One of my phavorite phrases is “that is one possible interpretation.”
I was taught this phrase many, many moons ago and it has proved to be a very helpful saying.
For example, let’s say you see someone with chipped nail polish. You might think, “Wow, she doesn’t care enough to keep her nails manicured.” You might think, “Guess she’s been really worried about something.” You might think, “Yikes, that is a really unflattering color on her, no wonder she’s been chipping at it all day.” Or you might think, “Gosh, the fact that she managed to get showered and dressed today given that she has three children under three years old is pretty impressive.” Then again, you might think, “Are you kidding me, Mom? You have nail polish remover on the counter. Find a cotton ball and get busy.”
See how many interpretations there are? And it’s not limited to nail polish.
Have you ever gotten really angry at someone? To the point where no matter what they say, you take offense?
“I can’t believe she texted ‘Good morning’ to me. That was the most condescending message I’ve ever gotten. I knew she was still angry about lending me her shirt. She didn’t even ask how I am today. Geesh! Who does she think she is anyway?! Next thing you know she’ll be calling the police!”
Note: How anyone can interpret all that from a text of ‘Good morning’ is beyond me. But I’ve seen it happen.
Next time you find yourself reacting, ask yourself: is this the only meaning or just one possible interpretation?
Some People Are Unhappy—Their Miserableness Isn’t About You
According to Wikipedia, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida satirizes feminism, women’s education, and Darwinian evolution, which were controversial topics in conservative Victorian England.
According to me, Princess Ida is about smart women, cross-dressing, and cranky royalty in the form of King Gama. The best part of the operetta (imho) is when King Gama sings:
Oh, don’t the days seem lank and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong,
And isn’t your life extremely flat
With nothing whatever to grumble at!
(The recording for your listening enjoyment:)
This is particularly useful for singing to small children who are particularly grumpy. (Yes, it has been sung to you. If you don’t remember, that probably means either you haven’t been very grumpy lately or I’m a rotten mother for not inflicting more Gilbert & Sullivan upon you. Or possibly both.)
The POINT of all this is that I have been thinking about grumpy people today and wondering why some people seem happier when they are unhappy. There are people who seem to simply relish the misery and disappointments in life. Don’t get me wrong—I know unfortunate things happen and we can’t just ignore that. But I don’t understand the people who feel the need to inflict their misery on others. Especially when “their misery” isn’t even really theirs.
I was talking with someone earlier today–her life is just a big ol’ bag of drama. Drama with her brother’s life, one family member causing drama with another family member, drama between two neighbors, drama between two colleagues…you get the point. None of these really have anything to do with her directly; she has chosen to take on the burden of the stress. I should explain that she is not observing or commenting on the situations–she owns them. It is a habit with her. Once one drama/tragedy/problem is solved, another one always seems to pop up. There are always multiple “catastrophic” situations in her life. And she generally shares them. At great and gory length.
It’s not obvious (at least it’s not obvious to me) why she wants to “own” all of these problems. Perhaps it makes her feel more important; perhaps it’s a control thing; perhaps she just likes wallowing in the misery of it all. What I do know is that her involvement in many of these situations is a choice. She is choosing much of the stress and choosing to respond to it in a very involved sort of way. The stress of it all causes her to frequently lash out in ways I don’t think she intends.
About a million years ago when I was in high school, I worked at Wendy’s. I remember distinctly one evening when I was asked to wash pots in the back. I was at the sink, grumpiest person on the planet, talking in my head about how miserable life was, when the restaurant got busy and I was called to work at the drive through window. Because I was talking to people, and because it was my job to be cheerful, I pretended I was happy. Funnily enough, in just a few minutes, I WAS happy.
Yes, “ick” happens. But often you can choose how you respond to it.
Hope you are choosing a happy day.
Bonus: If You Give Me Your Attention (also from Princess Ida). This is the one where he sings, “Yet everybody says I’m such a disagreeable man, and I can’t think why!” It seems appropriate, so I’m including it.