Last Saturday afternoon my husband and I were finishing up a delicious lunch at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant when the server delivered two fortune cookies with our check. With child-like excitement I quickly opened my fortune cookie anxious to read what wonderful things were coming my way. Looking for a prediction of wealth and happiness or even an upcoming opportunity, I was somewhat taken back by my fortune which read, “Things are not always what they seem. It’s not that bad!” I paused and slowly read it again. Rather than providing promises of prosperity and wealth I was delivered a bit of familiar wisdom that couldn’t have been timelier.
Our lunch that afternoon was celebrating the end of a four-week trek through unexpected frustrations and obstacles. It all began with a trip to the Emergency Room with my mother, followed by a washer that failed to stop filling with water inevitably flooding the main floor of our house. A week later I hosted a reunion with 36 family members at my home, which of course was in the middle of being remodeled – the flooring was mostly stripped but at least the main bathroom was functional! Then if that wasn’t enough my doctor notified me by letter (her office said they tried to reach me by phone) that “something” came up on the results of my yearly medical exam so it was necessary to go back for further testing. There seemed to be no relief in sight and as my anxiety increased I found myself running on pure adrenalin. So there I was, just barely coming up for air after a string of unfavorable events when I read those words on the little piece of paper found in my fortune cookie. “Things are not always what they seem. It’s not that bad!” Okay, I thought after reviewing it again, maybe some things are not as bad as they seem, or possibly in the end everything does turn out all right. Smiling I realized that in my hand I held a fortune that actually meant something and provided a chance for me to think differently about the previous weeks.
Like everyone else I certainly have experienced things in life that were really as bad as they seemed but what helped me through them was being able to look at those events in a different way. It’s called reframing, having optimism, looking at the bright side, or finding the silver lining in the cloud. I am well acquainted with choosing to look differently at life as there have been plenty of days I have needed to actively exercise my ability to think optimistically. In order to bounce back and survive those “bad” times it was imperative that I see something different in the event, something worthwhile, something that I could gain from it and that could help me find the strength to see it through.
Reflecting back on the previous weeks I realized during the various stressors that presented themselves I did recognize a positive factor in each one. The ER trip with my mother did not include the usual overnight stay and because this was her third visit in the past seven months I was able to maintain a clear and calm mind due to my familiarity with the process. With a little loving care she was back to normal within a couple of days. When our main floor flooded it took us a few days to realize how much damage there was but luckily we contacted a company that was able to immediately come to our aid. As for our family reunion, even though much of our flooring was removed and the majority of our furniture and decor was being stored in the garage, I was still able to host it. In fact, it was nice that I did not have to worry about all the children running through my house as I knew they really couldn’t hurt it! And my medical test results, the subsequent testing went well with no further issues so my fears were calmed as I developed a fresh appreciation for my health, my life, and my family.
Yes, the past month really seemed like one bad thing after another but upon closer review and retrospect it definitely could have been worse. So I guess I could say that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed when first facing it. That little fortune cookie reminded me that many of the things we face on a daily basis when put into perspective are not as bad as they seem if we but choose to look at our glass half full instead of half empty.
“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” — Samuel Johnson, English Author