Saturday, February 11, 2012

It Isn't Easy Being an Optimist

I know that optimists aren't supposed to whine.  Actually, I've been more of an optimist-in-training for the last6 months.  After years of faking being an optimist (because I knew that pessimists don't have much fun), I read the old, but good story of Pollyanna - the girl who knew how to play the "glad game."  With her as my mentor, I did make some progress toward turning into a "real" optimist.  I was genuinely sunnier and happier,
and it felt good.
But I've begun to slip.  Although I secretly suspected that optimists are born rather than made, I latched onto the hope that acting like you believed something could make it real.  And I do know some genuine optimists whose sunny dispositions don't waver.  I like having them in my life as a counterweight to a lot of less optimistic people I know who are coping with serious, sad problems.  My mother,  like the character in that famous cartoon strip that always had a raincloud above his head, was a pessimist by nature.  One's own nature is difficult to overcome, but I don't want to believe impossible to change - at least readjust a little.
One complication of  becoming an optimist at my age is that I've also spent 67 of my 68 years being very naive.   My rose-colored glasses have now broken, and life, especially the politics of the day, look both clearer and a lot dirtier.  I've gone from believing just about everyone to believing no one.  It's lonely as a conscientious doubter.  Although my daily life is presently very good, the "what if's" could rise to daunting proportions if I don't do battle with them.
When I feel my optimism slipping, I keep reminding myself that I really am in control of many things in life that drag down the spirit.  There are off switches to many "downers" that can tug on me and pull me toward the pits of pessimism.  But it's tiring.  I laughed heartily at a cartoon I saw recently that had an optimist going on and on about how wonderful everything was and the two who were listening commented to each other, "Optimists are so exhausting to be around."  My mother's words echoed, "I can't be like that."
I'm sure that being an optimist is harder for people like me who have a short supply of optimism genes.  Yet, when I dip, there's often some reminder to pick me up again.  Today it was the words on a paper cup of coffee I was drinking.  It had a line at the halfway mark that said  "half full - Seattle's Best has been seeing it that way since 1970."
Suellen Zima

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