1974’s “Young Frankenstein” is flush with quotable moments. If you haven’t watched it in a while, you should gather the family ’round the television after the Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the show. One of my favorite moments is when Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (that’s Fronkensteen) and his sidekick Igor (not Eye-gor) are doing a little middle-of-the-night grave robbing and you see them emerge from a freshly-dug grave, shoving a coffin out to the surface. Dr. Frankenstein spits dirt from his mouth and says, “What a filthy job.” “Could be worse,” replies Igor. “How?” Dr. Frankenstein asks, incredulously. “Could be raining,” Igor answers, right before the predictable clap of thunder, flash of lightning and torrent of rain.
It’s a classic slapstick comedic moment, and the punch line comes in handy for all sorts of situations, especially if it is already raining. November has presented many opportunities to use the line. By Saturday we had charted around 7.5 inches of rain for November in Rome, three inches above the historic average for the month. It has rained a lot in the last couple of weeks, in case you haven’t noticed.
November has also presented fodder for some fairly dramatic addendums to the phrase. “Could be forty degrees and raining,” for example. As I have walked my dogs in the intermittent chilly deluge the last couple of weeks, it has been easy to turn grumpy and feel a little sorry for myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in this perspective (at least Facebook tells me I’m not) and I thought this was the perfect seasonal moment to remind myself, and others, of some of my favorite keep-your-chin-up quotable moments from film and song. If you can’t come up with anything good to be thankful for tomorrow, you can at least be thankful that things aren’t worse, because Lord knows, they always could be.
No matter how you feel about the decidedly irreverent Monty Python film “Life of Brian” it is hard to argue with the wisdom of the catchy crucifixion ballad from the film.
Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
Always look on the bright side of life
Sometimes we can feel really abused and misunderstood. Verbal crucifixion is a very real thing on social media these days, but let’s take a deep breath and remind ourselves to always look on the bright side of life, then give a little whistle, instead of a nasty insult in response. Because things could always be worse, right?
While very real concerns exist in life on a daily basis, sometimes it is good to take a step back and realize that our predictions of doom are often far worse than actual outcome. John Prine says it well in describing a tense moment when Southern politeness goes awry at a small town four-way stop as the yield goes around and around and around in the appropriately titled song, “The Accident.” I’m tempted to include the whole song here because there are so many nuggets of wisdom in the way the story is presented, but the chorus says it best. As the witnesses observe the fender-bender that was really a close call, they can’t help but think of the many terrible things that could have happened:
They don’t know how lucky they are
They could have run into that tree
Got struck by a bolt of lightning
And raped by a minority.
An old friend used to refer to the “whatifas” in life. This song is the perfect reminder that you can really overdo the drama of a situation by looking to the whatifas. This season, let’s try to focus on how fortunate we are without giving any thought to what could be going wrong, because things could always be worse.
I am making light of a gloomy perspective to cheer us for the holiday, but I am keenly aware of just how seriously fortunate we are. As we have dealt with the literal flood of excess water here in Georgia, the folks of California would give anything to have a fraction of what we have in spades. If only we could control and dole out rations in these scenarios. I have been heartbroken hearing from friends who live near the fires about how horrific the situation is there. As my friends and I warmed ourselves around fires at a couple of different stops this weekend, the irony of the contrast between bounty and overload wasn’t lost. We live a daily precarious balance between feast and famine, and there is no better time to take a moment and acknowledge that truth than in the feast of this time of year. As we gather with family and friends and enjoy good company and decadent food, let’s be grateful for what we enjoy in bounty while others may be suffering famine that we cannot even imagine. If we are having a hard time remembering the things we can be thankful for in our lives, we can at least acknowledge that things can always be worse and for someone, somewhere, they likely are.
Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.