One of the many lessons my mother taught me as a child was the idea that it “could always be worse”. Even when she was working two jobs and delivering newspapers every morning and we were crowded into a 1 bedroom apartment, my mother was quick to remind us that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table and if it ever became too difficult, we had family that would take us in if we had to. While I’m sure there had to be times my mom’s optimism was more for the benefit of my sister and I, her sincerity in her comfort made me trust that my mother really did have this light at the end of the tunnel perspective.
I have tried, fairly successfully, to carry this Pollyannic attitude into my own adulthood. While I might approach some situations with an initial “why me” reaction, once I get some time to sit and reflect, I try to think about the “bright side” or “how it could be worse than it is” – I try to reframe. I’ve seen many friends using this Thanksgiving season to reflect on things they are thankful for. Inspired by this, I thought I would look at the less than stellar moments or situations that, when reframed, I can look at and be thankful for what they gave me.
- I am thankful for the bad days at work – because not only does it mean I have a job to have bad days at, but that it’s also a reminder that I still care about the work I do.
- I am thankful for yard work – as a kid I was thankful for the opposite, but I am glad that I am at a place in life where I can provide my family with a yard to play in and a home where they don’t have to worry about being too loud or bouncing too hard out of fear of waking the neighbors.
- I am thankful for the people who called me “Big Guy” – I know they meant no harm, that it was just a term of endearment, but I wasn’t a fan. I knew most weren’t referring to my height, but rather my overall presence in the room. I glad for that, and other things that motivated me to live an overall healthier lifestyle.
- I am thankful for students and coworkers who challenge me – As a student leader, I was often frustrated when given “because I said so” responses. It was one of those “when I grow up” vows I made to not do when I was a professional. While I might be flustered in the moment, I’m glad when a decision I make is challenged because it means I need to find a reason to back it up…and if i can’t, I need to seriously consider why I made that decision in the first place.
- I am thankful for traffic in the morning – as a procrastinator who is also anything but a morning person, the weekdays seem to always involve an eventual mad dash out the door. And of course, the later I am running, the more traffic I seem to hit. But I’m glad that it gives me time – time to chat with my daughter on the way to daycare and time to collect my thoughts on the way to work. I should add an addendum that I am also thankful to have a “flexible” work schedule.
- I am thankful for disappointment – there’s a line from one of my favorite musicals, Company, that goes “don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect. The only thing to be afraid of, really, is that it won’t be”. Disappointment can stem from investment, in someone or something. Disappointment can also stem from hope. In either case, disappointment is a reminder that I am working toward something. It has taught me resilience and forced me to reevaluate and reaffirm. The day I stop being disappointed is the day I stop growing.
So what troubling or challenging things in life can you be thankful for? As we enter this Thanksgiving time, what in your life could benefit from a “reframe”?