When all else fails, try a cliché
I was vacuuming the pool the other day, sweating profusely in the August heat that the right-wing knuckle-draggers tell us is not related to global warming, when my glasses slipped off my nose and plopped right into the water. Any other summer I’d have merely dove in and retrieved them, but this has been a tough season in that the algae has taken over, turning my once crystal-clear water into a scum pond. It’s so bad you can’t see the bottom in the deep end, forcing me to get the skimmer pole and fish them out.
As I was cursing under my breath at my grave misfortune, peering into the murky depths of a sick swimming pool, a genuinely sobering thought hit me: Visibility must be as bad here as the river under that bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed. I flashed on the scuba divers not being able to see more than a foot in front of their face yet still looking for bodies. Then I flashed on the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy, and suddenly I grew very ashamed of my paltry problems. What right did I even have to whine about something as trivial as this? How dare I bemoan my situation when so many people out there have problems that are insurmountable?
It was one of those moments we all have from time to time that puts it all in perspective. Those small epiphanies tend to come, I’d bet, when we need them most, when life starts to cave in on us and we forget all we have to be grateful for. And then, once the wall of self-pity is breached, we begin to realize that our lot in life is not so pathetic after all.
Over the years I’ve probably written a variation on this theme a dozen times or more. This thing I’ve heard called an “attitude of gratitude” may well be the single most important characteristic we have to arm ourselves against depression, despair and melancholy. Once those negative feelings start to creep up on us, the one surefire antidote is to simply start listing all those things in life you have to be thankful for. I know, it sounds tacky, simplistic and hopelessly maudlin, but try it anyway.
Of course, this brings up the question of what to do when you really do find yourself in a desperate situation, when your problems really are worse than practically everybody else’s. As I’ve written many times before, my wife has chronic-progressive MS and, without going into the gory details, there really are days when it seems utterly hopeless. But the point is that it is never quite as bad as it seems at the moment. We always get through whatever crisis it is that day and move on.
And that brings up another of those saccharine clichés that makes you want to gag but if you adhere to it your life will get better: This too shall pass. And, before you know it, it does.
Finally, indulge me for one more. My dear sweet mother-in-law used to say it, it seemed, hourly: You’ve got to take the good with the bad.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago in this space I wrote perhaps my most incendiary Bush bash ever (or at least, top three). It was intended that way, and I knew the moment I filed it that I was going to be both praised and vilified. I wrote it knowing that it was going to push buttons, and boy was I ever on the money. A couple of strangers passing through e-mailed to thank me for speaking the truth and fighting the good fight. Friends I hadn’t heard from in awhile called to give me the thumbs-up. One regular reader, a proud member of the Sizzling Seventeen, wrote to say he put me among the Tom Friedmans, David Brookses and Maureen Dowds of the world. High praise indeed, yet totally undeserved.
And, of course, there were the threats, the obscene messages, the anonymous phone calls. One guy who’d completely lost his sense of humor even stormed into my office shaking his fist and wanting to know if I was the guy who called our president an asshole.
Yup, that’d be me.
So the point of all this is that the storms pass, the skies clear and the rainbow appears. It’s never as bad or as good as it seems at the moment. But even when it is as bad you still have to trudge through it. Another hackneyed saying: When you’re going through hell, just keep going.
And now we return you to your regularly scheduled Bush bash. Five hundred and forty eight days and counting.
Ogi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth.