paint exploding in my car — I do my very best not to let the foul balls life sometimes throws my way bother me. In the face of disaster, I search, sometimes desperately, for what could be worse.

Is it a form of denial? I don’t think so.
Deflection, maybe, but not denial.
Putting a spin on disaster has just always been my thing.
I like to call it survival.
Things can always be worse.

Have there been a few times in my life when that statement didn’t hold true? Actually, yes, there have. Not all clouds have silver linings. I’m not going to delve into the details of the events for a variety of reasons, but let me just say that despite trying my best to put bad situations in perspective, there’ve been instances when it just hasn’t been possible. When no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t think of how things could be, or could feel, worse. And I think it’s those times that have actually made me live my life with the Pollyanna attitude that I try to hold on to when faced with other seemingly catastrophic situations and give them perspective.

It’s not always so easy, though.

Last Friday Minneapolis was hit with one of the worst, most severe storms we’ve experienced in a long time. Husband and I were driving home from the cabin, separately, and were caught in it for over an hour. I’ve never been more terrified in my life. Like, had to pull over once I exited the freeway and breathe into a paper bag and wait to regain feeling in my legs and arms kind of terrified. My girls were caught driving in it, alone, home from dinner. Thankfully they ran into a Target where the employees made everyone go to the back of the store and sit on all the patio furniture. As if they were just having a backyard BBQ. While trees were flying around the parking lot. When we all made it home we had a fierce family hug, shaking uncontrollably and shedding a few tears, before collapsing on the floor (which I may or may not have kissed).

The point is that the whole time I was driving, hands clenched — cemented — to my steering wheel while my windshield wipers went as fast as they could (which did absolutely nothing to clear the windshield or my view of the road in front of me) and I was counting on my fixation with the faint red dots of the tail lights in front of me to keep me on the road and I was passing car after car that had pulled over and stopped, I was having a pretty damn hard time thinking of ways my situation could be worse. I came up with “at least the girls aren’t in the car with me” which made me feel better for about three minutes until my husband called me on my bluetooth and told me that they were out in it, too.

When it was all over, of course I was able to think of a million ways things could’ve been worse, but in the situation, believe me, Pollyanna was nowhere to be found.

Flooded basements (which lead to inflated estimates which lead to stress), job insecurities, not knowing what the next few months will bring in a variety of situations our family is facing; I’m handling these things by doing my best to remember Pat Solitano’s one word –

“…it means, I’m gonna take all this negativity and use it as a fuel and I’m gonna find a silver lining.”
                                                                                                                                               – Silver Linings Playbook
 
Things can always be worse.
 
And unless they can’t, I’m gonna keep it all in perspective, try my best to stay positive…and search like hell for the silver lining.

5 Comments

  1. Alison Sommer on June 28, 2013 at 2:38 am

    That must have been so scary. I’m glad you’re all ok. I wish I had more of a Polyanna brain. I’m much more the type that I think we’re all totally doomed and then am often pleasantly surprised when the world doesn’t end.

    • Michelle on June 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      At least you’re rarely disappointed…
      😉

  2. MidwestSparkle on June 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Glad everyone is okay. This post reminded me of my first year of law school finals I consistently told myself “If I fail, they won’t kill my dog.” Somehow this extreme version always helped.

    • Michelle on July 1, 2013 at 3:15 am

      That is SO going to be my new phrase (except switch “dog” for “cat”). I LOVE it!!!
      🙂

  3. Joy Christi on July 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Yikes. Glad everyone was safe. Have been caught in many storms in the car, and had SO MANY flooded basements. It’s difficult to look for that silver lining, glad you are able to do that!

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