One day a while ago I was on the phone with a good friend. She had just finished catching me up on all the things that were going wrong in her life. And you know what I said? I said, “Tomorrow is another day.” My friend laughed. “Another one like today?” she said. “Anything else good you can tell me? In that case, clear the way to the cliff, I’m gonna jump!”
Then we spent the next fifteen minutes laughing about all the little bits of useless advice people give one another, that fog up our psychic lenses. We’ve all gotten advice like that, and we all give it, from time to time.
Imagine this: You’re having a run of bad luck. Your ankle breaks. Your investments tank. Your colonoscopy is next week. The post office has been delivering your bills to the wrong address and your good credit is about to go bad. And then someone tells you to have a positive attitude, or some variation of it, like “look at the glass half full,” “cheer up,” “look on the bright side,” and the ever-popular “things could get worse” –to which I always want to say, “really, like HOW?”
You are late for an appointment and you can’t find the car keys. Your wallet is missing. You make a last minute pit stop in the bathroom and the flapper thingie unhinges and it won’t flush. Then the phone rings, you let the machine answer and it turns out to be the call you have been waiting for for weeks, but by the time you grab the receiver, the speaker has just finished saying he is going on a four week vacation (you can hear the boarding call in the background) and won’t be available until next month and hangs up. And what does someone — usually someone who really cares, who is in the general vicinity of your ongoing disaster — say to you? “Relax,” of course. “Take it easy.” “Calm down.” Or the new favorite, “Breathe.”
Oh, I know, don’t bother telling me. We all mean well. We just aren’t thinking. Because, really, what good does it do to tell you to take it easy when you are in the middle of taking it hard? Isn’t it evident that if you could take it easy, you would? I don’t know about you, but hearing “it’s okay” when I know clearly it is very much NOT okay only makes me feel worse. Actually, it makes me so mad I want to chew a rug.
My mother’s two favorites, as I was growing up, was, “Wash your hands and face, you’ll feel better,” and “Don’t you care,” the latter of which always made me grind my teeth and say, “But I DO care!”
” Let a smile be your umbrella?” Yeah, try it, in the rain.
I guess my own favorite bit of advice is something I hear all the time: “Have a sense of humor,” which is kind of like saying to someone, “Be tall.”
I guess if I had more of a sense of humor, I would laugh the whole advice thing off. But then again, if I had less of a sense of humor, I wouldn’t have been able to write this.
Any favorite pieces of useless advice you’d like to share?