Years ago, Miss Barbara on Romper Room taught me to “Turn That Frown Upside Down!” when I was sad or angry. Of course I was sad and angry every time I watched Romper Room because not once did Miss Barbara see an “Elyse” in her magic mirror.
Oops. Sorry. That isn’t what this post is about.
I’ve actually found over the years that for the normal level of bummed-out-ness, turning my frown upside down (TMFUD) is quite an effective anti-depressant. It is even more efficacious when combined with a walk and/or singing. If I TMFUD while walking and singing, I am a happy camper. (Of course the other folks around me might not be quite so smiley.)
As I got older though, I found that TMFUD was less effective against the bigger things that life threw at me. I needed something approaching “schadenfreude,” which, as you know, is taking pleasure in others’ misfortune.
Now, I don’t think that I ever really – even to this day – actually take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. I’m somewhat nicer than that.
But I do like to look at someone else’s troubles and balance them against my own. Then I am much more willing to keep my own. And I feel immensely relieved.
In the early 1980s, neither my sister Judy nor I were, umm, living the high life. Life was one crisis after another for both of us. I was sick and poor. She was a young mother –that wasn’t the bad part — with no education, no prospects, and a shaky relationship with her husband. She was also poor.
Her problems always seemed worse than mine, and she felt the same way about my troubles. It made us content with our own struggles. So, being sisters, we made our respective miseries and misfortunes something of a contest.
I called Jude one day with bad news about the state of my health and she stopped me before I’d gotten the “woe” out in “woe is me.” Bitch.
“This morning,” Judy announced, “I woke up and went downstairs to make coffee.” I could picture her standing with one hand on her hip, taking a drag from her cigarette. “And do you know what happened as I walked across the cold floor in my bare feet?”
I knew it wasn’t going to be good.
“I stepped in mouse intestines — in my bare feet!” Judy’s cat, Izzy, a prolific hunter, had brought home some spoils for the family. “Nobody’s should start the day with mouse intestines between their toes.”
Judy was right — no day should start that way. And that was when I co-opted the motto for my life:
Life is Good*
* As long as you don’t have mouse intestines between your toes.
I’ve never seen that Tee-shirt in the series. I think they need to expand.
Anyway, sadly Judy is gone, and I’d kind of forgotten about my motto.
In the last six months while I’ve been under the weather, not having Judy’s misfortunes to compare mine to made feeling crappy much crappier.
But today I stumbled across a story that inspired me, just the way my sister Judy used to. It made me feel that somebody is worse off than me. And it made me glad that I have my own troubles, and not this woman’s.
Today I read a story about a woman whose situation makes me squirm.
A story that made me realize that things for me really aren’t so bad.
A story that turned my frown upside down.
It was an article about an unfortunate woman who, while vacationing in Peru, had a bit of bad luck. A horn of plenty, running over with misfortune. A veritable ear full of it.
A British woman returned from a holiday in Peru hearing scratching noises inside her head was told she was being attacked by flesh-eating maggots living inside her ear.
Those Tee-shirt guys need to snap this motto up fast. Because really:
Life is good*
*As long as you don’t have flesh-eating maggots inside your ear.
Well, maybe life isn’t so good if you were eating when you read this. Then, I just bet, life could be better.