I’ve always been an optimistic person.
I can remember being… maybe 7 or 8 years old and DESPERATELY wanting to go to an event at church. The weather man was predicting an 80% chance of blinding snow and ice.
“I’m sorry, baby, but it looks like your thing at church will be canceled,” my mom said.
I remember being genuinely confused by her assumption. “Why do you think that? Didn’t you hear him? There is a 20% chance that the weather will be just fine.”
I was right, too! The storm came later than expected and I got to go to the party.
Optimism has come easily to me and my experience has been that, more often than not, when I maintain a philosophy of “things will work out,” they do…. usually.
That said, adulthood brings with it a whole new level of stress and worry. Will this make my child sick? Is my daughter going to be in therapy forever because I said that? Did I do enough today to show my husband I love him? Where in the world is the money for that car repair going to come from? Where will we go if we can’t pay the rent? What will people think of me if they know I made that particular bad choice?
It’s easy to get bogged down, even for a natural-born optimist. I can think of a few times over the years when I felt truly lost. I was broken and without hope. It’s the worst feeling I can imagine and it brings tears to my eyes when loved ones tell me they are in that place. It is a dark, horrible, lonely place to be. I would never wish it on anyone.
It was, in large part, Handsome Hippie Hubby, who taught me that everyone walks through those “dark places.” Whether we pass through them or set up housekeeping and live there is up to us. The better we get at “passing through” the easier it becomes until the “little things” really do seem little and it becomes very easy indeed to see the beauty of life all around us.
***Please note!!! I am NOT talking here about people who experience true clinical depression or anxiety. What I’m writing here, to that person, would be like telling a person who just got burned all over their body to drink a little willow bark tea to make the pain go away. I’m not speaking of medical depression, or of the despair that can come after truly traumatic or devastating events, but rather of a chronic general “nothing goes my way” grouchiness or persistent “what if” thoughts. If you came across this blog looking for hope and help because you just CAN’T see hope any more, please PLEASE know that you are NOT alone and there is help. I’ve asked some dear wise friends with experience and knowledge beyond mine for good links and they are listed at the end of this post. ***
A week or two ago I shared this picture on Facebook.
A friend asked me, “How is that done? Seriously, I’d love to know.”
I’m not a doctor or a psychologist or a therapist or any other “ist.” But if you’d like to know I’ll share my very best trick.
Fake it ’til you make it.
When you wake up to dog vomit on the carpet after only 4 hours of sleep that was interrupted at least 3 times by sick, whiny kids and you drop your phone in the toilet and the car won’t start you are having a bad day.
NOW is the time to make a choice.
You can use your words to proclaim to the universe how crappy your life is. You can post a status on Facebook declaring it to be a horrible start to a day that will no-doubt only get worse. You can ask, “why does this always happen to ME?” You can shed tears over all of the things that never seem to go your way. You can spend your day worrying about what may or may not actually happen at sometime in the vague future and wondering how much better life would be if only……
You can start giving thanks… even if you don’t feel thankful right at that moment.
Start listing things you are grateful for. List them out loud. Hear yourself talking about how thankful you are. It doesn’t matter if you are “feeling it.” Fake it ’til you make it. What can you be thankful for RIGHT NOW?
Start listing the very second you realize the voices in your head are luring you down a bad road.
My list usually starts something like this:
“I am thankful for these socks. My feet are warm.”
“I am thankful for feet. My life would be much more complicated without them.”
“I am thankful that I am healthy and therefore able to care for my sick child.”
“I am thankful that my husband remembered to buy carpet cleaning stuff last week.”
“I am thankful that it’s not raining today. I really needed some sunshine.”
“I am thankful for running water and a working toilet so I can flush this mess away.”
“I am thankful for these incredibly comfy sweat pants.”
“I am thankful for a family who doesn’t judge me for sometimes wearing very ugly sweat pants.”
And on it goes.
Sometimes the results are very quick. Sometimes it takes quite a while but, always, I find that I start to be truly thankful and I realize that my blessings are many… truly infinite, I’ve never run out of things to be thankful for. My problems are few, by comparison. It’s like the old adage, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” You always have something to be thankful for.
You may say, “my life is so horrible today I have NOTHING to give thanks for.”
Really? Nothing? You have a thinking, reasoning mind that was able form that sentence. You have eyes that allow you to read this blog.
Latch on to whatever good you can find and pour gratefulness on it like fertilizer.
My mom provided me the perfect illustration of this recently. She had a houseplant that looked like this:
Now my mom is a pretty awesome lady. I won’t tell her age, but I’ll say that she qualified for the 10% discount at Bob Evans before I graduated High School and I’m now in view of the big 4-0. Yet she is out and about every day. She travels with her friends and sisters, she goes to parties and water aerobic classes and food festivals. She is active in her church’s ministries and works there as secretary. Last week she posted pictures of herself on Facebook, wearing a big black Stetson and dancing with a handsome cowboy at a hoedown. She’s so busy enjoying life to its fullest that she neglected her poor houseplant.
There was nothing left other than 5 little stems.
But with a little attention, her plant started making a true comeback. New shoots came up and the existing ones got stronger.
And so it is with us. Sometimes we get VERY beaten down. But if you can find that little bit of hope… allow that tiny remainder of gratitude to take root… feed it as best you can… it will grow and flourish.
Being optimistic can be a choice. It is not about always having a big fake grin on your face or turning a blind eye to the ills of this life. It’s not about never feeling sadness or concern. We live in a broken world where people are hurting… where we are sometimes hurting. But no amount of despair on our part will make someone else’s hurt go away. No amount of worrying will fix that which is broken. Wallowing in our woes does not accomplish anything except to make us more acutely aware of our woes.
Why not wallow in blessings instead?
Science has shown that positive people live longer, happier, healthier, more productive lives. Why choose anything else?
Take control of your thoughts today… right now… this very minute. Stop letting them run wild down whatever path they choose and harness them into a state of gratefulness.
What do you have to lose?
Do you have other tips for staying positive? Please share them!
Important links for those seeking help:
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