I recognize I can come across a bit too Pollyanna for some folk. Someone remarked recently, “I love your optimism!” and while I appreciated the sentiment, I doubted it’s truth. I can understand why people might interpret my attitude as Glass Half Full, but it’s not entirely accurate.
I completely see, feel, and understand the ways in which the world is terrible. The friends fighting brain cancer and the storms decimating innocent people’s homes. The systemic way in which all people aren’t valued in the same way. There’s no way you can put this world in a prom dress and declare it’s fine, just fine. It’s not.
The pretense of a rosy world shattered, if in no other way, than how I continue to experience October. What people might smell in my attitude isn’t optimism – that everything is good if you just look at it the right way. Some things are terrible and they suck and it’s okay to name it that way.
What I am, however, is hopeful.
I believe this whole thing is headed in a particular direction, a place with goodness as a baseline. (And actually, I believe that about our starting point as well.) What we have here, among us, is a kitchen in the middle of making the salsa. A mess. A sink full of dishes, splatters on the wall and my shirt, with scraps of vegetables attracting the fruit flies. This is the creation process. There is a deliciousness in our midst; we can smell it. We can see evidence of it around us. And it’s not yet. We’re still shuffling bowls of tomato cores and getting jalapeno seeds too close to our eyes. The scent of what is to come permeates our present atmosphere to the point we can nearly taste it. And still we wait for things to cook down and become as they should be.
That is the underlying Hebrew tone of the word hope: To wait.
Optimism brushes off the negative, the part of the glass that is empty. Hope endures it. Hope takes it all in. Half is gone, half is full, and when it’s all consumed it’s going to be very, very good.
This is our work. We’re partnered in the work of creation, bringing about the reality we believe we’re headed toward. Not a passive, “It sure would be nice if…” waiting, but an active wait. In the words of Anne Lamott, it’s “planting trees for children whose grandparents were born yesterday.” Perhaps the literal trees, and maybe we’re also planting ideas into generations that we won’t be around to hear them repeat. In any case, the value doesn’t diminish.
So friends, when you hear me cheering for the good, have confidence that I’ve not forgotten the terrible. It’s here. And, I won’t let negativity bias win. It’s not an either/or question. This life is a Beautiful Struggle.
Optimism, pessimism, or realism? This isn’t an interesting conversation for me. My questions revolve around: Is this big ol’ human experiment going somewhere? And if so, is it worth it?
Is the salsa worth the messy kitchen?
My answer, so far in this life, is undoubtedly yes. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.