I woke up before my alarm normally sounded. UGH. Really?! The one day I didn’t have to hustle or help little ones, and I couldn’t sleep in. I flipped back the duvet and stiffly stood up. Might as well take advantage of the freedom, I thought, and decided to go for a run on the river trail.
I dressed in my brightest clothes to match my mood. Playlist pumping. Pine trees towering. Sunlight reflecting. My steps were light. My lungs full.
And then I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was so faint, I had to focus. Then, there was more. Is that…?? NO. It couldn’t be. It was the middle of May and the forecast said mostly sunny.
I stopped for a photo; the snowflakes floating and fluttering in the sunshine. It was exactly like living inside a Snow Globe. Tiny people with rosy cheeks. Optimistic music. Joy contained.
Seconds later, I looked behind me.
Dark, ominous clouds were pushing their way into my idyllic world. Worse, I wasn’t even halfway around the loop. My pace quickened as the sun was swallowed up by the clouds. The wind stinging. The snow turning sideways.
CRAP. What if I get stuck in this storm? Or my phone/GPS freezes and I can’t find my way home? Or what if I get hurt and no one is around to help me??
Shoving my fears aside, I leaned into the calloused weather. As I did, it hit me: at least it wasn’t raining. It could be worse! I slowed to a walk, looked up, and tried catching snowflakes in my mouth. (As you do. When you’re, say, six. Or crazy.)
I laughed at the comedy of it all. Being stuck in a snowstorm and feeling grateful?! It’s the idea that anything/everything is relative. And by comparing your situation to something worse, you feel, in a strange way, better.
It reminded me of something that Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said in an interview with Krista Tippett. Sandberg, who lost her husband in 2015, said “you would think that when you’re trying to find a way forward, you want to think about happy thoughts, but actually, what you want to do is find gratitude, gratitude for what’s left. And one way of doing that is to think about how things could be worse. And that really did work, because the minute I thought about the fact that I’m lucky to still have my children alive, what I found was gratitude. Thank god my children are alive. And I can raise them, and I can raise them to know who their father was, who their father would’ve wanted them to be.”
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Also, in direct contradiction to Brené Brown’s advice on empathy. And while I agree with Brown that hearing someone else say “At least __________ ” about your own situation undermines your experience and invalidates your feelings, there is something healing when you’re the one saying it about your own life. There, in the reframing, is relief. Peace spread softly over the sorrow.
The awareness that things-could-be-worse makes you feel better. So much better.