Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Musings: On Optimism


So I've been thinking...nothing new here. I was rereading a lot of blog posts from the last year, and it dawned on me that I often wrap up a post about feeling blue about something with a pretty little ribbon as though I solved my case of the mopies and have become enlightened, happy, and at peace with myself and the world. Not so, my friends. Not so.

The day after one of these posts, I typically go back to bemoaning whatever it was that got me down in the first place. Why the need to put pretty packaging on my emotions then, I ask myself? Here's what I am thinking.

Sometimes I sit down to write about something when the emotion I am experiencing is raw and happening...like right then...in the moment...while I type. (For example, I am packing up to leave my parents' house, I am bawling, I am typing a post about missing home, and I practically need a ShamWow to wipe up the keypad.) In that moment, things feel less than ideal, shall we say. But, because this is a blog, a place of all things pretty and sparkly, I feel the need to turn my frown upside down, to think of something positive to say, to make me, or my husband, or my parents, or my friends, look a little prettier and nicer than we all really are. (If you are reading this and you are any one of those relations to me, you are beautiful and saint-like...most of the time.)  During the process of writing and trying to spit-shine my life, something inside me does start to feel better. That's the amazing part. Even if the next day I continue to mope, for those moments when I put a luster on a situation in the medium of words, it starts to appear as positive and lovely as I've made it sound. Even if just for a moment. And that, my friends, is some cheap therapy.

I found that I have a tendency to do this when I write personal essays as well. I like to tie things up with an ending that assures any reader that yes, I will be fine. In fact, more than fine, I am going to be great, and super, and amazing. It isn't that this tendency is disingenuous. It is that this is a moment in which I can reassure myself that I will be great and fine and, possibly, even super and amazing. And frankly, there is nothing more powerful than an optimistic perspective. I have (as my therapist parents have informed me) a "negativity bias." In other words, my natural state tends towards doom and gloom. For instance, as a very young child, my parents took me on a trip during which time I kept asking about a plan for all eventualities that might arise and ended my anxious rant by saying, "And what if we can't find parking when we get there?" and promptly bursting into tears. That's a negativity bias. The only way to counter said bias is to practice optimism. One of the ways I do this is by writing. It gets me to stop the emotional and focus on the logical, and often I find, logically, that things are not nearly as miserable as they seem. There has only been one time in my life when I couldn't find a parking spot upon arriving somewhere, and the worst thing happened: I went home.

If my "thoughtful posts" seem like they end a little too neatly, this is why. I am doing myself a favor and getting positive. What I hope is that maybe if there is anyone else out there who has a touch of the negatives, I might dust you with a little optimism too.

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