Sometimes when we’re going through something and it hurts, it feels like we’re never going to get out of it and it’s never going to not hurt. Clichéd expressions like “this too shall pass” don’t make us feel any better when we feel like we’re drowning.
There is no instant cure to sadness. Some sadness is unbearable. Sometimes I’ve felt that I could just about topple over with the weight of my feelings. So if you are in that place right now, know that you’re not alone. I extend my hand to you in empathy and I hope you’ll feel better down the road. Even if it does feel like a long road. A very long road.
To cheer you all up, though, I wanted to share one thing that helps me when I’m in the midst of the crisis and that is the useful phrase from the title: Bad Reality, Great Story. And what brought that to mind is my cheesecake. (I shared about the cheesecake here, and also about if I was going to be a spider or an eagle about it here.)
A few years ago, my younger son baked a cheesecake to enter in a cheesecake bake-off contest. He worked very precisely on all the measurements and put it in the oven, and then he had to go to work. He left me in charge of it with instructions that were so specific, I felt like I was babysitting. When I took the cake out, it had a few cracks on the top.
I thought I would decorate it with some pretty flowers to disguise the flaws. I went outside, picked flowers and put the blossoms all over the cheesecake. I felt like Picasso doing a little cake-decorating tableau on the side. I brought it to the cheesecake contest judges who looked at me…and then the cake…and then at me in horror. The flowers were oleander and they are so poisonous that none of the judges was willing to taste the cake. My son was eliminated from the contest. He was furious at me. But years later, what would you rather read about? “My son won a cheesecake contest.” Or, “I ruined my son’s cheesecake by decorating it with poisonous flowers.” Which is the better story?
So if you are in the midst of something difficult, try to turn it into art. You might not be able to laugh about it now, but at least you can transform it. Turn all your ache into art. The best writers take their sorrow and transform it. Write it all down. Write it all out. Write it to right it. Move your pen fast and write out everything you are feeling right now. That helps. And maybe you can use it for the novel you hope to write one day. Or an essay. A powerful example of this is Cheryl Strayed’s essay on grieving her mother here. Or turn it into a poem or a haiku. The haiku format – 7 syllables 5 syllables 7 syllables – is a good way to try to capture the moment. My friend Jane prefers writing sonnets. You want to send a scribble in? Please do.
What I wish is that we use our experiences as though we were reading them in our favorite novel. What would the hero do? Can you act like that hero? All heroes must go through the flames to find their stronger selves on the other side. That’s how we live our best chapter — even when it’s the worst chapter.
Remember: Coffee Giveaway in progress – a free pound of ground if you comment on the blog. You can also do some twitter magic or give me a thumbs-up on facebook and bingo! You’re entered.
Write it to right it.