Optimism is essential for a healthy life, healthy vision in particular…sort of like Vitamin A. In fact, for the purposes of today’s post, optimism IS Vitamin A for AWESOME. Yet, especially since the pandemic made landfall we ALL know things have been far from awesome.
A lot has downright sucked.
I’m still teaching and fast-drafting and working because that is what professionals and—sigh, adults—do. But admittedly? It’s been a struggle. I’ve not left my house in 2.5 years because of the pandemic, multiple illnesses, and back in the spring we had to put my FIL in hospice.
Every day I have a husband or a son who might randomly start crying because everything is in the air. They feel powerless. Because they feel powerless, I want to cry because I want to make it all better and I can’t make it all better but also suck at this ‘crying thing.’
And there is always that inner voice saying, “Why are you so upset? What do YOU have to cry about? You could be a refugee starving in Africa and your children dying of dysentery while you’re running from warlords….WHEN YOU HAVE NO LEGS! You terrible awful person! For you, life is amazing and you are ungrateful.”
Maybe it is just me?
Call Me, Ms. Optimism
In 2009, when my grandmother (who reared me, so essentially my mom) was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, I kept a good attitude. There were new medications, new treatments to slow down how quickly the disease could progress.
I’d bring Spawn (then a baby) to see her and they’d play Bubble Guppy games on my—okay, his—iPad. Brain games to combat the Alzheimer’s.
Then, my favorite aunt’s heath began failing, the woman who still did her own yard work even though she was ninety-four. Often, she’d be in the hospital at the same time as my grandmother, sometimes in the next room.
Optimism to the rescue. Hey, I can visit them at the same time. Read to them, bring flowers, bring the baby, and save time and gas.
In 2010, when my husband received orders to deploy to fight in Afghanistan, I maintained my optimism. We could do this! Sure, I was a new mom with a baby and a once-solid family that suddenly was crumbling and now my husband was heading for a war-zone, but I could do this.
Maybe I’d write a book about it.
On and on, death after death, loss after loss, through hurts, illnesses, and betrayals so deep I wondered if I might die…I maintained my optimism. Granted, I didn’t shine nearly as brightly, but the world had enough darkness. I didn’t need to add to it.
Nobody cared about my sob story.
When it comes to being a writer, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been the newbie who wrote when I felt like it, when I was ‘in the mood.’ I let everyone and everything get in the way of sitting down and putting words on the page.
Then, I learned that amateurs listen to their feelings and professionals get to work and get $#!@ done anyway.
I blogged no matter what. Someone died the night before? I’d cry after I posted and made word count. Deadlines gave no figs about feelings. If I wanted to be the best of the best, I needed to adopt habits of excellence.
This is very true.
I’ve been blessed to meet and know many of my author heroes (mega authors, names y’all would KNOW), and I’ve seen them make deadlines and keep writing when their world was literally falling apart.
Writing through pain, through parents dying and children passing and health crises and on and on. Putting words on a page in hospital rooms, during dialysis, right before and after major surgeries.
Granted, I want to point out these incredible authors did this for more reasons than simply being professionals. Writing was also a way of easing their pain.
But, still…pretty inspiring.
Suffice to say, when I’d meet a new ‘aspiring’ writer who told me they couldn’t write or even think of building a platform because they were SO BUSY. Because of the day job, kids, and family they simply ‘couldn’t find the time’ (as if time was laying around in the couch cushions).
My response? Pick another profession.
I didn’t have a lot of sympathy.
To be blunt, I still don’t.
We’ve become a culture driven by moods and that isn’t healthy. I can’t count how many writers I’ve encountered who claimed they wanted my help to be to be the next J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, etc. etc. but after we talked? They lost all their enthusiasm because being a mega-author was just so much…WORK.
Or they’d write the next great novel—because it is so EASY—if only they had the TIME. Well, we were in lockdowns for how long? And maybe I missed the new dark horse Nora Roberts, but…
No, success, like in anything, takes years of work. Life doesn’t stop in the meantime just because we have a dream.
Granted, optimism sometimes is the lone lifeline we will have to keep hold of that dream. Optimism in the face of loss, suffering, pain, and betrayal can often be the only thing that keeps us putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s been that way for me.
When people I loved, whom I believed also loved me did the unthinkable? Hurt me in ways I still can’t wrap my head around? I HAD to believe something good would come out of it or risk coming apart at the seams.
Light Through the Cracks
There’s a meme/story I’ve seen passed around Facebook, particularly in spiritual circles. The idea of a broken vessel fashioned back together and how the light can shine through the cracks. Thus, the vessel is all the more beautiful for being broken, blah, blah, blah.
That is a lovely story, one full of optimism. It’s a story that I wanted to punch in the face…provided a story could be punched in the face.
I come from a rough background and Viking stock. Was taught to have a pretty high tolerance for pain physical and emotional which can be good…but there is a fine line between being dependable and just plain being an idiot.
Getting up, getting to work, willing myself through even when I am mentally all over the place.
Back in my last major season of serious struggle, I defaulted to the methods that have gotten me through more tragedies than I care to relay, namely listening to positive books and willing myself to focus on what I am thankful for.
Surprise, surprise, it didn’t work. When the books that normally perked me up only sent me into depression or a rage, I downloaded a new book.
I $#@! you NOT, the first five minutes were full of that SAME STUPID ADVICE. Optimism is the answer. Focus on your blessings, on gratitude. Be thankful. Choose your attitude.
I lost it. Furious, I returned the book. I’d had enough. So help me, if anyone ‘sent in the clowns,’ I might have set them on fire. A daisy? I would have stabbed it. Our culture is dying because of a sugar addiction literally and metaphorically. Not only that but…
We are ALL TURNING ORANGE from too much Vitamin Awesome. And here we thought it was a bad spray-tan….
And I get it. We are a society out of whack. One side is all doom and gloom and manufacturing reasons to be in perpetual despair/hysteria. Our social media feeds are filled with people enraged over some fresh drama de jour.
Rage porn is the new social addiction.
Humans are addicted to being outraged. They ‘spread awareness’ all over our feeds so much that our every nerve-ending is exposed and raw. We can’t bear to open Facebook, let alone consider using it to ‘build a platform.’ Twitter? It’s basically MORDOR.
And, since everything hurts, we shut down.
To combat the rage porn, the sugar junkies post happy thoughts of the day and inspirational quotes on Instagram. Filtered images and cropped lives and tips for better this and better that, and how to enjoy the most from soup and laugh at salad.
I can’t help but look at my piles of laundry, the floor covered in grit because Nelson—albeit the fluffy adorable love of my life—flings kitty litter like friggin’ fairy dust.
I can’t stop staring the stacks of mail I have to sort through, the closets I need to organize, the…the…the…and all I can think is…
Did I FAIL Adulting 101?
You know that dream where you showed up to a class you didn’t know you were taking and it was the day of the final? And you hadn’t studied because you didn’t even have the book because you didn’t even KNOW YOU WERE TAKING THE CLASS?
THAT was the class that taught you how to be a functional adult, Kristen.
But don’t worry, these folks write scads of books giving advice on how to ‘turn that frown upside down’…and I want to burn it all down.
ALL OF IT.
Great People Sometimes Break Down
I’m like all of you guys. We’re all wonderfully different, and we all view life through our own unique lens. My lens is as a Texan reared in the Bible Belt. I frequently joke to fellow Christians that 1 Kings 19:5-15 is the first documentation of an angelic visitation with a Snickers bar.
Angel: Elija, so want you to know He DID receive your message. ‘You want to die.’ Yeah, so, request denied. Also, The Big Guy sent me to tell you that you’re a great prophet…but a total diva when you don’t eat.
My POV? We don’t need another coffee mug, screensaver or mouse track pad with inspirational quotes. I adore Ghandi as much as the next person, but some days…just stop.
For my fellow faith folks, sometimes we don’t need any more uplifting scriptures..though maybe we could modify them?
Oh the plans I have for you, plans to cry your eyes out, eat all the nachos and finally admit you miss that person who stabbed you in the back and that it is okay to miss them even if it is NOT okay to let them come back in and wreck your life again…Amen.
Book of Lambentations 😀 …
Lighten up. We’re all friends here.
Again, BALANCE the Optimism
It has been hotter than the hammered hinges of hell in Texas. I’m going through growing pains as a professional writer because publishing in the digital age is more slippery than eels in baby oil.
The point of all of this is, do not feel the need to always look on the bright side or for the silver lining. Embrace the darkness, move through it and give yourself permission to not be okay. Because, if I have learned anything through MANY seasons of being ‘not okay’ it’s that the more we avoid it, the worse it will be when the dam breaks.
Or is it the damn?
And ironically, I get that I am being somewhat of a hypocrite. Writing a post to make you feel better about not being okay. It is a mind-bender, so yeah just roll with it.
Life is a lot of things, a learning curve being one of them. I am still striving to balance the line between TOTAL FLAKE and WORK NAZI. If I locate it? Y’all will be the first to know.
What Are Your Thoughts on Optimism O.D.?
Do you wonder if you missed the Adulting 101 classes too? Is it hard to look at social media sometimes? Either the whole world is crap and burning down or we have to learn how ten ways to fit yoga and green juice into our lives?
Do you miss being unreachable? I take time regularly off social media because I’m already aware I’m a nut…but STILL.
Is it hard to see what you do well, what you have accomplished? Do you have a hard time being negative, too? It’s hard for me to cry, to be angry, to confess that I don’t want to look at my blessings. I want to scream and eat tacos but that’s a good way to choke #DontDoThat.
Am I off base? I firmly believe in gratitude and optimism and how we do have a choice in where we focus, but the all-sugar-all-the-time seems just as toxic as the rage channel.
Sometimes I just want to be in pain, to feel it and be allowed to feel it. I don’t WANT another blog about how to fix it. And yes, again, I admit that is COMPLETELY hypocritical but whatever. I love life tips, but also believe a good day of ranting and ax-throwing might make me feel better.
What are your thoughts…other than I’ve finally gone off the deep end?
Hint: Been here all along 😛
I love hearing from you!
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