The Optimistic Realist
Throughout my life I’ve identified myself as a pessimist – one who sees the glass as half empty. I believed that if I prepared myself for the worst that could happen, I would never be caught off guard. What I’ve come to recognize is that I’m not really a pessimist at all. My way of thinking is more of the optimistic realist. By identifying as a realist I see things for what they really are – no better, no worse. I don’t dilute myself into thinking that I can change adult minds or make the sun revolve around the earth, but I also have an ingrained sense of optimism that allows me to see how all things change and can change for the better. I’ve been blessed with having many of my wishes come true and have often felt a sense of gratitude for the universe’ seeing me through virtually every hardship in my life. So, it was an enormous disappointment when I spoke with an ex-partner last Thursday and heard the bitterness a true pessimist speaks with. When I attempted to keep our conversation light and ask, “How is it going?” he immediately set-off on a tirade of negatives that included: ‘I don’t speak to my family and act as though they are all dead to me; Would never again partake of a relationship, since all men are dogs and will eventually hurt you; and stay to myself to eliminate all chances for being betrayed.’ I sat stunned before asking, “…but don’t you think you’ve given up on life with that attitude and are dead already if you have nothing to look forward to?” The words didn’t leave my mouth before he retorted, “Look, I know where you are in your life and how you want to play the little relationship thing. How long will that last before you act a fool and do something stupid?” Rather than feel angry, I somehow felt an enormous sense of sadness. With the line hanging silent, he thought he’d suddenly make light and say, “Oh, you thought I didn’t know what was going on in your life, huh?” I took a deep breath and said, “No offense or anger in my heart, but you sound so bitter and sad. I really feel sorry for you. A few years ago I would’ve apologized for what I may have done to you to bring you to this point in your life, but I recognize that we’ve all lived through pain, frustration and betrayal. In the end, we make the choice to adopt the attitude you have or choose to ‘live’ and give ourselves every opportunity to be happy. I choose to love and not make the rest of my life some memorial service to the disasters of my years past.” I think my tone and honesty spoke to his heart and he went from bitter to awkward. He stammered to find his words and said, “So, what’s next? You guys planning on doing the lesbian thing and adopting kids?” I felt like that horrific scene in Cliffhanger, with Sylvester Stallone, where his character, trying to save a loved one and fellow mountain climber realizes he’s lost his grip on her and she slips through his grasp. “I’m glad to hear you’re alive and well. I need to get off the line. Good-bye.” There was another awkward pause before he said, “Oh, I got to you, right?” I breathed deeply and said, “No. I’m just really sad no one is able to get to you. Goodbye.” I hit the ‘end’ button on my phone and sat there for a long while thinking how someone I remember as an optimistic person with so much determination and drive had turned into a rotting shell of a man. Where there is no hope or optimism, there is no will to live. I could blame myself for somehow damaging his perception of life and love, but instead I realized that I had suffered throughout my life too, but there’s still so much life to live. We don’t have to repeat our mistakes; we don’t have to half-step to avoid pain; we don’t have to force others to pay for the wrongs of our past. We simply have to live as realists and optimists; seeing our lives for what they are and always believing that there is a brighter future on the horizon.
It’s easy to feel that the next scene of our lives will include encore performances by actors that were bad casting choices in our lives. The truth is we are the casting agent…the executive producers of our own lives and we are in full control of the actors, setting and mood of the play we call life. We can find that we’ve been typecast into a role, but it is our job to break out of that mold and refuse to play the same characters or make the same choices.
Do you find that you are your own worst enemy with regard to choosing your roles and your supporting cast?
Keep passin’ the open windows…