How do you make the best of something bad? I think we struggle with this every day. The problem, though, isn’t that we’re bad at finding silver linings–it’s that we seek them far too often, and in far too many things. You burned your dinner? That’s good–now you can try out the new pizza place. You drove around on a deflated tire and now you need a new one? That’s actually a blessing in disguise; you were looking for a local place to take your car.
Everything is not always good. A lot of the time everything sucks. Go ahead, admit it–you really wanted those scallops juicy, not burned. You could have used that tire money for your rent. You grin and bear it. Laugh it off. Move on.
How would we survive if we never learned how to cope? Silver linings keep us moving, ever forward, to the promise of something wholly good. There’s gotta be something good now, right? It’s time for things to go smoothly. It’s time.
But, a thin silver line, quivering in the distance, cannot and will not sustain us. Many silver linings will not keep us from falling.
Ever the optimist, I start more than enough sentences with “well, at least.”
I’ve heard myself saying this a lot lately. My luck keeps running out. Or perhaps I haven’t quite caught up with it yet. And I have begun to wonder about the sanity in seeking those silver lines.
My life is nothing if not a quest for balance. Enough sleep, exercise, food, alcohol, laughter, tears, friends, enemies, dogs, cats. Just enough of everything. On a good day I run, drink good coffee, go to work, make dinner, drink cheap wine. On a bad day I eat Oreos for breakfast and my coffee is silty and I’m “let go” from a job I didn’t even get to start and I eat Oreos for dinner and I only have PBR in my fridge. The silver linings in the bad day look like “well at least this is fodder for a funny story” and “Oreos are delicious.”
You know what those silver linings are hiding in, though? Regret. Shame. Sadness. A really, really heavy feeling of inadequacy. Driving home from the dog kennel where I work, I start crying. It’s fun to be 22. It’s fun to take your time in deciding what you want to do with your life. It’s also hard. Painfully hard and confusing. And a lot of the time, instead of starting my self-pity party with well at least… I just want to scream “Well, this fucking sucks.”
I’ve always said that the goodness of my life is measured in its moments, not in any significant span of time. I’m not going to stop seeking silver linings. I will not allow myself to sink into a sadness from which I may not recover. I will laugh it off, and I will move on. But this kind of work requires reminding.
Yesterday I woke up at 7 AM. I’d gone to bed at 9:30 the night before, so my early rising was only natural. I’ve seen maybe five sunrises in the past five years, so in a rare burst of morning energy, I made myself coffee, drove (I wasn’t so ambitious as to walk) down to the Battery, and watched the sun rise. Yeah, I did it so I could take a picture–one day I will deal with my addiction to capturing life’s moments via social media–but I also did it to prove something to myself.
I’d had a rough week. Shin splints and stomach aches and embarrassment and insecurities swirled in my days and in my dreams. I woke up every night, soaking wet with night sweats and night terrors.
Then, I saw the sun rise. And you know what? Your legs can hurt and your stomach can clench and your breath can get caught up in that gurgly-almost-crying tightness. People can let you down. You can make one million mistakes. You can hope and pray for whatever you want, and never come close to getting it. But the sun– the sun doesn’t really care. It still rises. And you’ll get out of bed and try again. You still rise too.