I recently saw a quote I liked. It said, “I am not a pessimist. I’m an optimist with experience.” It struck a chord with me because I am, at heart, an optimist. I like to believe the best of people, and hope for the best. When I am around people who focus on the negatives, they drag me down to despair. I need to have hope and believe the best. Pessimists claim to be realists, yet it’s not realism to only see the darkness. I had a friend who said, “every silver lining has a dark cloud.” Being an optimist doesn’t mean you don’t see the dark realities of life. We see them. We feel them. But we don’t let them overshadow the good things of life.
When I look back over the past year, I readily admit, that it has been a difficult year. I watch as my parents heath continues to decline, and most of my visits with them involves taking them to doctors. I watch as my father, who was so big and strong needs my help to get up, and the trusting look on his face when I help him. The parent has become the child, and its painful. My very close friend went through an excruciatingly painful divorce. I watched him as he missed his children, lost his job, and even his home. He needed to have surgery and endured a painful surgery and long recuperation period. I watched another friend lose his 22 year old son, who was found dead. I can’t even imagine the pain he is going through. Life can be extremely painful beyond description.
Yet, this has also been a good year. I became a grandfather to a healthy, happy grandson. I have a wife and three children who love me and are a joy to my life. I have good friends in my life. In addition, I have been able to help and bless people in my work overseas. I love helping. It’s a really good thing to be able to feed hungry people, and be a comfort and encouragement to them.
LIfe happens. Its going to happen whether we are optimists or pessimists. We can plan for some things, but things happen whether we plan for them or not. It seems to me that what matters is not so much what happens, but how we deal with what happens. We tend to brace ourselves for the bad things, and soothe ourselves with the good things. It’s as if we live our lives with knee jerk reactions. I don’t believe this is the best way to live.
When I give advice, I encourage people to be optimistic realists. We can’t always change the things that happen, but we can realize that life experiences shape and change us. We can learn from them and take away valuable wisdom. Adopting this approach enables something positive to come from our experiences, good or bad.
Some people emerge from their pain and loss with anger and bitterness. It poisons them and will color all their future relationships. Other people learn from their pain and loss and become more compassionate, patient, and understanding of others. They become better people who are happier in general, and a blessing to others.
Part of the problem is the storybook view of life we hold in America. Our common slogan is “be happy.” In Eastern Europe, where life is far more difficult, they say, “be strong.” Overall, “be strong,” is far more realistic. We do need to be strong for whatever happens. If we can be strong, and learn from what happens, we may ultimately be happy.
In any event, we need to plan wisely for our lives; to have peace of mind for the “just in case” situations, pamper ourselves less, and hope for the best. In our times of ease, we need to be reaching out to those going through pain and loss. Even if it is awkward, we do need to be there for one another. We need to have a generosity of spirit, encouraging others, being there for people and blessing them, and focusing on the blessings we have, even if they are mixed blessings.