The worst thing that ever happened. Was yesterday.
Now, seriously, in the bad stuff Olympics, I at least make the podium. My husband died when I was 45, leaving no life insurance, a big mortgage, and a young child. A car accident when I was 8 leaves me with health problems 42 years later. Did I mention the death? My mother, husband, fave sister in law, father in law, and another sister in law all died within 2 years of one another, of unrelated things.
But that is not what I am going to talk about.
My daughter had to get new glasses.
She doesn’t like her choice of frames. Last time I had better health insurance and she could get whatever frames she wanted. This time she had to pick from cheaper frames. She was livid. Humiliated. Weepy. Livid again.
And it was all I could do to not laugh. She thinks THIS is trouble?
And then I felt proud, and happy, because in ten years, nothing bad (apart from her father’s death) ever happened to her. And since he died when she was only just 5, she doesn’t remember him or the death at all.
She has had no broken bones. She never was without health care. She has plenty to read, and reads well. She has friends whose houses she can walk to. She does well in school. The worst thing that ever happened to her is a bad choice of glasses frames.
Some of her good fortune is my good parenting, so I feel proud. I make sure she eats nutritious food, for example. I bring her lots of books, and we read together.
Some of her good fortune really is chance—she was not born with any physical disabilities that provide daily challenges, and has not been in any scarring accidents–phew!
Some years ago, a teenager I know wept and wept because she did not get the part she wanted in the school play. It was the WORST thing that had ever happened to her. (I know the cast that got picked, and actually, she is a much better actor than the person who got the lead. They probably needed her superior acting skills more in a character part–the leads in musicals can be pretty bland.) She was in anguish, but my husband had only just died, and I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t work up sympathy for this trivial matter. But it was important to her, so I asked a friend of mine, much luckier in her life, I might add, to talk to the teenager in my place. I knew I couldn’t do it. But I knew this teen needed to be consoled. And someone whose life had not been as rocky as mine was better able to help her at that time.
Worst is such a relative term. The worst thing that ever happened to you moves back and forth, sometimes staying worst, sometimes being eclipsed by something even more horrible, but then, perhaps the passage of time makes it not so bad after all.
The worst thing that ever happened to me when I was 15 was Hank Studly dumped me before the dance. But 2 days later a couple of my friends picked him up and slammed him into a locker because they were angry at how he treated me, and today I remember that story as one of enduring friendship, not betrayal. Day one, I was crying, day 3, I was laughing, 30 years on I realize I still owe those friends big time for their act of bravery.
I could have spent the afternoon after the eyeglass incident grumpy at my ungrateful, entitled daughter–the worst thing that happened was that I have coddled her into complaisance. Instead, I laughed–got absolutely giddy with my good fortune, amazed and relieved that something so minimal seems so important to her.
This is not at all the power of positive thinking. It happened naturally. I was fortunate to be born with a naturally happy disposition. People can SAY look on the bright side, but willing oneself to do so rarely works.
I saw a lovely post flitting through my FB feed, comparing depression to physical disease, kinda like this: telling people who are depressed they have lots to be happy about is like telling someone with asthma to just BREATHE because there is plenty of air.
I am (I mean this) fortunate that I can laugh over the fact that I have a peacetime, non-pestilence record for close family deaths. I don’t know what I would do if I had not been born with a brain that can see how ridiculous sad things can be. And my child has a normally sunny disposition, and most days things similar to the eyeglasses are not a downer for her.
When her glasses come in, my daughter will remember weeping over them, and they will be a bad thing that happened to her. I know that worse things will happen to her, sometimes, but for today I am deeply grateful that the worst thing that has happened to my daughter in ten years is that she doesn’t like her glasses.