I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Stuck in my Throat

Have you ever had a bad day? A really, really bad day?A bad day is when… Your horn goes off accidentally and stays stuck while following a group of Hell's Angels. That’s a bad day. A bad day is when… Your birthday cake collapses – true personal story here -- from the weight of the candles. That’s another bad day.

Here’s a true story. From Germany. Two German motorists travelling towards each other through thick fog. Visbility zero. Being very cautious, they approach at a snail’s pace. At precisely the wrong moment, their heads are both outside the windows when they smack together. Both men sent to the hospital. Both cars are fine. Now that’s a bad day.

That’ a bad headache too.

Bad days are a part of life, aren’t they? But what if – what if -- there was one thing you could do to kill a bad day? You get this one thing right – just this one thing -- and everything changes perspective. Want to know what it is? No, not aspirin like the German guys need. Not Golden Spoon either.

The antidote to any bad day is joy. And joy is the byproduct of gratitiude. Being grateful.

In 1982 a guy named Steven Callahan was sailing the Atlantic alone when his boat was struck by a whale and sank. The whale had no insurance and swam the scene of the crime. The guy was beyond the shipping lanes and now adrift in an emergency life raft. His supplies were slim and his chances for survival even slimmer. But when some fishermen found him 76 days later – the longest any man had ever survived alone without a woman to tell him what to do – he was 1800 miles off course, much skinnier but alive.

Talk about a crash course diet.

The story of his survival is amazing. He made a makeshift spear to kill fish that swam nearby. He ingeniously created a method to evaporate sea water to make it drinkable. It wasn’t triple filtered Starbucks water but it was drinkable. He took seaweed and a safety pin and made an iPod. OK, that was a McGyver episode, sorry, sorry. The thing that’s absolutely transcendent – the thing that blew my woolly socks off -- is the way he managed to stay grateful even when all hope seemed lost. Even when his life raft sprung a leak and he had to keep pumping it up for 33 days straight, he kept telling himself over and over: “I can handle this. Compared to others… I’m fortunate. I’m going to have great forearm muscles like Popeye.“

This guy finds gratitude alone in the middle of the Atlantic. I have trouble finding a smile in the middle of traffic. It was his ability to fight off negativity and stay cheerful even over the smallest little victories that made him – under these circumstances, a survivor. Finding that joy inspite of circumstance. That’s the trick. That's where life begins. Embracing sober reality right now with a merry heart. That's where a bottle of wine can really help things along, but mostly it's gratitude.


Gratitude turns what you have into enough, problems into gifts, lawyers into humans, “This situation sucks” into “At least I’m not adrift on the ocean.” I can remember when I was adrift in life. I had a failed marriage and a failed business and a mattress on the ground. That wasn’t all that long ago. You know what got me through many many bad days? Remembering to be grateful. That I was healthy. That I had a sound mind. That I had a second chance.

So next time you have a bad day – really, really bad day. Maybe you’ll remember to have gratitude. And maybe that gratitude will turn into joy. And maybe, just maybe that joy will turn your bad day into a better day. And maybe – this is the point -- your better day will help someone else through their bad day and the cycle continues. And finally that day ends and we all wake up to a brand new day – and we get to do it all over again with joy.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

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