Sometimes life throws us curve balls, and sometimes those curve balls can be so devastating that we wonder how we’re ever going to get through it. When these kinds of thing happen, you wonder how to find the silver lining to the negative event when you can barely even get yourself through the day.
The beauty that remains
A couple of weeks ago a quote by Anne Frank floated through my Facebook feed, and it really got me thinking about how much our choices about how we interpret the adverse events of our lives determine how we will be affected by those events.
The quote that attracted my attention was this one:
It made me think about my father and the way he chose to respond to the negative events of his own life. I’m certainly not comparing his situation to the hardships and suffering that Anne Frank and the millions like her endured during the Second World War, but I would like to share this story, because it shows how, even in an ordinary life, a simple perspective shift can make a big difference in how a bad situation affects you.
Big negative events
When I was about 12, we had a big house fire — it gutted the house that my parents had built themselves. Growing up, some of my strongest memories are of my father puttering around our house in every spare minute he had, working on that place. He put his heart and soul into that house – it really was a labour of love for him – and then, just like that, it was gone.
If you’ve never experienced a major fire, it’s hard to explain what it’s like. My sister and I weren’t even allowed to walk through until three weeks later, after the clean-up had begun. Even then, it was unbelievable. The heat from the blaze was so great that it had melted the smoke alarms throughout the house.He poured his heart & soul into that place... and then, just like that, it was gone. Click To Tweet
In the area where the fire had actually started, it had gotten so hot that the windows had exploded outwards (in another fire, in an apartment building I used to live in, I actually saw that happen – it’s like a bomb going off, with a loud bang and shards of glass flying everywhere).
The smoke is everywhere, coating everything – the walls, every piece of furniture, every knick-knack, every picture in its frame. You walk through the house, and you come out streaked with soot and stinking like that smoke. And you never, ever, forget that smell; even decades later, the faintest whiff of that scent turns your stomach into anxious knots.
How to find the silver lining
Everything that my father had worked so hard on… all the years he had dedicated to building this home seemed to have been wasted. He could have looked at it that way. He could have become bitter and despondent.
But he didn’t.
I remember the day we drove up to the house to check on the clean-up and repair progress and discovered that the insurance company had parked one of those big industrial dumpsters out front to collect all the wreckage from inside. We saw that enormous thing in the driveway and my dad laughed. He actually laughed and said “Oh, that’s perfect!”
For years his friends had been teasing him about his “stuff” (he was a bit of a packrat) and telling him that the only way he’d ever get his house cleaned up was to get himself an industrial dumpster and just start throwing stuff into it. So when he saw that dumpster in his driveway, he wanted to put a sign on the end of it that said “Took your advice!” and snap a picture of it for his friends.If you can still find a way to laugh despite the tears, then things don’t seem quite so bad. Click To Tweet
It taught me a valuable lesson: When things look bleak, try to find a way to laugh, despite the tears. Because if you can do that, then things don’t seem quite so bad anymore. Shift your perspective and try to look at things a different way.
And above all, no matter how bad it gets, always look for the beauty that remains.
photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)