Upside!

When a particular tragedy or disaster is bad enough, you can feel a deep sense of internal guilt or even externally-imposed shame for trying to find the silver lining. It’s as if certain times are so dark that no light is permitted; you must dedicate every emotional receptor to experiencing the pain, sparing none for even a spark of joy.

I reject that notion.

I think it’s important to pay tragedy the pain it’s due. I think it’s important to feel and acknowledge loss. But in those darkest times, that’s exactly when it’s most important that you find any tiny shred of positivity. That’s the rope to pull you out of the hole.

Don’t be flippant. Don’t be callous. But it is absolutely okay – good, even – to allow yourself the comfort of small miracles.

And don’t judge others for them! Many of us have had very bad years. But if someone has found a small positive within it, don’t begrudge them. Don’t make remarks like “oh well, I’m glad at least YOU made out great in a global pandemic, that makes it all worth it.” People need moments of hope. Don’t dump on them when they get them, especially when they’re few and far between.

If surrounding you are 359 degrees of darkness and 1 degree of light, it’s good to turn your face towards that one ray of hope. That’s the direction you want to walk, after all.

A few people I know have a small tradition where whenever something really, really bad is happening, they’ll look for some incredibly minor but positive result, and then they’ll all enthusiastically yell “Upside!” They might be rushing someone to the hospital, but then after they’ve gotten them safely inside someone will say “hey, that really good Mexican place is right near here,” and then they’ll all yell “Upside!” It puts a smile on their faces, chases away the darkness a little. Only a callous jerk would accuse them of wanting the hospital trip just to get a chance to visit an otherwise inconvenient restaurant. But if you can build up a little resistance to the crushing weight of despair that can be brought on by grave enough tragedies, I consider that a very good thing.

An upside.

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