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Lemons or Sugar?

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Yep, life’s tough. Everyone says it. Everyone knows it. Everyone has experienced it on some degree. I see no issue admitting this truth. But it’s all about perspective. If we can all agree that life has its ups and downs, then great. The problem comes when we start deciding our downs are more important or detrimental than everyone else’s. It’s this familiar “why me?” line of thinking that is so dangerous.

I recently took a trip to Amsterdam. My sister and I flew standby all the way there and all the way back. The trip took about 50 hours total over six flights and lots of time spent in airports. It was grueling. Twenty hours into our return trip, we missed our connecting flight by less than ten minutes and wound up having to stay an extra night away from home. The “why me?” sentiment was strong in my emotions.

I know what you’re thinking: “Poor girl had the opportunity to fly to Amsterdam and was tired from her little trip and now she is feeling bad for herself.” I know. It’s ridiculous. How could I possibly complain when I got to take a trip to Amsterdam with my sister for an uncommonly low fare? But there it is.

For the most part, you and me, we can get what we want. And we expect to get it. When we want it. How we want it. End of story. If I want a sandwich, I go to a shop and I buy one. If I want to see a movie, I sit back and watch one. Popcorn with that? Of course! In other words, we don't have to settle for lemons, we generally get the lemonade.

On the occasion when we don’t get what we want, when we want, how we want it, we expect somebody else to make it right. I’m the victim here, somebody else is the culprit. How is the world going to make it right for me? I ordered a double tall half-soy, half-skim latte with one pump of hazelnut. Not right? Make it again and give me something else on the house because you wasted my time. I’m innocent, you’re at fault.

It’s called playing the victim card.

Like a joker in a deck of cards, it’s a guarantee. Throw it out and the world must cave to let you win the hand. But in life we aren’t limited to only two precious victim cards in our deck. We play the card, and then we pick it up and play it again. However many times we want.

On my trip we missed our original flight back to the States because the plane was overbooked. As standby passengers, we have last priority, so naturally, we got the boot. In no way were we victims. We were aware that it was a gamble and we accepted the consequences of losing. But the service desk agents were concerned. As soon as we explained the situation they were offering ways to “fix the problem.” Honestly, I was impressed. But there was no reason for them to bend over backwards to fix something because nothing was broken. We were standby and didn’t get on. Roll us to the next flight and wish us luck.

On the other hand, had they been rude and uncaring, I probably would have taken issue. I mean, at least show a little sympathy, my day just got a lot longer! I missed a flight. MY day got worse. MY time is being wasted. I have no power over the situation. Me, my, I, mine, ME.

The truth is, we live in a world of “me.” We are so good at pulling the victim card that we hardly flinch. We actually feel justified using it. We’re a bunch of guiltless victims wondering why the world is making things so difficult for us. But our complaints are about as valid as me feeling sorry for myself on my long trip home from Europe.

Life has so much good in it, yet we tend to focus on the bad. But why? What does that get us? In most cases there is a fleeting sense of verification when our troubles are recognized. But then we are left with the helpless feeling of “why me?” It’s a stressful negativity that is 100% self-inflicted. And it can be avoided. It’s as simple as leaving the victim card tucked away in the bottom drawer. The next time the waiter accidentally spills water in your lap, or the family with three infants sits behind you on the plane, or the telemarketer calls you right when you’ve sat down for dinner, refrain from the drama of “why me.” The brief sympathy that may be garnered is not worth the stress and negativity that accompanies it.

Yes, we all have our ups and downs. We will all experience the good and we will all have to weather the bad. But throughout the highs and lows just remember, when life gives you lemons and you make lemonade, life must have also given you sugar. In a world where we tend to dwell on the lemons, I challenge you to focus on the sugar.

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