It Could Always Be Worse

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by Suzanne Reisler Litwin

During a gorgeous hot summer night, I was out walking with a couple of girlfriends.  We decided to walk downtown to find a quaint place to eat supper. We walked for about an hour.  While walking the girls started to vent! To vent means to get the steam out. To discuss everything that is causing psychological, emotional, or physical distress.  The topics can be as simple as an ingrown toenail to an untimely death.  Nothing is spared and everything is addressed.

In some cases, venting may cause your arms to swing, feet to stomp, voices to yell, and hair to be pulled.  Actually, it may look like a visual display of madness.

Last night, my friend’s frustration was unnerving.  So much so that it brought her to tears. “Where to put it?” she kept asking. “Where do I put all this frustration? It’s eating up me alive!”

A calming glass of wine in a charming little Italian restaurant was a great temporary solution for her.  This place created a relaxing effect we all appreciated.   With tiramisu and espresso coffee, we continued to help her answer personal questions.

One friend suggested, “You know… it could always be worse.”

Silence came over the table…

I’ve heard that expression many times. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make any sense. I know what it’s supposed to indicate.  It’s supposed to indicate that whatever your burden is, another person’s burden could probably be worse than yours. Here’s the worse part, you should always be grateful your burden is not worse!

The expression is an expression of dismissal.

Everything in life could always be worse, even death.  What about the measurement of how a person dies?   From a terrible suffering death to the silent, die in your sleep kind of death. It could always be worse and in most cases it is.

In turn, one person’s frustration could be another person’s pleasure.  The measurement of what could possibly be worse is infinite!  Therefore the statement, “It could always be worse”, is always true and unmeasurable. It’s actually an oxymoron!

Did that statement make my friend feel any better? No! What it did do was make her frustration senseless, meaningless, and irrelevant.  With that statement, there was no acknowledgement of her feelings.  It was a pointless and a moot statement because every burden in life can always be worse!

Getting back to my friend.  Her frustration belongs to her and acknowledging it is the best approach.  She’s entitled to feel any way she wants to simply based on her own life experiences.  Her happiness or frustration is unmeasurable and not to be compared to anything or anyone else.  This is her reality at this time of her life.  As a friend, the best position to take is to be an active compassionate listener.

To say, it can always be worse, it can always be worse.  To say, it’s all good, well that’s strictly fictional. Even in fiction, you need something contrasting to make a story interesting.

I suppose, “It’s as good as it gets”!  Hey! Don’t get me started with that one!!!

Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education.  She is a writing instructor at The Cummings Centre. She writes a weekly column in The Suburban Newspaper and at the West Island Blog. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban Newspaper, West Island Blog, Wise Women Canada, The Metropolitain, and Women on the Fence. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. Visit suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.

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