I am not an optimistic person by nature. I think I used to be before I experienced trauma as a child and as an adult. I believe that reality changed my view of the world from a kind place to a threat. Of course that was a distorted image of life but nonetheless it was how I felt. I learned early in life to watch the folks around me, to cover myself in distance, or a tough outer shell, not allowing anyone in to harm me. The result was a dark view of life. I felt like a dark cloud was over my head even on sunny days. I had little to look forward to because I believed if those who were supposed to love you, such as your parents, told you that you were worthless and deserved mistreatment, what good could there be anywhere else.
I remember the period of relief that I had when I was twenty. I was taking a night class, literature, at the college branch that was on our base. I had been in the Air Force for two years and wanted to further my education by getting a degree in business. It was my first semester in night classes. We were assigned to read, “Self Reliance,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In it he talked about being responsible for your own life, making your own decisions, standing up for what you believe in, and not allowing the opinions of others to influence what you wanted to do. That’s what it said to me, I’m paraphrasing. When you have a chance, I encourage you to read it.
I read each paragraph, becoming stronger and more optimistic with each sentence. I did not know that people lived like that. I wanted to live like that. I highlighted and underlined words and phrases that I would carry with me from that time until now.
I have to work at being optimistic because I know how low human behavior can go, how selfish it can be. To counteract that fact, I also know that I am in charge of my life and make choices that are in my best interest despite what else is going on around me. I know that I am not vulnerable to anyone else’s dark ideas, or angry spirit, or abusive behavior. I know that there are good people in our world who want to give, and create, and help others. There are people who are kind and thoughtful. Also, I am not alone because God is with me every day. In the small things and in the big things of this life, He is with me, guiding me, and protecting me even when I can’t see it, He is there. And I have seen Him take the bad experiences of my life and turn them into stepping-stones for great things.
Every morning I remind myself of the beauty of life, going above my desire to go back to bed and not face the day. I lean on God to give me an optimistic spirit, I allow Him to center me, to ground me in love. I do this every day so that I can smile, for real, not some fake smile pretending everything is ok. It’s a genuine effect of work and faith, looking for and expecting the goodness in life.
So believe me, optimism can be learned despite what has happened to you. That darkness, whatever it is or was, does not define you and in it’s own way, it strengthens you. Look for the sunshine and I promise you will find it. Then, get up and go for it! Make your dreams a reality!
I’ve got some good things coming up next week. Can’t wait to share them with you!
Love and Blessings,