Reframing the bad

Life is messy, but it’s not all bad


Photo by Taylor Hagmann

Maurice with garbage bags taped where the back windshield should be.

I have the worst luck when it comes to cars. I had a Mazda3 for four months until it was totaled last November when my sisters and I hit a deer while driving home from my grandmother’s funeral in Chicago.

My replacement car, a Camry named Isabelle, was totaled in July when my friend and I hit a deer driving home from our vacation in Montana.

(No, I wasn’t driving either time.)

Now, this.

I got done at work on Saturday around four in the morning, walked out to my car, Maurice, and found out my back windshield had been smashed in.

(Yes, I name my cars, except for the Mazda, which refused to tell me its name.)

I must have angered the car gods, somehow. Though, to be fair, it isn’t just my cars that have bad fortune. It often seems like everything I touch falls apart — the opposite of King Midas, early in the story.

It’s so disheartening having so much bad luck. It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook.

I have to learn to recognize that these phenomena aren’t because of something bad I did, a lovely little lesson ingrained in me by the fundamentalist church I attended as a child.

Sometimes I envision God sitting on the sidelines of my life, watching me struggle as he laughs and throws more s— my way. But I have no choice but to deal with it. To overcome it. To become stronger because of it. To be the best me I can be so that I can help others overcome their misfortunes.

My best friend repeatedly asks me who cursed me.  I joke that I either have a really bad guardian angel or a really, really good one.

It’s so easy to look at all the misfortune that frequently disrupts the quiet life I desire. I would so love to just have sunshine and rainbows for the rest of my life: bookshelves laden with stories to read, mugs full of tea, a kitten on my lap and someone to snuggle. But the reality is, even if I had all those things, life would still be rocky.

Life is messy. People let you down. Accidents happen. Things break. Loved ones die. It’s never-ending. Coupled with my anxiety and depression, it can be a lot.

It’s really important, then, that I learn to reframe these negative events. There are definitely bad things that happen that are just flat-out bad, but, as the saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining.” The trick is in finding it.

I’m not saying changing my outlook will change the bad things that have happened, but it does help put them in perspective.

Both times my vehicles were totaled, no one in the vehicle was injured. Last November, my parents could have spent the night in the hospital by the bedsides of all three of their children after putting my paternal grandmother to rest, but we were all perfectly safe.

In Montana, the state with the second-highest odds of an animal-related collision in 2019 (one in 48), the speed limit is 80 mph. We could have easily rolled the vehicle, but we didn’t.

And last night, at least I wasn’t in the car.

These are things that happen. And they suck, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve been through so much worse, and I’ve made it through every time. I’ll make it through this one, too.

Hagmann can be reached at [email protected]