I met my husband in my early twenties. His entire family’s optimism blew me away. I wanted some of that sweet, positive-attitude nectar, and I drank it. I loved spending time with them. I thought, this must be the way to change my outlook … surround myself with positive people!
This worked well for a while. I felt genuine joy; daily life appeared a little brighter than before. Pleased with myself, I shared this new attitude with my family, and friends. I was shocked when one of them said to me, “Yeah, well, I’m more of a realist.” It confused me, because I considered myself a realist too. Was I considered unrealistic for having a positive-attitude?
I noticed my husband’s granny seemed annoyed by the others in their family, and she called them “ostriches.” In my naivete, I’d never heard the term before. I didn’t have any idea what she meant, and wondered why the rest of them frequently ignored her.
Then some years went by, and … well … the perfect optimistic family before me, started to come into a clearer view. It was like one of those skewed paintings, where you have to look in just the right angle to see the whole picture. They actually had … gasp … flaws! Their optimism slowly revealed itself as pretentious. When difficulties came our way, no one addressed them. We needed support and compassion, but everyone pretended like nothing bad was happening. The “ostrich” reference now made sense.
Eventually, this issue became a cause for arguments in our marriage. He used to argue that it didn’t matter whether something was realistic or not, it only matters what a person believes.
We couldn’t help but laugh when this very issue came up on an episode of The King of Queens. The character, Doug, says something that could’ve come directly out of my husband’s mouth. “It doesn’t matter if the world is made of marshmallows, or you just think it’s made of marshmallows. It’s the same thing.”
How could I argue this point? We see what we believe.
The biggest problem for me was that I didn’t, and still don’t, know how to fake it. If I know the world is not made of marshmallows, I can’t pretend it is for the sake of those who see it that way. I have to be me.
Confusion swept over me for a while. If their optimism was feigned, perhaps it didn’t exist at all. I mean, reality isn’t always pretty, and many times it has to be faced in order to be fixed. At the same time, I needed some kind of hope. The positive-attitudes I thought I’d found earlier inspired me. Realizing their optimism was a cover for denial, broke my spirit. Where was I to go from there?
I fit my zodiac sign of Libra to a tee. I need balance. So, why couldn’t I balance being a realist and an optimist at the same time? I pepper a little realism in with optimism. A sprinkle of humor in with the sad. A dash of hopeful-outlook, while facing the bad news. Put it all together and it’s a nicely seasoned recipe for a life that is never dull.
I’m not going to deny hurt feelings or grief over a loss. I’m going to cry. I’m going to get mad. But, I’m not going to let those things run my life either. I’m going to joke and laugh. I’m going to do something that makes me happy in between the anger and the hurts.
My Libra sense of justice begs the question, was it really pessimistic of me to see the glass half-empty? Or, was I just being realistic? After all, the glass is both half-full and half-empty. My old pessimism stopped me from recognizing the half-full part of the glass in the first place. Seeing both helps me feel balanced. My husband’s family did open my eyes to the other side. Thank you to them, and to my wonderful husband for the long Saturday morning philosophical discussions.
We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us – how we take it – what we do with it – and that is what really counts in the end. ~ Joseph Newton