September’s theme is “Silver Linings: Finding the good.” Sometimes I think that life is a constant search for silver linings. I have to admit that until a few years ago I wasn’t really concerned with finding the good in the bad. I wouldn’t say I wallowed in the bad but I definitely liked to splash around in it.
Sometimes I did it because I needed something to write about. And to be honest, writing about the hard times is easier and more fun to read than writing about the good times. I’m not a chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of guy unless the story is written from the chicken’s perspective.
Recently, though, I’ve realized how many regrets I have. I hesitate to say that because I don’t know a single person who will admit to having regrets. They could be in the hospital with their legs jammed into their neck and they would still say they don’t regret skateboarding off the roof of their garage. I, on the other hand, have a whole house full of regrets. Seriously. I write them down on little slips of paper and many of them find their way to hidden corners of my apartment. If you were with me right now you could probably jam your hand inside one of these couch cushions and find something I wrote in 2009. It might say, “It’s never funny to introduce your girlfriend as ‘your old lady.’”
Yes, I actually did that. I thought it was funny because she was obviously young and beautiful. Turns out she didn’t feel that way inside so she believed from then on that I thought she looked like an old lady. I still can’t believe I did something that dumb. Years later after we broke up I wondered how many things I had said trying to be funny that she took seriously but never told me. How much of our breakup was caused by my desperate need to be funny?
Now whenever I think of something funny I pause for a moment and wonder who I might hurt by saying it. I may not wring every laugh out of a situation but at least I’m not going through life using my wit like a wrecking ball. I still regret hurting that woman but at least now I can say there are a lot of people I won’t be hurting in the future because that lesson went deep. One of the best things that came out of that lesson was learning how to be a better host of this show. Five years ago I would have tried to get a laugh every time I stepped onstage between stories. Now I I can walk up there after a heartbreaking story and just say, “Thank you so much. That was beautiful.”
Earlier this summer I took a big risk and asked my son what I did wrong as a parent. It occurred to me that I really had no right to give anyone parenting advice without asking my own son if it worked on him. It took him two days to believe that I wasn’t fishing for compliments. He first told me all the positive things he remembered from growing up and then when he ran out of those I said, “Ok, now tell me what you wish I hadn’t done.”
So he told me. And it was just as hard to hear as you think it was. Luckily, it wasn’t anything you’d call CPS over. Most of the things he remembered weren’t things I had done but things I had said. He told me how much it hurt when I said, “I can’t believe you don’t know your times tables.” All these years he had that inside him and I never knew how much it hurt. I do remember saying it and I’d give anything now to take it back. I wish I had found a better way to express my frustration that night. I have no idea how I can find a silver lining in this. How in the world can I find something positive in making my son feel stupid?
Right now the best I can do is be patient with the people in my life who frustrate me. I can remind myself that when I get frustrated it’s more about me than it is about them. It doesn’t seem like enough but it’s the best I can come up with right now. I’ve spent most of my life assuming no one remembered what I said. Now I know, thanks to a kid who still loves me, that a lot of people remember what I say so I better be careful what I say.
And that’s the kind of story we’re looking for. Bring a true 8-minute-or-less story about finding a silver lining in something you might otherwise regret. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big thing or a little thing. It could be something you did or maybe didn’t do. What was something positive that came out of it and how did it change you from then on?
Remember to keep it clean and practice your story out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.
I hope to see you on September 28 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.