Walking on Sunshine
I have a confession to make: I’m a closet pessimist. My natural tendency is toward the dark side, ambling down the path of worst-case scenarios instead of finding the sliver of sunshine. I think I was born this way, my genes predisposing me to thoughts of doom, gloom, and scary monsters. I convinced myself that my dark thoughts were adaptive because they would prepare me when the doom, gloom, or scary monsters actually pursued me. I would be ready; my armor would be impenetrable!
And, of course, as we all know, shit happens. Bad things are a part of life; there are always twists, turns, smacks, and heartbreaks. It’s unavoidable. The critical difference is how we optimists and pessimists frame and respond to these ups and downs.
For most of my life, I limped down my own shadowy path, struggling with anxiety and the prickly burden of perfectionism. I hobbled through the stresses of law school and starting my career; I shuffled through the first years of marriage and the baby phase with my kids (barely made it through that!) I rode the waves and accepted my fate, just like the infamous Eeyore.
Sigh. Humpf. Snarl.
And, then, as middle age began to dawn, I woke up. I didn’t want to feel like crap anymore. I wanted to peel my eyes open, prop them up with toothpicks, and see the obvious blessings around me. I wanted to live, not just survive.
I have to credit a few friends for wiping my windshield clean and lifting me up. At just the right moment, I was exposed to some new ideas that inspired me. Amanda and I started Hello Bliss. The haze began to clear, and I began to take responsibility for my own life and my own happiness. No one else was going to do it for me.
Some of you lucky people out there are natural optimists. Likewise, I think you were born that way. There is actually evidence to suggest that optimists’ and pessimists’ brains are hard-wired differently. http://www.medicaldaily.com/optimist-or-pessimist-brain-scans-who-positive-and-negative-people-really-do-think-differently.
My husband is one of those bright-side people. When I see a broken-down trailer with holes in the roof, he sees a beautiful yard with great trees. When I see dog poop in the yard, he sees fertilizer (not really). Inevitably, when I see an end, he sees a beginning.
Maybe some of you are like me and have to fight the tendency towards pessimism. I have to work to see that darn glass as half-full; I have to seek out that sliver of sunshine and force my eyes upon it, no matter what! I’m constantly re-routing, adjusting, re-focusing my focus, and searching for the light, the joy, the wonder. I’m doing the work, and the work is hard, but it’s also good and fruitful.
When life happens, we have a choice in how to respond. Sometimes, it’s as simple as hearing that negative thought that’s banging around in your head and softening it, purposefully changing your angle and perspective.
Instead of, I hate my job and all the bo-zos sucking the life out of me, how about, I’m lucky to have a job that is flexible and allows me to serve others.
Instead of, My children are driving me batsh!# crazy, how about, God, I love these gorgeous, small humans-in-progress; they are teaching me so much about patience, love, and life.
Instead of, I need a new car, a new house, a face without wrinkles, and boobs that defy gravity, how about, I’m happy with what I have and I’m going to focus my energy on embracing the life and miraculous body that I have.
Instead of, Why is life so hard right now? how about, I will get through this and find the lesson. I have faith that I am on the right path.
If you’re one of the lucky, genetically-superior optimists, I both love people like you and harbor some suspicions as to your authenticity. In truth, that’s just the jealous pessimist in me talking because you optimists truly have it all figured out. Studies have shown that optimists live longer; have fewer heart attacks, strokes, and even colds; and suffer from less depression and distress in general. www.mayoclinic.org/health-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-2043950
One of the reasons this blog is such a blessing to me is because it forces me to focus on the bliss instead of the gloom. For the pessimists out there, we can learn new behaviors, evolve, and push ourselves to be better. It’s definitely effortful, and I suspect it will be a lifelong job, but it’s work that carries us to a happier, more peaceful place. In no uncertain terms, it’s worth it, and we’re worth it.
For me, my journey from pessimist to optimist is happening in small shifts, not leaps and bounds. There are steps forward and steps back, but I’m walking down a different path these days, and I feel awake, alive, and refreshed. Although all you pessimists are going to want to throttle me, I have to say it, or…sing it: I’m walking on sunshine.