“…it could be raining.” The character Igor makes this off-hand comment while he and Dr. Frankenstein are standing neck-deep in a grave, filthy, digging up a coffin in the 1980’s comedy, “Young Frankenstein.” A moment after the comment, a torrent of rain pours down on them, adding to the duo’s struggling, midnight efforts in the graveyard.
What’s the takeaway, besides the humor of the scene?
In the face of misery, obstacle, or set-back, it’s up to you to turn your attitude to good. No matter how bad the circumstance, things could always be worse (in addition to being better). Things are always relative, but if we give into the vacuum of despair and woe that’s on each of us. So don’t do it. It’s that simple. It’s within your power as to how you’ll respond to any given situation.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Yea, but what about if things are really, REALLY bad…? Then you have to be justified in feeling down, hopeless, etc…, right?”
This perspective brings up an important insight. It’s not about what is “justified”, it’s about what is the best way to cope when things aren’t going your way, or in the extreme, when things are really awful. It’s not about “justice”, it’s about your psychological/emotional well-being, and having the ability to get through difficult times.
Need an example of “really awful”…? Pick up a copy of the story, the “Forgotten Highlander“. In this true story from World War II, Alistair Urquhart shares in graphic and mind-bending form the story of his 750 days as a POW and slave laborer for the Japanese in the Pacific theater. It’s a truly harrowing tale of struggle, brutality, misery, revulsion, and perseverance.
One of Urquhart’s remarks near the end of the story ring most true to the theme of choosing how you respond to difficulty in your life: “Life is worth living and no matter what it throws at you it is important to keep your eyes on the prize of the happiness that will come.”
One of the key reasons that causes people to struggle is pretty simple, in my view. We often get muddled in “why” of the situation, of the perceived injustice of the circumstance. This trap is simple, obvious, and potentially devestating to our ego, our psyche, especially when we’re in crisis.
Rather than focus on how to cope, how to overcome a given difficult scenario, we focus on the high-minded view of what’s “fair.” Or not. I allowed myself to make this bad mistake just the other night. I was having a tough go with my little kids around bedtime, I wasn’t feeling very well, and I let the difficulty get the better of me.
I focused on “Why me?” rather than “How can I change my approach to improve the situation?” Thinking back, it is clear that I should have left the “why” for later, and focused on what I could do to make the situation better.
The “Could be worse…” phrase can be a simple mantra you adopt as a little trigger in your mind to pause, detach from the emotion of the moment, and focus on how to cope, improve, or at least survive the difficulty you face. That is the matter at hand. The one who benefits first and foremost from this practical, pragmatic approach is you.
And if you can find a little humor for yourself (and even others) in the negative situation, all the better. After all, it “could be raining.”