I am an optimist. My optimism is not a question of belief. It is a question of acceptance. I have enough for today. I have food, water, clothing, shelter, a job, a family that I love dearly, and time to enjoy it. Everything that I need is already here, or I would not be here. Everything that I touch right now was made by somebody else. it is enough.
I am here today, to make a simple case for optimism. Optimism is defined as follows:
I am hopeful. I am confident. I am hopeful because I’ve tried a life without hope and found it wanting. I am confident because I’ve become resilient to setbacks and disappointment. I just see difficulty in my life as a phase in my own development. Difficulty is not forever.
I’m blind in one eye and deaf in one ear, yet I can still see and hear something. I enjoy music. I enjoy art. I enjoy the sunrise and the sunset. I enjoy the sound of music, which for awhile, was the voice of one or both of daughters saying to me, “I got this, Dad.” Whatever I can see or hear, I find a reason to be happy with it.
I have a job that isn’t as fun as writing, but I find reasons to enjoy my job. If my job isn’t challenging enough, I find a way to make it challenging.
I have failed many, many times, yet I keep going, I keep learning. In my job, I am an agent in service to others. I enjoy helping others. I enjoy the feedback I get when I have solved a problem that has vexed a customer for a long period of time.
I wasn’t always like this. This optimism is relatively recent. I may have always been an optimist, but I didn’t really get it until about 2001. Around that time, I got serious about working through my fears, how to deal with uncertainty, how to get along with others. How to be optimistic about other people, I need to be an optimist to live with other people, else I will forever be at odds with them, always trying to change them to my liking. I cannot love someone I want to change.
I used to think the world was against me. I was teased by my peers at school, punished by my father, and misunderstood by my mother. My siblings didn’t seem to want anything to do with me. At least, so I thought. I spent many years, lost, confused, lonely.
And then I started seeking and getting help. I started to consider the possibility that if the world were truly against me, then I’d just be a few micrometers thick. If I’m still here, in one piece, then the world can’t be truly against me. “The world isn’t that small, Scott.” That’s what people would tell me when I shared my fears with others. I learned that others had the same fears, too. I wasn’t alone.
Eventually, I developed the courage to find and keep a mate, and get married. Eventually, we had kids. I began to take stock of my life and notice all of the things that had gone right. I stopped firing myself in my own mind and let the customer, my employer, decide if I was good enough. I stopped letting minor mistakes ruin my day and notice that there were so many other things that were going right, that I did well, and that I was easy to get along with at work.
I could focus on the negative and all the pain and suffering in my life and the world. I’ve done that, and I know that it is there. But I have seen the law of attraction at work. So I acknowledge the suffering, while doing my best to bring happiness to others within my sphere of influence.
Long ago, I saw “Debbie Downer” on Saturday Night Live and I saw myself. I saw how easily I could paint the day in my own image. I saw how easily others could, too. And that I didn’t have to buy into it. I learned to stop watching the news for it was so incredibly negative. Yeah, the hippocampus was at work. The amygdala was at work. I learned that I could decide what stimulus I wanted to experience, most of the time.
Yes, there will be disappointments, and setbacks. But I have long since learned how to interpret them. I remind myself that they are only temporary. I don’t take them personally, either. When “bad” stuff happens around me, it’s not about me. It’s about somebody else’s dream and I don’t have to buy it. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
I have learned to make a decision to be optimistic. I see the Hyperloop. I see the ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment, which could provide unlimited energy by 2025. I can imagine something like a “universal recycler” that uses waste heat from all of our power generation to smelt all human waste into the basic elements for use in other manufacturing processes. I can see the end of pit mining, and the beginning of mining all of our landfills. *Everything* will be recycled, just as it is in nature.
I can see how I learned better interpersonal skills and am teaching them to my kids. Just this morning, my younger daughter of 4 years of age, came out to see me just before I started writing this article. She held me tightly, perhaps she had a bad dream, I don’t know, but she needed something from me and it was my job to find out what that was and give it to her.
So I closed my laptop, and took her back to bed. Her older sister wanted some comfort too, so she grabbed my arm and help me tightly, too. I laid there, in the darkness with both of my daughters, talking to them, like an optimist would.
I love you just the way you are.
You don’t have to change for me, change is automatic.
I can feel that you’re scratching. That’s OK. You will eventually get tired and then fall asleep.
I see the unicorns, Emily and Natalie, walking together on the grass. You see your friends flying above laughing and playing in the sunlight of the setting sun. You see the pink and purple clouds. You walk to an apple tree and munch on apples. Then you walk to a pear tree and munch on pears. You see your friends settling down for sleep, and you lay down with them as the sun sets. The horizon is yellow, orange, pink and purple. And as the darkness falls, so too, you fall asleep.
I just talk with them, making affirmative, positive statements. They need me to fall asleep because they haven’t learned the skill of going back to sleep on their own yet. This is just a stage of their development.
All irritations and obscenities to me, are really, just stages in our development. We’re still learning how to be humane to each other. I’m still learning how to be humane. I had to start with myself. Then I could share what I learned with others. I share that compassion, that empathy with others every single day. Live and let live.
I focus on the positive to be an optimist. I’ve tried the other way and found it wanting. Being a pessimist is supremely tiring. There isn’t enough time. Nobody loves me. I have to change everybody else to be happy. That’s being a pessimist.
As an optimist, I accept everything exactly as it is, without reservation. I can accept things as they are because with optimism comes the resilience I need to grow beyond that which impairs my growth. “What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger,” a friend of mine used to say. I find that mostly true. What really matters though, is the choices we make in response to adversity. I just choose to be an optimist in response to adversity.