It’s easy to be philosophical when everything’s going fine.

I love when friends invent pithy quotes.

Yesterday, my friend Karen asked if I knew of any quotes along the lines of the above, which has been running through her head recently.

“To me it means when times are good and you’re in your rhythm and conquering the world (or just fairly happy) it’s easy to be philosophical about how to get thru the bad times,” she wrote.

“Telling yourself you can’t control everything is easy when life’s perkin’ along. But when it all gets complicated and shit’s goin’ wrong it’s hard to really ‘count your blessings’ or believe that ‘better times (probably) lie ahead.’”

Oh yeah. It’s true. When stuff’s hittin’ the fan, keeping a level head is really hard, no matter how much you “know” when everything is just swell.

So what then? Are you destined to just spiral down until… what? You bottom out? Your life’s in shambles around you? You take to your bed forever?

When I’m in a place so bad that I forget all the important things I know about living well, I sometimes call my former therapist for a little tune-up. Otherwise, I just spin my wheels until I’m deep in a rut. A good head shrinking helps me regain traction so I can move forward, out of the mire.

But, facile as this sounds, I’ve also found that a good pithy quote can help me hang on when life is sucky.  I sometimes cling to aphorisms like a lifeline, repeat them like a mantra.

I guess the trick is grabbing onto pithy quotes that really speak to me. “Count your blessings” doesn’t work for me. I know that’s sacrilege, but thinking about the good things in my life has never solved anything for me. I can be aware of good things and still be all wadded up about the not-so-good. Good and bad are not mutually exclusive and I’m not easily distracted from life’s dark side. That’s just me.

But some pithy mantras do help me ride out hard times. For example:

This too shall pass.

Everything changes, whether you want it to or not.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I find these quotes soothing. Reassuring. When my mind is grinding around and around the same dark thoughts, words like this provide a flicker of light. They don’t change anything, but they give me hope that if I can just hang on through whatever crap has me messed up, I will eventually come out the other side. Hopefully stronger. Maybe not. But at least alive. And so I repeat these words to myself every time I feel myself sinking too deep into the gloom. They don’t save me, but they help keep my head above the muddy water.

Of course, all this is pretty easy for me to blather.

I poked around Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations a bit, looking to see if anyone else had said what Karen said. I didn’t find it but I didn’t look too hard because I was stopped by this one, from Donald Robert Perry Marquis:

there is always

a comforting thought

in times of trouble when

it is not our trouble

Yeah. That sounds about right, too. So you can tell me to shut-up any time.

Photo of hand gripping rope is available from Shutterstock.