On Seeking Optimism

Some days I wake up and it just hits me.  I lost a baby!!  I might never have another one!! I hate infertility and all it has taken from me.  I want another baby so badly I can taste it – what the top of its sweet head smells like after a bath, the dreamy look of a milk smile when its belly is full, the distinct sound of the newborn cry.  It makes me ache all over, mostly in my heart.

I’m not a glass-half-full kind of girl.  Optimism doesn’t come naturally to me.  If something begins to go wrong I think the whole world might implode, or at least my corner of it.  If Gabe gets a little sick I think he has cancer.  If Tahd is late coming home I think he died in an accident.  If I notice a strange odor in the house I think there’s a hidden electrical fire somewhere.   I’ve become accustom to this reality, and even though it doesn’t make life pleasant I’ve come to think of it as just a part of who I am.

I’ve been reading Kelle Hampton’s blog for a number of months now.  Kelle is the photographer who took our photos in Florida, but she has also become a well-known blogger as a result of a single post she wrote – the birth story of her daughter, Nella.  Without spoiling the details of her beautiful story, Kelle was faced with a drastic turn of events – one that would be a worst-case scenario for some.  Yet, Kelle seems to have handled it with grace and acceptance, demonstrating a positivity about life and a willingness to embrace change that is foreign to me.  Watching her descriptions of it has fascinated me, and it made me realize I am decidedly not an optimist.

I guess it took the chance to observe a true optimist to make me aware of the negativity of my thought patterns.  As I’ve been paying attention to my underlying thoughts, I’ve found I’m very hard on myself.  These aren’t the conscious thoughts I have at the surface – they’re the nearly invisible thoughts that drive my plans and decisions, my ponderings and mullings.  They’re the mental tapes I play in the background of all I do.  And the closer I listen?  They’re not nice.  Not nice at all.

These thoughts have become more audible to me as I’ve been processing my grief.  When I think about Mara, I notice myself wondering why this happened to me, the root of that question being based on a belief that something must be inherently wrong with who I am and has thereby caused me to be unable to have another child.  I find myself wondering why Mara’s death happened in the manner it did, the underlying belief being that I deserve punishment for some unknown flaw or misdeed.  There are more, I’m sure, but I haven’t started noticing anything but these two.  I think I notice them because grief has left me feeling raw – which, I suppose, could turn into a blessing of sorts if it unearths hidden foundations of pessimism and harshness and allows me to replace them with healthier and more joyful perspectives.

When I recognized the disparity between the optimism of Kelle’s variety and the pessimism of my variety, I knew a change was in order.  People will naturally tend toward optimism or pessimism, I think, but that doesn’t mean they have to be controlled by the extremes of their predispositions.  I can’t speak about optimism because I seem to have no experience in that regard; however, where pessimism is concerned I think it brings with it a dark, inky blackness that gradually creeps further into the mind, gripping it more tacitly and tightly as time progresses.  I have been gradually and increasingly consumed by the troubles of life.  I avoid the positive, holding more tightly to the negatives, the things that reinforce the negative tapes I can’t seem to stop playing.

But the time has come.  It has to stop.

I’m not sure how one goes about altering a predisposition of temperament.  I’m sure I could locate some answers through my faith, but I’m not quite ready to go there, at least in a deep way.  Right now I’m just happy that I’m willing to acknowledge what is – which is my generally-constant-and-seething anger at God.  Donning my best Vivien Leigh impersonation, I’ll worry about the rest later.  I just want to work on some straight-up mental reprogramming and see what happens.  I’m tired of seeing gloom.  I’m tired to watching the clouds roll by.  I’m tired of reinforcing the negative, of being hard on myself, of being hard on others.  I want to wake up and greet the new day, not groan that I’m awake.  I want to take advantage of the possibilities, not get overwhelmed by all the options.  I want to enjoy the excitement and wonder that is around me, not get bogged down by the monotony and tedium of day-to-day life.

I’m not under the illusion that I’m going to single-handedly produce a miracle of change in my personality.  I’m still going to feel tired.  I’m going to get overwhelmed.  Life is going to be tedious and monotonous.  But I’ve watched the other side; I’ve been observing optimists and how they handle life’s heartaches.  They are no less challenged, but they approach things from a different foundational belief.  That’s what I need to work on, also.  I have to stop reinforcing what harms and start embracing what heals.

Lucky for me, I have Mara to thank for this awakening.  I’m not sure this awakening could have come in any other way or from any other source.  I’m glad for that.

I miss her.

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  1. I’m a pessimist too. I’ve found the writings of Pema Chodron helpful. I have an audiobook of hers called “Don’t Bite the Hook” and I’ve listened to it a number of times over the last 2 months. Her voice is so soothing and she is such a wise woman. She’s a Buddhist. You can get all kinds of Pema goodies on amazon 🙂

  2. Melanie says:

    I used to be a major pessimist. Major. I think I get it from my dad. Somewhere along the way during our infertility journey, I began to feel more optimistic. It makes NO sense at all that I could become a more optimistic person after so many things going wrong. But I have, and I don’t have a clue where it came from. Losing this baby set me back for a while, but I feel myself getting back on track now. Somehow even when bad stuff happens, I still see our blessings as bigger than the bad stuff. I wish I could articulate how that works, but I don’t even know. Like, for example, when we lost this baby, stuff would pop into my head. Things like, “Well, we don’t get to keep this baby, but look at Elise. She is healthy. This could be so much worse – what if she were very sick? That would be worse.” Then I would just end up feeling thankful.

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