Resilience is what makes me an optimist.
I am an optimist. I’ve tried the other way, really, I have. Remember Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live? I used to be like that when I was young. I was always working something negative about my experience in conversations with other people. I wasn’t very positive and the term “upbeat” was somewhat foreign to me.
A couple of decades later, I’m older, wiser, and my expectations about everything are much, much lower. I’ve learned to accept things as they are. That process of acceptance, that’s a big part of why I’m an optimist. I’m an optimist because I have low expectations. So when things turn out better than I expected, I’m happier as a result.
Now I’m not the kind of person who looks outside myself for happiness. I’ve tried that. I’m not looking at other people to make me happy. I’m not looking at my possessions to make me happy. I’m not even looking at TV, games or books to make me happy. And I most certainly do not look to the internet for happiness.
I find my happiness inside. I’m hard of hearing, and I wear a hearing aid. I’ve been told by at least one professional, that in their experience, people who are hearing impaired tend to go inside for happiness. That’s me. The TV is pretty boring unless the writing is really good. The internet is only so much time that could have been spent outdoors. I’d rather read the internet than books.
My family, I love them, but when it gets busy and everyone is talking, I will settle down and listen if I can keep up and make out the words. But most of the time, when I’m around other people, I’m listening to the voices in my head because I can’t hear them very well.
I often reflect on my life in gratitude. I got started on that path around 2008. I was poor. I was with my wife, living in a basement in a home owned by one of her relatives. Our lives were simple then. We didn’t have much going on. We spent lots of time together. And even on bad days, well, there aren’t really any bad days, just difficult days, I would still find something to be grateful for.
Gratitude is a big factor in resilience. Gratitude comes even for the little things. I take simple pleasures every day. The sun, the air, my home, my job, my wife, and I don’t have to look very far to find something that I’m grateful for. I even have a routine where I enumerate ten things every morning, that I’m grateful for. And really, it is hard to enumerate everything that I’m grateful for.
An attitude of gratitude makes it easier for me to set a sort of baseline for contentment. Yes, there is some drama in my life. I’ve found that nearly all of it is my doing, or that I had some part in it. So I use gratitude to get back to that place of peace. I use gratitude to find a center, a place where I know I can go when the drama blows over.
The thing about drama is this. Drama is a result of unmet expectations. We’ve all had them. And at one point or another, well, many points, we have our expectations blown to smithereens. Often in front of and with other people. We cry, we protest, we may even shout, and there is nothing we can do to put it back together.
The brain is elastic. The mind wanders. So when people are in drama, there is only so much they can do. Drama is tiring. Drama requires enormous amounts of energy. Drama makes me sleepy. So I do my best not to engage in drama at the expense of others. I’m not perfect at it, but I really do my best because every time I have stirred the pot, I wind up having to clean up when I’m done. And you know what’s in that pot? Unhappiness.
So I accept things as they are. I avoid drama. I find gratitude. I find that center for peace. That all gives me resilience for times when things go south. I know that “this too, shall pass”. I remember that every day of every week. And there are some things in my life that are uncomfortable, and I have no idea when that discomfort will stop, or if it will ever stop. But I know, that at some point in the day, I can go back to that place of peace. I am resilient.
Knowing that I can go back to that place of peace gives me optimism. I’ve been watching problems solve themselves for the last two years. I see a problem, do a tiny thing to deal with it, and the problem is not solved, so I forget about it. A week later, a month later, maybe even a year later, I remember that problem. Wait. That problem is gone. Who fixed it?
Wasn’t me. I was busy dwelling on some other problem. I was fixing something else. I was being of service to someone else. I was reading something else. I was in another room. I was at work. I was so busy, that I forgot the problem and someone had the nerve to fix it when I wasn’t looking and I missed it. My life has been like that for a long time now. I’ve been watching a continuous stream of problems solve themselves. And all I had to do was get out of the way.
That is another reason for optimism. So I accept things as they are, I avoid drama, find gratitude and find my center for peace, and I just chill when dealing with problems I can’t solve right now. That’s my foundation for resilience.
I’ll play a game. Fix something around the house. Get out for a walk with the kids when it’s warm. I’ll find something to do. But at the end of the day, I know I have something to be grateful for, and that is one more reason to be optimistic.
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