Monday, August 30, 2010

On Becoming Blatantly Optimistic

Optimism is never something that's come easy to me.  Perhaps my penchant for reading Stephen King novels at the tender age of 12 has something to do with my tendency to mistrust people... or perhaps it was the merciless taunting that I received as a child at my religious private school that made me become guarded.  There is also the torrential downpour of reading that I ran through during my college years - Freud, Palahniuk, Welsh, Schopenhauer, Bukowski, etc. - which blends together into a potent combination of nihilism & angst and swirls through my blood whenever I go on a re-reading spree.  Whatever it was that made me this way, I struggle every day with feelings of awkwardness and self-pity and this taints my view of an otherwise rose-colored world.

However, it seems that recently my moods have taken a turn for the better.  I give full credit to my adorable offspring.  There really is no way to describe the feeling of utter happiness that comes when I get to show her the things that I find beautiful and wonderful in the world. With each wonderful book we read or park we go play in I find myself more and more able to lose the "In 10 years this won't exist anymore because global warming will suck us all up" voice in my head and just focus on the beauty and happiness that is in front of me.
This is her seeing Can-Can Dancers for the first time at our local French Festival.   

The problem lies not only in all the times that she's not with me, but also in the realization that basing your happiness on any one person - no matter how important they may be to you - is not true happiness.  True happiness is a lifestyle choice.  It's being able to set aside the pessimism, the sarcasm, and the downright nihilism that plagues your mind day in and day out and focus on finding the good and the beautiful every single minute of every single day.

This will be a struggle, but it's a challenge I think I'm up for. 
No wait... I AM going to do it.

(There, see?!?  Right there!)

I know I have the ability to see the good in people to a fault.  When I hire people that seem unusually nervous because I think to myself Hey, they could work out.  They're just nervous... and then one month later I've had to fire 50% of them because their nervousness was actually a sign that they couldn't read too well.  When friends fight I think Hey, it's ok, if we talk about these things and try to be rational and understand where each person was coming from it'll all be good again... and then a few hours later I've got to pick a team of friends to keep and a team to get rid of because nobody worked anything out.  But I also know that those times when that little voice is right - when the other 50% of the nervous folks I hired turn out to be awesome employees who save us in a pinch or when my friends do manage to let bygones be bygones and get the hell over whatever squabble they may have been having - those times are AWESOME.  It is my new goal to listen to that kind, optimistic voice inside me more and more each day. 

Two days ago I was driving home from the store with Sadie and I saw a man on the side of the road in a motorized wheelchair.  As I got closer I noticed that he was starting to lean over to the side a lot and didn't seem to be moving much and as I drove past and saw him in my rearview mirror I realized that I needed to pull over and help him.  I flipped a U the minute the road had space for me to do so and by the time I got back to the guy there were two other men who had stopped their cars and were helping the man right himself and get back on his way. 

Even thinking about this encounter now, two days later, my heart still swells with happiness.  Not because the man didn't need my help, of course, but because there were good people out there who would stop what they were doing to help another person in need.  Others who would take the time to say, "How can I make the world a better place today?" 

This needs to be my mantra.  And it needs to be yours too.

So, I post a challenge to the 2 of you who will read this: Spend tomorrow saying only positive things.  Try to eliminate the word "No" from your vocabulary.  (Yes, I recognize the irony there.)  The day after tomorrow we can all go back to our happy sarcasm holes and glower at the world, but for one day - just one - become blatantly optimistic with me.  I'm pretty sure we won't regret it.  (Damnit,I mean we won't regret it!) 


  1. Thanks for this reminder, Abby. I could stand to have a better outlook about some aspects of my current situation.

  2. This is a great thing to remember every single day! :) I'll take on the challenge!