Friday, November 5, 2010

Reluctant Optimist

When I was little I complained a lot. I was always being told to find the good in things, and never could, so as I was learning who I was I naturally assumed that I was a hopeless pessimist. I embraced it and it never occurred to me that I could or would be any other way. As I learned from Werner Erhard, you don't know what you don't know, and I didn't know that there was any other way to be. So, the other day when I was complaining about how terrible my day had been, and ended my commentary with "but that's okay, tomorrow will be better" and my friend said "there's that optimism again!" my immediate response was, "oh, no, no I didn't mean it like that," but did I? What other way could you mean "tomorrow will be better?" I didn't really believe tomorrow would be better. Was I a liar and a pessimist? Then there was the use of the word "again," as if I'm puking optimism all over the place all the time. Disturbed by the whole event I sat down to consider the implications. What could this mean about the whole nature of my personality?

Here's the thing: My whole life I've hated doing things I hate to do. I put them off, griped about them, and often just didn't do them at all. It gave me a terrible attitude. I guess it was really immature to act like that, but I mean I REALLY hated doing some things. Now I don't ever do anything I don't want to do. When I'm forced to do things I don't want to do like hold a wrench while I watch my husband repair machinery, it's absolutely agonizing. I don't know if everyone feels physical pain when forced into doing something unpleasant, but I swear it makes me sick. I do things I'm not crazy about doing, but I don't do them because I'm a soldier and I bite the bullet and get them done. It's because I trick myself into thinking I want to do them. With a little preparation and mental maneuvering I can make myself think I like to clean the house. I mean, how often do I get to listen to music really loud outside of the car? Sometimes I don't feel like washing my hair. I'm tired, it takes forever to dry, I don't want to do it. So I plan for it, I'll try to get excited about not having dirty hair anymore, sometimes when I'm having a really hard time getting motivated I'll go out and buy some new shampoo. Some tricks are more costly than others, but I've got a great collection of shampoo and toothpaste. Most people hate Mondays, hate their work in general. I'm blessed because I worked as a telemarketer for three months. I love my current job. If ever I start getting down about my job I just think about holding a phone to my ear for eight hours a day. And as far as having a terrible day and then saying some ridiculous thing like "tomorrow will be better?" I'm just trying to avoid praying for a quiet death in the night. Tomorrow's got to be better, right? It's not optimism, it's survival.

Of course, Werner Erhart is right. We don't know what we don't know. There are whole realms of possibilities out there that we can't even think of because even the possibilities we think of are still hemmed in by the things we know to be true in our experience. I've never experienced optimism, so whatever methods I use to avoid doing things I don't want to do are derivatives of my experience as a pessimist. Is that optimism? Maybe I'm taking optimism and putting it into my pessimism box. Maybe I'm learning something that I didn't know I didn't know. Life can be exciting that way. See? I did it again.

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