Making Today’s Problem Tomorrow’s Joke: Finding Humor and Peace in Life’s Minor Crises

My daughters bought me a rock that says “Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s joke” engraved on it. I absolutely love it, and it’s displayed prominently in my home office. I look at it several times a day to remind me that while it’s certainly true that life is chock-full of dramas, it’s also true that dramas come and go, and come and go. They always have, and they always will.

Before I go on, please know that when I say “today’s crisis is tomorrow’s joke,” I’m obviously not referring to any of the hundreds of “life-changing” events that can be categorized as a true “crisis.” Instead, I’m referring to the virtually unlimited number of relatively minor events that most of us tend to stew about that, in retrospect, really aren’t that big a deal.

Have you ever gone to a family or high school reunion and listened to the conversations? It’s fun, in part, because the conversations sometimes tie into this bit of wisdom. So many things that used to be seen as “big, giant, huge emergencies” are now the topics of great jokes. They are funny because they are seen with a bit of distance. We may have been furious at someone, for example, for God knows what … and now it seems so silly and insignificant. So, while we used to get really uptight about it, we now laugh about the very same set of facts.

And I’m not sure about you, but when I think about the way I was behaving just yesterday–running around like a chicken with my head cut off, as if there were not enough time–it seems funny to me now. I see how absurd it was. The trick to getting to the point where life doesn’t seem like just one crisis after another is when we can see it as funny, not after the fact, but actually while we’re acting a little crazy and taking life a bit too seriously. I’ve obviously got a way to go, but I’m working on it!

One of my favorite spiritual teachers has a great line. He said, “If you don’t have a sense of humor, it just isn’t funny.” I think that says it all. Without a sense of humor, you’re in for a tough ride, no doubt about it. You’re going to be super serious. So lighten up, especially regarding taking yourself and others too seriously. Try to see yourself and everyone else not as people who should be trouble-free or perfect, but rather as “characters” on the stage of life. When people act strangely, or when you do, rather than take it personally, try to see the humor in it.

The world is a big, confusing place, and most of us are doing the best we can. It’s far easier to develop the perspective that people don’t have to be perfect or live up to some made-up set of standards than it is to get all uptight when things don’t go according to plan, or when life isn’t living up to our expectations.

Lighten up and live a little. It’s a heck of a lot more fun and an easier way to live.

Often, though, you might find it difficult to see the humorous side in certain aspects of life–particularly during times when you’re feeling harried, frustrated, or angry due to events beyond your control.

One of the most memorable self-help seminars I ever attended was way back when I was a teenager. Since I’m 44 years old now, that was about 30 years ago. One of the main topics the trainer covered was obnoxious drivers.

I’ll never forget the conversation because I’ve rarely been frustrated by bad drivers ever since–particularly those who tailgate and who are aggressive, two of the main components of road rage.

In the seminar, the trainer posed the following question: What would you do if you were being tailgated?

The answers were all over the map, but two that stood out were “I’d put on my taillights so the person behind me would think I was putting on my brakes” and “I’d put on my brakes so that the bad driver behind me would have to slow down.”

Both of these answers are terrible ideas in today’s world.

As we all know, road rage is a very real thing, and it’s very dangerous. The last thing we want to do is make an angry driver even angrier.

Actually, this is one of the simplest strategies I can offer you and one of the easiest ways to get rid of angry drivers who are tailgating you or putting you in danger.

All you have to do is this: simply pull over and let the jerk pass you by. Allow him or her to go and have an accident somewhere else. It’s that simple.

You’ll be safe, and chances are you’ll never see him again. Then let it go, and don’t spend another minute thinking about it the rest of the day. Be grateful it’s all over.

The best thing to do is to try and remember that while it’s true that there are many bad drivers and, in fact, many bad people, it’s important to keep it in perspective. I have no idea on the actual percentages, but I’d guess that for every angry, horrible driver on the road, there are probably 50 perfectly courteous and safe ones.

The same applies to people in general. True, there are jerks. But there are so many more nice people.

Try to focus on that instead. When you’re driving, notice the thousands and thousands of people who are following the rules and doing the best they can, given the circumstances.

Notice the people who do let others into lanes of traffic or move aside, even when it’s not convenient for them.

There will always be road rage, and there will always be jerks. However, there’s no rule that says any of that has to bother us one little bit.

So let the jerks–and all of those minor events–pass you by, and you’ll have a great day.

By Richard Carlson


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