Dare to Be Optimistic

I was reading the Happy Writer’s Society post of the week over at Natalie Whipple’s blog, and there was a phrase that caught my heart. It said, “dare to be optimistic” and it reminded me about my post a week or so ago about enjoying God just for the sake of enjoying Him.

Why do we romanticize the struggle? Why do we compete to have the hardest trials and longest road to happiness?

This reminded me of something a professor said during my Socio-linguistics class. She said that women relate to each other through trial; they talk more about the things going wrong in their lives than about anything else they experience. Part of this is forced humility. It’s hard to be arrogant if what we’re saying is that crap keeps going wrong. We’ve been conditioned to put ourselves down when complimented: “You look nice today.” “Oh gosh, my hair is a mess, and I’ve got this huge pimple.” We have to find something wrong to show that we aren’t getting a big head. However, women don’t always have their own problems. So what do women do when life is good?

Answer: they borrow someone else’s problems.

“How’s life going?” “My best friend’s brother’s mother-in-law had a horrible week.”

Not only do women always have to have a problem to talk about: they have to have the biggest problem to talk about. On the surface, it seems like men are more prone to competition than women are, but we ladies just compete covertly. By having the worst life, a woman gets a strange seat of honor amongst her peers.

That’s why I think you don’t hear any writers talking about how cool writing is. If we have the worst experience with this whole getting published thing, everyone looks at us an validates our experiences by agreeing that things suck for us. It’s the same thing with prayer requests. They’re are always about the bad stuff. We don’t ever have people praying those wonderful things in Paul’s letters like…

“…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God ; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience ; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.so that we would more fully know the surpassing grace of His love.”

Isn’t that a better prayer than, “I prayed last week that you won’t get another cold and you won’t lose your job,”? Of course I don’t want to lose my job, but isn’t it better that I lose my job but joyously experience “His glorious might”?

My resolution: to boldly go where no one has gone before… I will dare to be optimistic.

In a weird way, this resolution is a step in the direction of excruciating vulnerability.

I don’t know why, but it’s painful to feel the good emotions.

It’s painful to be optimistic because of the risk involved. It’s painful because I’ve never hoped, and therefore, never truly lost.

There’s this great line from my favoritest movie ever GOOD WILL HUNTING where Robin Williams’s character puts Matt Damon in his place by showing him all of the things he hasn’t experienced because of his youth. He lists off a bunch of things including travel outside of Boston, the smell of the Sistine Chapel, war, true love, etc… and one of the things he says is “You don’t know about real loss. That only occurs when you’ve loved something more than yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anyone that much.”

I used to listen to the speech from Robin Williams and think I’d experienced true loss… maybe when Melissa’s mom died or when I quit playing softball… but the truth is that in the most monumental moments of my life, I’ve experienced nothing. I’ve felt nothing. I’ve hoped nothing.

I’ve never hoped and, therefore, never truly lost.


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