When Things Go Wrong

September 17, 2010

Last summer, my friend Kerri introduced me to a song called “What About Everything?” by Carbon Leaf, and I can’t get it out of my head. (It’s a great song to sing along with in the car.) I love the progression of thoughts the singer goes through, and how he finally comes to the conclusion, “I am not in need.”

That song ran through my head when I waited at the mechanic for my car’s AC to be fixed for the second time in three months. (Here in FL, working AC is second in importance only to football.) It ran through my head when I had to drive 20 minutes back into town because I left my purse in art class. (Don’t ask me how.)

Sure, annoyances and problems matter. My relatively minor problems make me uncomfortable, and they even hurt sometimes. (See: Helmet Required.) But I always come back to that line in the song. “I am not in need.”

As Sarah Vowell writes in The Partly Cloudy Patriot:“….my motto in any situation is ‘It Could Be Worse.’ It could be worse is how I meet every setback. Though nothing all that bad has ever happened to me, every time I’ve had my heart broken or gotten fired or watched an audience member at one of my readings have a seizure as I stand at the podium trying not to cry, I remind myself that it could be worse. In my self-help universe, when things go wrong I whisper mantras to myself, mantras like ‘Andersonville’ or ‘Texas School Book Depository.’ ‘Andersonville’ is a code word for ‘You could be one of the prisoners of war dying of disease and malnutrition in the worst Confederate prison, so just calm down about the movie you wanted to go to being sold out.’ ‘Texas School Book Depository’ means that having the delivery guy forget the guacamole isn’t nearly as bad as being assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald as the blood from your head stains your wife’s pink suit.”

Thank you for your concern and good wishes following my fall off Tank—I really, really appreciate them, and I’m healing up nicely. I’m so grateful it wasn’t worse, and that I had the resources to get treatment for the injury. (I had a massage today...it was almost worth falling off the horse…) Despite this little hiccup in my smoothly-running life, things are about back to normal.

I am not in need.

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  1. So glad you're healing up. Ouch. Only broken bone I've ever had came from being thrown from a horse.

    RE: "Could be worse".... been my motto for years! Great mind think alike ;-)

    P.S. I also like a motto that was on the back of one of my son's t-shirts years ago, and I remind myself of it when I find myself complaining. It said (in Olde English typestyle, "Quit Yer Snivelin" ... Love it! :-)

  2. Thanks, Teresa! Your son's t-shirt reminds me of the phrase, "Quit yer bellyachin'" Also a good one to remember!

  3. Funny (odd) how a shift in perspective puts those annoying, irritating "issues" in a different light!

    Our code phrase is "Oh, geez, what a problem to have!" usually said in a slightly sarcastic tone. It's usually said after we've just spent 10 minutes griping about who our possessions are possessing us rather than the other way around!

    Excellent post!

  4. Glad to hear you're healing well and that you have such a positive outlook. Years ago I had an almost life changing experience reading a short story by Robert Fulghum called Problem or Inconvenience. It has a similar theme and I read it at a time when we were experiencing many inconveniences that felt like problems - until reading the story.

  5. Kathy, what a great post. Just what I needed to hear too. Sorry to hear you had a fall - I'm very out of touch right now. Hope you are well now.

  6. Oh yay, the comment went through!!! I've never posted from my phone before to a blog - so glad it works!

    Btw, thanks so much for your comments yesterday.

  7. Laure--We have another code phrase when we start griping about inconsequential problems: "Wah"--as in a baby crying (not sure how to spell that!). A humorous way to remind ourselves that we really don't have it all that bad.

  8. Cheryl--Sounds like a good story. It would help me to ask myself if something was a real problem or just an inconvenience.

  9. Krista--good to hear from you and glad you liked the post! I'm sorry you've been under the weather. Hope you're feeling better soon.