If you have read the book Room by Emma Donoghue, you will be familiar with the phrase “word sandwiches.” In this book, the mother of a five-year-old boy must keep him entertained under very trying circumstances. To keep their brains sharp, they create word sandwiches by melding two words together to create a new word with a meaning that envelopes both concepts. My favourite in the book is “scave,” which means to be brave even when very scared. The young mother encourages her son to be scave when she sends him out to undertake a terrifying task.
I started to create a few of my own word sandwiches.
For example, gad—good and bad all at the same time. Over the past year my conversations followed a pattern like this:
“Did you know that ____________ happened?”
“Wow! That’s great!”
“Yes, it is. It really is. But because of that ____________.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
“Did you know that _____________ happened?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s really too bad.”
“Yes, it is. It really is. But because of that _____________.”
“Well, that’s good, anyway.”
Over and over events in my life showed a flip side. Everything was gad.
In fact, clinging to the positives helped me to get through some powerful negatives. It seemed that no matter how bleak circumstances became, I was able to find some light to brighten the dark corners.
When wonderful things happened, I tried to realistically address the downsides, too. My fortune is sometimes the misfortune of others.
If we can, as Kipling urges in his poem If, meet Triumph and Disaster and recognize them as imposters, the circumstances won’t change, but we might find it easier to muddle our way through.