On Being Shmoptimistic

When I was a kid my family called me a lot of different things. It didn’t help that I had 8 brother’s and sisters, so they often went through all of those names before they got to mine. They also called me Agnes when I was clumsy, as in  “Way to go Agnes!” (does this make sense to anyone?) and when I was optimistic about things they thought were horrible, they called me Pollyanna, as in “Thanks for the ray of sunshine, Pollyanna.” (Can you feel the sarcasm?)

I honestly did not strive to be optimistic or clumsy. It just came naturally. When things got bad, I automatically looked for a silver lining. When there was a delicate task to perform, I usually messed it up. It’s just who I am. I stayed that way for a very long time. As I got older I wasn’t as clumsy. I tried very hard to amend that little issue, but I didn’t try to shed my optimism. The older I got, however, the more sadness I faced, the more of the world I was exposed to and the more I could see that I actually did have a choice. I could dwell on the doom and gloom that I felt and saw, or I could push forward and look for that silver lining. It’s always there.

The trouble is that even though it is possible to see the good in 99.9% of every situation if you really want to, it’s still a lot of work. It’s not like the good attitude just drops in my lap these days like it used to when I was a kid. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world, in my town, even in my home bad things happen now and then. Life is unpredictable and completely out of control and it takes a lot of effort to sort through it all every day and come up with something sparkly and worth smiling about.

Last week I realized that I have become a bit more cynical and pessimistic in the last year than I ever have been in my life. This realization made me sad. Where did that Polyanna girl go? Was I losing the battle to the proverbial dark side?

I thought about this for a long time and finally came to the conclusion that while I’m not quite the Polyanna I was as a kid, that part of me isn’t totally dead. She’s just grown up a bit, she’s a bit tired and she’s still got a ways to go.

That all sounds so dreadfully depressing, and it’s not really my point. My point is that I’m ok with this. I’m ok with not being 100% optimistic all the time. In fact, there are days when I say “Optimism shmoptimism! The world sucks!” The important thing here is that I’m not a complete pessimist, and I probably never will be. It’s not in my DNA.

Throw me at the gates of hell and I will probably stop to admire their fine scroll work and sparkly flickers from the fires beyond. (That’s for my son who’s currently fascinated with Percy Jackson and especially Hades – heaven help us.)

Anyway, my point, the whole reason I felt like cataloging this little step in my life, is that I feel pretty good being shmoptimistic. I’m not 100% roses and sunshine, but I’m not 100% doom and gloom. I can see both sides now and function between them. I can feel the sorrow and sadness and cry with those that are hurting without hurrying past to find a daisy, but I also don’t let it drag me down so low that I can never appreciate those daisies either. Balance, my friends. A simple life is all about balance.

My! This has been a self indulgent and rambling post! I hope you’ll forgive me if you are reading this far. Are you a shmoptimist, Polyanna or a Debbie Downer? (Sorry Debbie! No offense, I love you!) Or are you an Agnes? I slipped on a lego this morning and almost broke my ankle. That was awesome.