If You Feel Terrible

Rebecca Wadlinger

If you feel terrible, try to remember a time
you really worried about cannibalism.
If you can, I’m sorry. That makes me feel terrible.
If you feel terrible, do not lie down. Go outside,
do something good for the world, but remember
that doing good things can sometimes be terrible.
If you feel terrible, stay up and watch a news story
about a man who kills a hooker in a cheap hotel,
and imagine how terrible he must feel
when he tries to stuff her under the bed, but can’t,
because there’s already a dead hooker under there.
When I feel terrible, I try to joke about it.
My dad has a joke where he tells the hostess
his name is Mr. Pity and that he’ll be dining alone,
then sulks through the laughter when she calls out
Pity, party of one. If you feel terrible, it helps
to imagine bad things happening to other people.
After I got hit by a car, I spent days in bed moaning
Oh this is the most terrible thing that could happen
to somebody. When my friend Frances feels terrible,
she looks through a book of tortured war prisoners.
When she showed it to me, I felt even more terrible,
but she had a point, so I changed my complaint to
the most terrible thing that could happen to me.
Try being selfish if you feel terrible. Better yet,
try to feel as terrible as you possibly can.
If you feel terrible and love feeling terrible,
you could be the most terrible-feeling person
in the world. If you do, I will think of you often.
I will imagine terrible feelings contorting out of me
and into you. If that makes you feel better, feel worse.