JOPLIN, Mo. —
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the best piece of advice I ever received came about 34 years ago from the woman who would become my wife.
Becky and I were only newly acquainted at the time, both fresh survivors of broken marriages, determined to re-establish our lives personally and professionally.
I was already in my early 40s, on the cusp of middle age; she was more than a decade younger. After parting from her husband, she had no savings, while I had re-entered single life with real debts. I was also responsible for my three little daughters, each of whom inherited disabilities.
I can’t recall the subject of the conversation that called forth her wisdom, but it included cranky complaints from me that nothing was going well with my life.
Becky listened quietly, then shared her magic formula. “David,” she counseled, “whenever you’re faced with a problem, ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ Then ask yourself whether you can live with it.”
The value of this gem of advice, of course, is that it’s unlikely that the worst thing will happen. If perchance it does, you have already decided to accept and deal with it.
Of course, when the worst doesn’t happen, it’s cause for gratitude, and when good things do happen unexpectedly, it’s worth celebrating. In all the years I’ve known her, Becky has never waited for an occasion to celebrate.
As soon as we were legally free, Becky married me without benefit of an engagement ring, trousseau, wedding reception or honeymoon. The witnesses to our vows included my three daughters, whom she adopted and raised to adulthood. From the outset they called her “Mom.”
We drove straight home from the church on our wedding day. My new bride cooked dinner for the kids and me that night. It was the first time she had spent the night with us.
Here’s one thing I have learned: Easy access to good advice doesn’t guarantee that we will do more than survive the “worst things” that happen to us. Becky’s persistent response to adversity is “Deal with it.” Too often, we sustain losses without knowing clearly what we are missing and could achieve with some thought and effort.
David Yount is the author of 14 books. He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22193 and email@example.com.