Friday, March 20, 2009

Happiness vs. Optimism

My laptop has a bug. I haven't been posting because all the stories I have to share right now require photos that are on my laptop. But a little while ago I was flipping through a chick mag and something I read in it actually brought me greater clarity and insight and requires no photographic narration. (FYI it was Redbook. Incidentally, I took a "what kind of writer are you" quiz on Facebook yesterday and the result was Jane Austen. Would she read Redbook?)

Most of you know that I was recently back home for more meetings and negotiations with attorneys and the trucking company. You may remember from a previous post that I thoroughly enjoy my attorneys. Hanging out with them for hours on end is not painful, which is good, because this go around lasted 10 hours STRAIGHT. As we sat around eating trail mix and making jokes, one of my attorneys said, with what I think may have been a tiny bit of awe and wonderment, that he's never known anyone who could say such depressing things with such a big smile on their face. (Keep up, he was referring to me.) He determined that the two conflicted and couldn't possibly coexist. Either my negative comments were a lie or the smile and laughter were.

Now, it should be said that I would never, I repeat NEVER, claim to be an optimist. But I don't think I'm truly a pessimist either.

The Redbook article that has me feeling so validated today says that ideally happiness and optimism go hand in hand, but not necessarily. A little bit of pessimism can help us prepare for setbacks and tragedies and can be an effective coping mechanism for stressful times in our lives. When we have this attitude, but combine it with perspective, it's easier to be happy while still addressing the challenges of life.

If realists actually exist, I'm one of those. I have myself convinced that I will be alone for the rest of my very long life, that I will be diagnosed with cancer in 5 years and that I will lose one of my children before adulthood, probably because one of them has whacked another over the head with something sharp and rusty. Which is ridiculous, right, because how could THAT much bad stuff happen to one person after all the stuff that I'm already dealing with? But we can't be naive. It is possible. Job's not just a story in the Bible.

In spite of it all, I can't help but laugh easily, loudly and often because I probably don't really believe the negative stuff I say.

Maybe that's how someone can say such dreary things with such a big smile on their face: I say it, but I don't really mean a word of it. But then again, it could all play out exactly as I've told myself it will...


katie said...


Your attitude continues to impress me. I don't know how you do it. While, I have never lost a husband like you did, I have lost a child, been divorced etc. and I had times that I didn't think I could go on. But the sun does shine after the night has left, but it took me a lot longer than you to finally realize that. I know the stress you are under is unbearable at times, but please know you are such a wonderful example to so many. For that I thank you. Keep Smilen' Our Father in Heaven knows you and your needs. Let Him carry you!!
Love ya,

Mom said...

Brenda, I remember the brain tumor thing from your teenage days. The other things are of a more recent invention. I am presuming the very best for you and your boys. You have skills and talents and resources you are only beginning to discover and others that will surface as they are needed. Keep in touch with that girl who can still laugh out loud even though things are far from ideal. Love to hear that laugh, by the way. And your smile is beautiful.

Cami, Chris and Bretton said...

K, this is going to sound like a round about way of getting there, but hopefully you'll get it in the end...
I don't feel like I have much of a place to say anything about it, but Matt's accident has affected me in a big way... seeing as how Chris was there with him and he very easily could have been in the car with Matt, it feels almost as if he were, minus the obvious outcome. Anyway, I was going to say that his accident affected me for better, and sometimes worse. "Worse" because I am now an even MORE paranoid wife when Chris is out of town (sorry Chris, as if it could get any worse! ha ha), but "better" because it has also made me realize that there are things in life you can control and things you can't. So your post made me think of this, my new outlook on life: Do what you can about the stuff you CAN control, but don't worry about what you CAN'T and when something bad does happen know that, without a doubt, there was nothing you could have done about it, it was in God's plan, and learn from it. It is amazing how well you are doing this. You have taken probably the one situation that NOBODY wants and learned, as I'm sure you will continue to do. What I see is that you have learned to see the bright side of the darkness, if there is such a thing. So I guess what I'm getting to with all of this is, although it's ABSOLUTELY not on the same level, I totally get what you're saying.

P.S. Thanks for the shirts. They're awesome!

Quin's momma said...

I can totally see what you're saying. I KIND OF do the same thing....I say these terrible things, so I'm prepared for when they do happen. However, deep inside somewhere, I do continue to hope for the best. But still- I've prepared myself...ya know? I also LOVE to see you smile and hear you laugh. It's a unique laugh and music to my ears.