One Good Thing

Ah, the holiday season. Time for radio stations driving you mad with repetitive music, incessant ads for the latest toys (which, I’ll grant you, are much less annoying than campaign ads), decorations, lights, overeating, and odd family traditions.

It is also time for thoughtful reflection. Reflection on the past year, making plans for the future. And in a few days, a day set aside for giving thanks. It’s enough to make me give in to temptation to wax philosophical.

Last weekend I had plenty of time for reflecting. Traveling will do that. Especially when you travel alone. And you get stuck in traffic.

Rush hour traffic.

In Chicago.

I’m not saying there’s nowhere in the world with worse traffic. I know there is. But Chicago is the first place I’ve lived where people actually sounded proud of how bad the traffic was. “Chicago traffic is worse than New York traffic,” I was told when I moved here, as though that were some sort of selling point. (Maybe it is, but for New York.)

So, anyway, I’m driving myself to the airport after a long week, and a trip that takes about 35 minutes without traffic turns into a 2 hour extravaganza of brake lights, people cutting other people off, and always feeling like I picked the losing lane, just like I always seem to do at the grocery store.

With nobody else in the car, I had nothing to distract me from thinking about how much I hated being stuck in traffic. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t until later, when the irritation wore off, that I was able to attempt some philosophy.

And then I thought back to something I heard a few weeks ago. When you find yourself in a situation that is not meeting your expectations, before you write off the whole thing as a lost cause, look for one good thing. The original statement was referring to a situation like a lecture, play, movie, or similar, but it could apply to anything.

Really, it’s just another way of saying look for the silver lining, but it’s a way that fits my head better. Silver linings always struck me as a way of saying that something less than ideal was going to have a good outcome after all. That might be true, but when I’m feeling frustrated, I usually don’t want to hear it. On the other hand, looking for one good thing, I can handle. Instead of having to spin the entire situation, I can admit that some things didn’t turn out the way I would have liked, and just focus on finding one detail that was good. And if I get that detail and hold on to it, then the experience has some meaning that I can take away, and I can go home without feeling like I just wasted my time.

So this holiday season, while contemplating thanks, and peace and joy, and standing in the seemingly endless lines at the store to pay for my purchases, I will be attempting to find one good thing.

I am sorry to report, however, that I have yet to find a good thing about being stuck in traffic for two hours. If you can figure that one out, let me know.

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