Today, for the first time in three and half months I went for a walk with my good friend. It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air and as we embarked on our typical route we noticed some dark, ominous looking clouds not too far off in the distance. “It’ll be fine,” we reassured each other. We had checked the weather, there was only a 10% chance of rain, and we were certain that those clouds were on their way out and definitely not on their way in to where we were standing.
Well, both we, and the weather predictors, couldn’t have been more wrong. It began drizzling when we reached our halfway mark, and about three minutes after that the sky opened up and we got caught in a deluge. We raced to put our phones safely away in pockets and waistbands, and after about five minutes of driving rain, the hail began.
It was actually kind of comical. There we were, taking our first stroll together in such a long time, and we get dumped on by a flash flood complete with balls of ice pelting onto our bare skin. Rather than get annoyed or grumpy at the situation however, we kept giggling at ourselves as we pushed our bedraggled hair out of our eyes and made silly remarks like, “Good thing we put on sunscreen!” and “Someone should really come up with hailscreen!”
There was nowhere to run for cover except back where we started, so we walked on, our feet sloshing in our now soaked sneakers, trying to remember a time when we had been so fully drenched before that didn’t include taking a shower. When we finally reached the underpass where we could get a brief respite from the torrents, we met a similarly soaked-to-the-skin runner trying to wring out his shirt. Our eyes met and we all just laughed at the insane situation we were in, assuring each other that we were not complete dolts and we had all in fact checked the weather report before venturing out when we did.
The rain stopped shortly afterward, and my friend and I slogged home in different directions in our sopping, water logged shoes. As we parted she said, “Well, we’ll definitely always remember THIS walk, huh?” It was such a ridiculous situation, and one that most definitely could have been miserable. There were plenty of reasons to be upset about what had happened: The fact that we were as far away as possible from the entrance/exit when the rain started. (“Of course!” we said, laughing.) The fact that we were completely unprepared for the weather conditions and we ended up uncomfortable and soaking wet as a result. (“My shoes and socks are so wet that I can hear them squishing,” she said with a grin.) The fact that my friend didn’t have pockets so she ended up putting her phone into the waistband of her pants, where it eventually slid down to a much less desirable place at one point. (To which we howled with laughter, and were grateful that she didn’t end up taking a picture with it!)
I’ve said it many times before: It’s all in how you look at it. It didn’t occur to either one of us to be angry or upset about the situation. But I know plenty of people who would have taken this unfortunate turn of events to get perturbed, ticked off, annoyed, or self-pitying, and they would have made sure that everyone else they talked to that day knew about the rotten situation they had found themselves in. Some people I know would have used it as an excuse to complain about how the bad things always happen to them, to focus on how unlucky they are, and to quote Murphy’s Law as their own perpetual creed.
Personally, I don’t have time for any of that. Was I cold and wet for about 30 minutes of my life? Yes. Are my shoes going to take a good 2 days to dry out? Probably. Was it how I had planned for this part of my day to go? Nope. But so what? Yes I got caught unexpectedly in a rain and hail storm, but I got to laugh about it with a dear friend and it’s one of those unpredicted and hilariously funny experiences that we shared and will never forget.
We can apply “So what?” to so many experiences that don’t go the way we wanted or that are surprisingly unpleasant. The unexpected traffic jam, the extra long line at the DMV, the inclement weather when we had planned a special outdoor event - no one enjoys these things, especially because they remind us how out of control some of these things are in our lives. In these times, we absolutely have the choice to laugh at them, and make the best of the situation, or to get upset by them, and have them potentially ruin our entire day. This isn’t easy to do when pessimism is our default setting, but stopping in the middle of what has gone wrong, taking note that it’s not as bad as it seems, and then choosing to say something to ourselves like, “So what?” or “Who cares?” or “It really doesn’t matter so much,” can cause a shift in our very existence. It can turn a frustrating situation into something that’s manageable and bearable, and depending on what’s happening, you can turn it into something funny and laughable, which is, in turn, you taking control of the situation in the best possible way you can.
So the next time something unexpectedly unfortunate happens to you, make the choice to find the humor in it, or at least to not find the misery in it. Make the choice to laugh in the rain, no matter what happens to your shoes, or where your phone ends up.