I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of girl. The eternal optimist. The expert finder of silver linings. Ever hopeful and always looking for the good.
For the most part, I would say this is a positive quality. But let’s be honest – there is such a thing as too much optimism. Just like ice cream, too much of a good thing can make that good thing less good.
Optimism can easily morph into expectations – and that is when it can get a little tricky. It is one thing to hope for positive outcomes, and another to expect them. The latter can be rife with disappointment, and may, over time, change one’s optimism into pessimism or cynicism, because let’s face it: just because we hope and pray and believe that good things will come doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
That’s why it’s healthy to acknowledge and accept that sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped they would, even though you tried with all your might. Bad things happen to good people. People let you down. You can wait patiently for good news, and the waiting doesn’t cease. Stress and sorrow may dim your eyes and sallow your skin. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped they would. That’s just how it goes.
Like other habits and attributes, a person’s optimism can be tested. As the wise and witty Jon Stewart once said, “if you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.” Truth. An optimist’s commitment to hope shines brightest in the darkest moments. It’s easy to be optimistic when circumstances are favorable. It’s a lot harder to keep the faith when life is hurling grenades at you.
Over time, my bright and shiny optimism has been countered with a healthy dose of realism. It’s a good thing, I think. A delicate balance of being optimistic and hoping for the good, but also acknowledging the reality of the possibilities, the implications of decisions, and the length of time that change may take. I’m still an expert silver lining finder, but I’m more aware of the darker, stickier sides as well. Maybe it’s a natural progression that coincides with aging. And I can probably thank my straight-shootin’, as-real-as-they-come husband for this, too. He’s perfected the realist perspective.
I leave you with a line from one of my favorite hymns. It’s a perspective and a petition all in one. Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow. An optimist’s mantra, a realist’s plea.