When a nightmare really isn’t a nightmare

There are so many platitudes about thankfulness that it may be tough to be grateful for the worn phrase ‘the attitude of gratitude’.

There are so many platitudes about thankfulness that it may be tough to be grateful for the worn phrase ‘the attitude of gratitude’.  And most of us have made so many appreciation lists they no longer seem meaningful.

Should we really play the ‘glad game’ when there is no Pollyanna at home? As we look back on Thanksgiving and our friends to the south look forward, reminding ourselves to be grateful may nag at us like a prickle in a sock. And please let me know if you enjoy being told, “Smile, things could be worse!”

I recall a beloved niece whose mother insisted, when the child was cranky, that she paste a forced smile upon her face. Mom insisted that the crabby inside would soon be altered to match the outside.  Of course the irritable child did her best to prove mama wrong —until she read as a young adult, a “Psychology Today” article that confirmed her mother’s intuitive theory.

But there is a magic cure, and it’s smirking not far away. Even if I’m upset at the landlord, my children, my friends, myself, or even a smidge at the universe, there is a story that always turns the tables for me.

It wasn’t the best of times. The Irish Potato Famine had dragged on for years.  And even though potatoes can ably sustain life for a very long time, to make things worse, the First World War was still in progress.

Emily had just turned 12 — one of a large number of children in a family from the emerald isle.  Whether the decision was made by drawing straws, casting lots, or parental talk late into the night, somehow Emily was chosen as the child who would survive – the child who would be sent across the sea.  The precious coins were counted, and a fourth-class ticket on a passenger liner was purchased.  In order to save the family, Emily would cross the ocean to North America as an indentured servant.

No one is quite sure what happened.  Emily either got sick, or somehow was late, but whatever the cause – Emily missed the boat.  There would be no refund for the ticket, and the family’s thin gauze of hope dissolved in tears.  The family returned to their potatoes and cried.  It hardly seemed a time for gratitude.

The next time I don’t like what’s happening (and it will be soon), perhaps I’ll pause just a second before reacting.  In the long view, life rarely looks as bad as in a troubled moment.  That was especially true for Emily’s family.  Because just off the coast of Ireland, the Lusitania sank.

Whatever we grieve, miss, wish for or hurt over — the story’s not over yet.  And just think of all the good times we would have missed with Grandma Emily. Not to mention that my husband would have been someone else!  As Alphonse Karr said, “I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

Or maybe I’d just prefer to be grumpy.  LOL@wltribune.com.

Rita Corbett is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Advisor.


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