Belfast Telegraph

Why there are always reasons to be cheerful

By Lindy McDowell

It had been one of those mornings from the pits of hell where everything that could go wrong had already gone wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. I was standing waiting for the lift in work, wishing I was anywhere else on earth when one of my, shall we say, worthier colleagues approached.

"How's things?" he made the mistake of asking.

Well, he asked, I gave it to him.

The stuffed bellyful of my woes and my problems and my observations about the utter, awful unfairness of it all.

"Ach, sure you don't know you're living," he said. "You should count your blessings,'' he said. "Think of others much worse off.''

And then, just in case I couldn't call to mind examples, he began to list the many and varied cases of those more deserving of compassion.

The lift came, we stepped aboard and as it climbed we stood in silence, solemnly contemplating my relative great, good fortune.

As I disembarked and headed towards my work did I feel uplifted by that timely lecture on those worse off than myself?

Did I hell!

On top of everything else I now had the guilt-trip to contend with.

One thing I do know about mood enhancement is that being preached to about how lucky you are doesn't actually help.

And, boy, could we all do with a bit of mood enhancement these days.

Money is tight, prices are soaring, the headlines are unrelentingly grim and if the weather was being supplied by a State agency we'd all be suing.

Most of us in Northern Ireland can remember, of course, times when life was much, much, much darker than it is today. We all know the Troubles we've seen.

But these days it seems you just can't get away from the all encompassing bleakery. Maybe it's the cacophony of doom merchants in our midst reporting and dissecting every plunge and stutter on the stock market.

Bad enough having to worry about our own bank accounts. Now we're also expected to lose sleep over that of Silvio Berlusconi.

I laughed the other day at that research which found that 7 o'clock two Saturday nights ago was, allegedly, the happiest time of the year. This being based on the fact that most people said they loved Saturday early evening and that August was their favourite month.

There's adding two and two and getting Utopia.

But August, as Edna said, can also be a wicked month. Any month can be, given the right circumstances and the wrong weather.

And true, the recession is hitting people hard - some really, seriously hard. But as Mr Dickens said (and as we know from our collective past) the worst of times can also be the best of times.

The things that cheer us and uplift us and make us happy are not dictated by the trajectory of FTSE or the tumult of the evening news.

Without wishing to stray too far into Patience Strong/Hallmark cards/Fergie, Duchess of York territory, it is those more important things like friends and family and their health and ours.

It is a child coming into the world or a new relationship blossoming or a meeting with an old friend. It is a smile from a stranger. It is some personal achievement or a day just turning out unexpectedly well.

Our lives may be touched by the great events of the age, but they are more truly milestoned by the births and deaths of those close to us and illuminated by the simple kindnesses of those around us.

And whatever else there is a shortage of, there is still plenty of that.

There's still a sense of humour out there, too. Especially that black sense of humour that comes into its own in trying times like these.

Like the storekeeper who, amid the English riots, pinned that notice on his door: "Due to the imminent collapse of society this store will be closing at 6pm."

It's that sort of sarky stoicism that assures us that society isn't entirely headed down the tubes. Even if we must now accept that summer probably is ...


From Belfast Telegraph