Saturday, September 13, 2008

Being at odds with your own optimism

Are you an optimist? Do you wish you were? Some people may not realize they are optimists deep down because of the popular image associated with such folks. A cheery disposition, full of energy, so saccharine sweet and perky and ready to face life. It's not nice to say, but sometimes those kinds of people really get on my nerves. I have tried being a pessimistic realist, and even a kind of half-glass "whatever!" type. But something else has occurred to me - a possibility I hadn't really considered. I might just be a closet optimist. No, no, not the bouncing out of bed for the joy of a new dawn kind of optimist. And maybe you aren't that kind either. No, you and I may be a different breed altogether. A reluctant optimist. An incredulous optimist. An annoyed optimist who is almost bitter at the bright little sun of hope glowing steadily and surely where your otherwise skeptical and snarky disposition would expect to find a dark hole of despair, or at the very least a somewhat worrying ball of nagging doubt.

It's a pretty neat trick really. Even after passing through the valley of the shadow of nihilistic narcissism, under the worries about daily affairs and other immediate concerns, the future looks so bright you've got to wear sunblock. You can't possibly imagine what there is to make you think that things will work out - maybe you are having trouble with debt, employment, serious relationships, or maybe all of those things at once. Maybe it's worse than that. By all rights, the most likely path seems to be one in which you are almost certain to face material and emotional trials and hardships. Yet your optimism isn't telling you none of these rough times will come to pass, but that it will be OK - it will be OK even as they come to pass and well after they are long gone. You can't just lie down and wait for the end - you can't even shout angry poetry at the absurdity of your own existence. Like it or not, you've got something to hold on to which is pulling you to a deeper and more fulfilling life. Even if you try (consciously or subconciously) shooting yourself in the foot or opting for a life of oblivious shallowness, you find that your self-sabotage and selfishness somehow work to move you back on track with additional insight and greater compassion. Maybe you don't want to believe because you have been disappointed so many times before, yet here you are being filled with hope again.

Man, life is great. Does that suck or what?

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