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The Upside of the Downside

I’ve seen people lose big lately — the sudden death of a young mother, an entire production staff lost to an INS sweep, and flooded homes in Louisiana. In all of these big losses, I ask: “Where are the big wins?” They are inseparable, you know. In every change is gain and loss. And it’s not my mere musing, but laws of physics: what goes up must come down; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; nature abhors a vacuum.

So if the initial loss for now occludes the gain, keep your eyes, ears, and spirit open to the opposite and equal (or better) gift.  It’s waiting for your attention.

Homework:  If you’re experiencing loss from change of any magnitude, where can you find the up for that down?

4 Responses to The Upside of the Downside

  1. Marna September 6, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Well said. But some particularly hard hits can take years to reveal the opportunities of the upside. It can be a long and difficult walk… That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you hang in there and keep your eyes open and remain patient and optimistic, ultimately you’ll be able to see the gifts.

    • Dodie Jacobi September 6, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      You’re right Marna!! It can take awhile for the upside to emerge – long enough that we may not even make the connection to the loss of yore.

  2. Phil Kinen September 12, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them” – Isak Dinesen
    No matter what the magnitude of change is; no matter the loss from the magnitude of change; no matter the gain from the magnitude of change; no matter what the downside or the upside is, there will always be “the” story attached to it. That’s the flipside. That story contains all aspects, facts, and components, therein, that identifies solely and uniquely connects the up/down event.
    So, one could say “Well then all we need to do in order to change this major downer into a real pick me up is simply change the story!” Changing a story has serious consequences that ultimately takes an authentic event and devalues it to a misrepresentation and deceit. And, on the opposite side, you can’t achieve your mood transformation by just changing how you tell the story either. That also takes away from its authenticity and would be akin to “putting a spin on it”. The answer is actually in the middle of story and its telling; and it’s simply this:
    The story needs a rewrite.
    I received a gigantic downer on June 6, 2002, and the story was my mother died. For twenty hours, I moped around my Kansas City telling my friends of the sudden and unexpected heart attack that took her so unfairly from this world. I stuck with that story up to the arrival of Mom’s house in St. Francis on the other side of the state of Kansas. The house was completely filled with people and it took me nearly an hour to wade through this crowd to get to my brother, Peter, and get the full run down. We found an empty corner unfolded the events of her death.
    That morning, Mom and her pal, Mary Lee were headed on a typical three hour drive to Denver in her big red 2000 Buick Oldsmobile. (She always corrected you if you said red. It’s Raspberry Ice.) They were to take in a matinee of a play, have an early supper at a new restaurant and pick up her monthly huge haul of liquor. This was to replenish her bar for the daily happy hours she held at her home and was an open invitation to anyone in the community from 5:30 to 7 pm. Mary Lee had not heard from Mom, grew concerned, and called my sister-in-law, Alice, at the high school where she worked. Alice left for Mom’s house and was accompanied by my brother’s best friend and the high school principal, Scott “Hoagie” Carmichael. The house was locked up tight and all windows were curtained which forced Hoagie and the aid of his linebacker build to break down the back door. He found her lying lifeless on her kitchen floor. She was in a Hawaiian muumuu that served as a nightgown. She died either before going to bed or when she awoke that morning.
    Peter finished and just stood there quietly looking at me in his striking and ever usual neutral soulful look on his face. Striking because he stood at 6’8’ and still maintained his quarterback physique from playing college football; neutral because he now ran the family farm and his word was always the last. Unfortunately, that was never the case when his brother, the actor, was around so I went into summation. I looked at the packed house of all sorts of people laughing, and, drinking, and crying, and celebrating, and telling stories. So, my mother, at the age of 72, was still running around St. Francis volunteering and helping so many friends and members of her community that she daily opened her doors (and promptly shut at 7 sharp) to celebrate another day’s end. Every day, the red (Raspberry Ice) Buick Oldsmobile would drive down Main Street to deliver flowers, cakes, books, magazine articles and other gifts to people that needed to be remembered or thanked. She didn’t grow frail and immobile and to eventually become a burden on the family and not have access to people and her car trips to Denver for culture and booze. Nope, she went when she was on the top of her game, in the kitchen she designed and coveted. And to top it off, much to her chagrin, she was discovered by Hoagie who was always pulling pranks and gags on her and long ago naming her muumuu’s her sex suits.
    Right there I did the rewrite. It wasn’t a downer anymore. My Mom didn’t die suddenly or unexpectedly. I now had an upbeat, newly-crafted story (not a new story) that honored and celebrated a zest for life which only incited more and more stories. Two days later, I left St. Francis for Kansas City feeling fortunate and proud to have her not only in my life, but being a guiding force of my life. And she constantly reminded me of this.
    Right before I left, I stopped to wash my car at the automated car wash on the outskirts of town. Well, an attendant appeared out of nowhere and told me it would be an honor to wash my car. (Mind you, when is there ever an attendant at an automated car wash and he washes your car??). He told me that Mom would bring that big red Buick Oldsmobile (Raspberry Ice) for a wash at least four times a week. He never allowed to wash it and would do it for her. She tried to pay him but he never took her money. “I would tell your Mom, ‘Pat, I don’t see why I can’t do something nice for a person who does so many nice things for me and everybody else. I’m not taking your money’ and she’d always say ‘Well then, I’m going to say some prayers for you. Those you have to take!’ and I said, I’ll take them!”
    If I hadn’t rewritten the story, I would have continued to mope and “grieve properly” and sullenly head to KC sad, empty and in a dirty car. When a person is going through that horrible change process of catastrophic to acceptance, they are in a state of survival. Only the bare basics are allowed clarity. During that time, it is difficult to recognize let alone comprehend all parts necessary parts to complete “the” story. Eventually, time begins to heal and a rewrite process can begin. This is what occurs for traumatized or victimized patient’s healing process and ultimately recovery. They face the horrible incident, objectively pull the fragmented pieces together in order, and rewrite the whole and complete story that validates and authenticates a life filled with meaning and value.
    My suggestion would be this. Know there will be downsides and upsides all through life. We should expect them and we should expect the stories that come with it. Develop a mind-set of being objective and accepting of the story as it comes. Be aware and ignore the downside aspects, and not dwell in their darkness. Start writing the story with the upside in mind. You will have accelerated your healing process; have more time to relax and enjoy life; and, open yourself to a bounty of more upsides as they come along!
    Your story. How you tell it. How people relate to it!

    • Dodie Jacobi September 12, 2012 at 6:12 am #

      Great story about your mom, her Raspberry Ice car, and spirit – thanks for sharing her Phil!

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