Refreshing Optimism

I’ve typically viewed the world around me in a positive light, but lately I’m finding it difficult to be that person I’ve always been.

I suppose that could be a good thing.  Maybe it means I’m seeing the world a little more realistically, like most of you, and perhaps one day we can get together where we’ll relate on a more negative level.  We can go for a walk and bitch about the state of things in our neighborhood or our community or our own lives and the cathartic conversation will remind us that we’re not alone.

Maybe, when good things happen, we can celebrate them with the understanding that they are the rarity and eventually (probably sooner rather than later) things will get back to how we expect them to be – crappy.

We can roll out of bed, earlier than we’d like to, upset because the sunshine through the window woke us up.

We can apply for jobs and expect no response.

We can hope for the success of our sports teams but, deep down, expect them to disappoint us once again.

Or, we can refresh our optimism.  We can go back to square one, reboot, and start where we left off.

People have asked me for years, “How do you stay so optimistic?”  They’ve questioned me with, “How are you positive all the time?”

My answer is simple: “I’m not”.

I really, truly, am not.  I have to hit the refresh button often and most times I need someone else to do it for me.  But I do enjoy the world a lot more when I can view it through a positive lens.  It doesn’t erase the negativity, it simply reminds me that there’s hope.

Let’s take yesterday for example.  Yesterday I was having a rather frustrating day filled with, “No’s”, “Never’s” and “Not-gonna-happen’s” and I was on the verge of losing it.  I mean, I was really irritated.  I was Hungry, I was Angry, I was Lonely, and I was Tired and thus, the acronym HALT was in full effect.

I was hungry as a result of poor eating choices.  Thanks to the angry, I had sat down and ate a half-bag of candy followed by a chocolate easter egg the size of my foot in place of real food with nourishment and vitamins.  It was delicious at the time and yet, I was still angry…and now my stomach hurt.  I was angry because three job opportunities that I felt I was really qualified for and I was really excited for fell through.  All of them.  In the same hour.  Hence the candy eating.  And I was lonely because my wife was at work, my dog was with my parents, and I had just returned from an incredible trip with my friends in Germany with the realization sinking in that they live really far away.  I was tired because of jet lag, most likely, and because I was sitting around eating candy instead of being productive.

Now you may have noticed that my pessimism was the result of a mixed bag.  Some of the negativity was self-induced, within my control, and frankly, a choice.  Some of the circumstances revolving around my mood were out of my control and yet, my response to those issues, was every bit in my control.  And, some of the bad was just reality and the only thing that was going to solve it was time (and perhaps a little persistence).

So I sat on my couch, coming down from a sugar high, irritated.

Then I hit refresh.

I went to my Songza app on my phone and played the song list  “Get Pumped: Rap Anthems”.  It was a list of the best songs played at sporting events to pump up the players and the crowd.

I laced up my running shoes to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

I put on my running clothes and sunglasses to the tune of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win”.

And I raced down our stairs to the soundtrack of Outkast’s “HeyYa”.

The sunshine was glistening off the Puget Sound as I turned the corner towards Point Defiance and I would like to tell you that at this point in time, the beauty surrounding me had inspired me to feel differently, that the refresh had worked, and that I now saw the world from a new perspective, but it hadn’t, it didn’t, and I wasn’t – I was still in a mood.  I was running out of anger and I was fueled by Naughty by Nature singing, “Hip Hop Hooray” (aaaay, Hoooo, Hayyyyy, Hooooo).  Sometimes that song cheers me up, but this time I wouldn’t let it.

I passed by the zoo, onto 5-mile-drive, where I ran uphill through a tunnel of trees.  The sunlight tried to creep through the dense forest, but it struggled to find an opening, while bicycles and cars passed by me on my left.  I kicked into a faster gear in hopes of speeding up my transition to optimism.  Like a slow computer, this refresh was taking longer than I had hoped.  The hourglass was rotating…the pinwheel was spinning…and my patience was wearing thin.

I was like somebody waiting at a crosswalk, thinking the light will never change.  I hit the refresh button again.  And again.  And once more for good measure.

Then I saw it.  At three in the afternoon, in broad daylight, a raccoon was staring right at me with a handful (paw-full?) of mud and grass.  HA!  For whatever reason, it made me laugh – hard.  I was running around Dalco Passage Viewpoint, one of my favorite views in all the world, and all I could do was stare at this raccoon.  He (she?) was hilarious!  (It?) would throw mud on it’s face, then pause, then wipe it off quickly, then stare right at me, then pause, then repeat.  I was mesmerized! And I was feeling a lot better.

After a few moments in time, the raccoon shot back into the woods (probably to come back at night, the timeframe nocturnal animals belong in) and I continued running around the loop.  I switched my music to 90’s Pop Punk as I passed by the Viewpoint for the Narrows Bridge .  My improving optimism was merging with the wonderful tune of “I’m Ok, You’re OK” by MXPX.

I suppose I am okay, I thought.  It’ll be alright.  It’ll be alright.  It’ll be alight.  It’ll be alright. (mewithoutYou – “Gentleman”)

I rounded down through the main part of the park, through the parking lot, down the stairs, and along the water towards Owens Beach.  I passed by people walking their dogs, people holding hands on the promenade, kids playing in the water at the beach, and families sitting around picnic tables in the sunshine.  I u-turned back towards the ferry, Mt. Rainier, and home.

It’s a day later now, and my optimism isn’t back to full strength yet.  As a matter of fact, I had to refresh it twice already this morning.  Once when I leaked coffee all over our kitchen from our coffee pot (because why does this kind of stuff only happen to me?) and once when I had writer’s block for the 60th day in a row (I’m so dumb and I’ll never be able to do anything right!).  It’s amazing how quickly one can shift into negativity and pessimism.

But I’ll keep hitting refresh.

Because the world is a much better place when I get to see raccoons smearing mud all over their face and wiping it off, overlooking the Puget Sound, on a sunny afternoon.

Something I’d never see eating candy on my couch, which I will probably continue to do, because, well, honestly…

I really love candy.

2 thoughts on “Refreshing Optimism”

  1. This is still the funniest, easiest to read, awesomest post I’ve read the past few weeks-and I’ve read a lot. I really enjoy reading blogs etc, but it’s getting a bit repitious, like everyone is thinking the same thing….Please post more soon!!

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