The Eternal Optimist

"Wow, you really ARE an optimist, aren't you?"

She glanced my way as she said it, barely taking her eyes off the road.

Being called an optimist isn't new to me. Oh sure, I've gone down emotional dark roads in years past, but I've long since changed direction.

I know what it's like to walk home as a child in the middle of the night, hoping everyone will be asleep, only to approach my house and hear the screaming. I could go on endlessly about who it was that particular time or what they were fighting about, but it wouldn't really make a difference, would it?

Regardless of the words overheard, it all sounds the same from a distance. Especially when you're a kid.

I remember stopping and debating what to do next as the snow fell. I didn't even notice the cold in the air, but, as I looked at the house I lived in, I felt very cold indeed.

I think that, technically, this woman and I were on a date, so I did what a man on a date does... 'I'll be funny! Yes yes! Funny... Maybe even witty! I can do that.' This is how the male mind works.

"You know the old saying about the glass being half empty or half full?" I said. "Well, my glass is twice as big as it needs to be because I've got more on the way."

She grinned a spectacular smile that told me she got the joke, and that she knew I wasn't kidding.

"The thing is, I mean it. I say silly things like that because it's great to make somebody smile, but there's truth behind the joke... otherwise, the joke wouldn't be funny. The truth of the matter is that I realized a long time ago - if you buy into pessimism, you become it. I've been down that road."

I was living on a street with no name in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania at the time. There were no street lights. Hell, our street had been a dirt road some five years previous. Mailboxes at our homes - these were still a relatively new concept. Walking home from my friend's house only to find fighting the rest of the neighborhood could hear... that was not new.

She navigated our way through Portland's rush hour traffic as I continued with my thoughts on matters of happiness and optimism.

"I really am a happy guy, but I view that as a choice, y'know? It's my choice. I mean, we all have our good days & our bad, but when the bad days outnumber the good, it's decision time. You either keep going that way, accepting misery as the best you can do, I guess - or you turn around... and yeah, I know it's not that easy, but you've got to start somewhere."

I stood there in the middle of that street with no name wanting to be anywhere else. The street looked spectacular in the falling snow. So pristine. So innocent. What a stark contrast from what waited for me at home. How did this become my life? Why was there so much fighting in my house? Why so much anger? I felt so young and so old at the same time... and I knew what I had to do.

In the long term, I had to get away from all of this and start anew somewhere far far away.

In the short term, I needed to turn around and walk away because tomorrow is a new day. I'd rather drift off to sleep on my friend's couch.

And that's what I did.

Happiness is a choice.

When you feel your life heading in the wrong direction, or you find yourself trapped in an unhappy place, you've got to stop and reflect on the what's and why's of your situation. And you've got to decide whether you need to turn around and go the other way. Or not.

Happiness is a choice.

::::: | Tuesday, Aug 03 2004 at 7:35 PM
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Me! said:

Yes, I'm going to comment on my own entry! :)

The initial purpose of this blog was to serve as a vehicle for me to help myself become a better writer. Sometimes I try different things simply for the sake of it. Well, tonight's entry was an attempt at expressing one idea from two points in time. I'm not sure if it worked or not - but hey... it was worth a shot.

The idea was a memory of walking down my street late at night to find fighting at my house, so I turned around. Years later, I realized happiness is much like that. It's a choice. When you find yourself headed in the wrong direction, you have to turn around.

Hhhmmm... the fact that I'm explaining it here tells me I didn't do the best job with it. Ahh well :)

::::: | August 3, 2004 8:50 PM

Betsy said:

Naaah...you did better than you thought with it.

Been there, done that - you picture it well.

::::: | August 3, 2004 8:54 PM

Uncle Fred said:

Rob, your philosophy sounds right on! Life is a series of decision making...all you have to do is make the right decisions and having a good mind-set sure helps. So, how do you view a full glass?
Self-actualization and/or time to get a new glass?
How about dropping a line or two? Fred

::::: | September 14, 2004 7:39 AM

Alice said:

I like this post. I can see myself in it. Do you have anymore like this? I am the guy that is perputually happy. Shit rains down on me. Sometimes a sprinkle. But I remain me. I found through the years that I like me.

::::: | December 28, 2006 10:13 PM

Shawnte said:

Sometimes I get goosebumps because I feel that you and I share a lot in common. If you opened up my cell phone in the last year, my greeting is "Choose Happiness". You always have the choice.

::::: | May 22, 2007 9:30 AM

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