Yesterday began as a stereotypical Monday. There were a few things that weren’t working properly. In addition to the technical difficulties, “mild” headache enabled mindless pessimism and an owly demeanor. Then, as I peered through the venetian blinds, I noticed the clouds beginning to part and some sunny light reflecting off of the trees.
Most of the time, just one small auspicious sign will shift my attitude from darkly pessimistic to cautiously optimistic. It’s a state of mind that has settled in as a reward for being alive all these years and breaking through so many challenges to the spirit. The cautious optimism is something that brings me joy.
I came from a family steeped in pessimism. My contrarian personality rebelled against the darkness. I over-indulged in naïve optimism. My belief system became so filtered through rose-colored glasses to the point that my best friend accused me of being a Polly Anna. Blind optimism had obscured the need to deal with some thorny interpersonal issues.
“If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.”–Oscar Wilde
Pessimism feels unattractive and naïve optimism seems like dressed-up denial. I consciously decided to take the middle road and live life as a realist. So far, the decision has worked wonders in my life.
The cautiously optimistic attitude has been a boon to me. It has allowed me to expect my idealistic hopes to come true while keeping an eye on the overall challenges to tackle. I see adversaries to my freedom-loving vision as they build obstacles in their roles as politicians, religionists, and mean-spirited people. Cautious optimism allows me to keep a realistic attitude about their dangers while providing inspiration to do my part in building a safer, better world.
Another beauty of cautious optimism is that it reinforces my basic, sunny nature. I feel free to explore the new ideas that spontaneously appear. I allow myself to envision their benefits and to visualize their faults. There is a good measure of pro-activity, common sense, and efficiency with cautious optimism. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that having a realistic outlook on life works best for me.
Maintaining an upbeat, hopeful attitude is less easy these days because the enemies of democracy and civil rights have refined their technologies of repression and propaganda. Negativity and fear seem to have gained the upper hand in our land. It would be easy to default to pessimism under such circumstances. It is cautious optimism and realism that allows one to remain on-track on the way to a more enlightened future.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor Tom Hanks. “Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour.”