It is strange how differently people in your life categorize you. My husband thinks of me as an incurable optimist. He often tells me that life would be less painful if I would settle into what he calls a “realist” view of the world. I could be wrong on this one, but it looks like pessimism to me. At 45 I certainly do not consider myself a Pollyanna. I also have experienced enough to temper my optimism with a sometimes more than healthy dose of trepidation. But does this mean my sister’s assessment is correct? Have I become a cynic? Should I be joining the next available spot in the curmudgeon crew? It seems at times that nearly all of these options hold true.
I often forget that optimism is not generally an element that works well alone. Rather than believing that today the wall will fall when I bang my head into it again, I need to consider some new approaches to the wall. Maybe the answer today is a helmet or a ladder. The optimism lies in the possibility of a new result. I have to do more than just expect a happy outcome; success takes some investment and creativity. Trepidation is the piece that helps me weigh out the risks but I have to tread lightly with this piece. It can paralyze a decent plan of action.
I think the cynicism that my sister speaks of is my realization that there are a lot of walls. Just like rearing children, you have to learn to choose your walls and your battles. With age comes a new discernment and selective attitude towards the choosing. Could this save the world? Is it my job to save the world? Does the world really need to be saved? Will winning this battle allow me to sleep at night? Will losing it keep me awake? I look around and it is suddenly clear that living in any community requires compromise.
The black and white I believed in when I was younger seems incredibly naive at this point. I listen to the left, I listen to the right, and all I hear is rhetoric and the stagnant hum of business as usual. Maybe my sister thinks me a cynic because I don’t assume everything is going to be a positive outcome. I don’t assume it is a negative one either. Frequently I make no assumption at all because it’s simply not a battle I’m suiting up for. But I do get up each morning and think about the walls. I prioritize each challenge and set my plan of approach. Some days I make it over so many walls they seem like simple hurdles. Other days I stand in awe of the seemingly insurmountable. Always I run amidst the gray somewhat humored by how easily others label me.