There is a quote that says, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I don’t know who said it, but it’s on the five magnets that adorn the employee fridge at my retail job, so I see it a lot. It’s a good reminder for when you work retail. My attitude can make the difference between creating a loyal customer and setting off a vengeful person out for my job (yes, those people do exist).
But over the last few weeks, the broader truth to this quote has become clear to me on several occasions.
1) A friend diagnosed with cancer reminds me every day to stop and appreciate the simple beauty of just being alive, and to stop procrastinating with healthcare appointments. Her determination to see the good in life, while being heart-breakingly honest about her cancer, makes the entire world of cancer seem a little bit less scary. Knowledge is the brightest light in the darkness of fear.
2) My grandmother, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last month, may have set a record for the shortest hospital stay after major abdominal surgery last week. Just four days after having a section of her colon removed, including a cancerous tumor, her appendix, and 20 lymph nodes, she walked (well, not literally. There are rules about that sort of thing, but she was more than capable of walking) out of the hospital. I imagine there were more than one relieved nurse to see her go. My grandmother refuses to submit to illness, and her strength is an inspiration.
3) A former sunday school student with a rare childhood brain cancer is smiling to beat the sun in every single picture I’ve seen of him, both pre and post diagnosis. He has a spirit that cannot be beaten down, not even by major surgery or inpatient hospital stays. He and his family’s devotion to making the most of every minute they have together reminds me of the importance of family, whether it’s biological or the ones we make ourselves.
4) A trip to Six Flags on Saturday got derailed (ha ha! Wait for it…) when one of the attractions broke down mid-ride. A hundred or so people were stuck on a train (get it now?), in the rapidly-cooling night, surrounded by grisly murder scenes. When it became clear that the stop was no longer a planned part of the ride, many people on the train got restless. Half an hour passed before park staff got on the microphone and announced that we would be evacuated from the hopelessly-stuck train and would have to exit the ride on foot.
At this news, even with a promised refund of the $10 ticket price, some passengers got angry. They complained about having to wait to get off the train, then about having to use a ladder to get off the train (the train seats sit about 3 1/2 feet off the ground, a huge step at night), then about having to walk through the woods by flashlight, then about having to stand in line, and then about having to stop at the exit of the park to get their refund. They couldn’t see the breakdown for what it was- a once-in-a-season chance to walk though professionally-constructed murder scenes on foot and emerge from the woods with the best haunted train ride story of them all. And seriously? The on-foot part may have been the scariest part of the otherwise tame ride.
In the end, Six Flags not only refunded the $10 ticket price of the ride, but the full $25 I had spent on an unlimited ride bracelet for the three speciality Fright Fest attractions. It would have been easier on their bottom line to just hand me $10, especially since I had already used the bracelet for other attactions, but they chose to refund the full amount, and offered the most sincere apology I’ve ever heard from a corporation. In the end, the only complaint I had about the park was over its rather revolting hot chocolate. Pro tip: bittersweet chocolate makes a terrible drink. This is magnified when it is served lukewarm.
Bad things are always going to happen, whether it’s a broken ride at an amusement park or a life-threatening illness of someone you love, or something in between. I’ve come to realize that how you react to those things makes all the difference. Choosing to search for the bright side, to cling to hope, and refusing to let the anger have you can turn an inconvience into an adventure and grief into joy.
Fate may occasionally deal you a bad hand, but you always get to choose how to play it.