Thursday, October 19, 2006

I try optimism: which comes out kinda depressing

I am going to put aside my magic bag of angry (magic like Santa’s because it never gets empty), and actually try a new word I learned yesterday: optimism. “People really use this word?” I asked Linda, “You’re not just making this up.” This is when she brought up the glass metaphor and how it could be half full. “What does the ratio matter when someone is offering you a glass of poison?” I puzzled. Linda slowly explained that for some people, people other than me, the glass is not assumed to be containing poison, but opportunity. Yeah, like that’s believable. Anyway, here goes.

For me, dying and living is not about mortality, but about the moments within ones life. And so, there are a thousands ways to live, even when faced by the greatest of adversity (and to be clear by ‘greatest’ I mean things that happen to you and the people you love like breast cancer, or death of a love one, or illness, exhausting poverty, assault, rape...fill in the blank). For me the essence of choosing life comprises of two elements: one, that I chose to reach for more than myself and second, that I get up literally and metaphorically (when I stop getting back up, then I’m dead). I can’t give much advice about what to do in face of a good job, social respect, and excess of money and the close network of friends and relations; I suppose these situations can present their own problems since a lot of people with these situations still split up or are unhappy. If someone would like to drop a load of money on me, I would be happy to report on such problems as they arise. For the rest of us, there might be some sense of snatches of happiness between God/life using us as the ball in a cosmic ping pong game.

I do not believe in facing adversity well, or having a stiff upper lip. I find terror, whining, loud laments and anxiety to be quite cathartic. I tried the “struggle on in silence” thing but found that no one really cared, least of all me. What I did find was the separation between becoming a self obsessed, depressed and consuming annoyance to myself and others and being human was simply in whether I could step back from myself, just a little bit, where I could choose to reach out to others. This usually comes in the form of a joke. Or a question about another’s life? Or both. I have to admit, that sometimes, overwhelming terror can SEEM like a joke; for instance when I start questioning the anesthesiologist before an operation that they did actually finish their courses right? And they did well at them? And they got a certificate, one made of paper? And MOST of their patients survive? I usually have the entire surgical staff in stitches.

There are those times when life is pretty awful and painful which I call “falling down”. And it really doesn’t seem like there is any particular point to going forward. And for me, there is a realization that going on, regardless of any particular meaning it might have to me that day or minute, is a choice, an affirmation that I believe in getting up, in moving, against adversity toward a future which can be unseen, and unknowable. But that I take on faith it is better than wherever “here” is. I am reminded by a quote from Zenna Henderson’s book Pilgrimage, the best description of those moments when one has well and truly fallen face down in the shit of life:

"There is no reason to go on. I could stand it when futility wrapped around me occasionally, but don't you remember? Remember the morning I sat there dressing, one shoe off and one shoe on and couldn't think of one good valid reason why I should put the other shoe on? Not one reason! To finish dressing? Why? Because I had to work? Why? To earn a living? Why? To get something to eat? Why? To keep from starving to death? Why? because you have to live! Why? Why? Why!"


I would say the answer to “Why?” is that joy and happiness for every person is just around the corner. I would, except that I promised to try optimism, not a frontal lobotomy. How about, because, even incapable of finding any pleasure in yourself, it is still capable of giving it to others. This is why choices are made; choices to get out of bed, shower and go outside, choices to not drink or take drugs as an escape, choices to visit someone, to write a note to someone, to show up to support someone, to help someone. And not even because they deserve it; these choices are an affirmation that my life is more than what is going on with me. I do not have a sunny disposition, or a naturally bubbly personality, but I will, occasionally, ask you, sincerely, how you are. Indeed if I ever ask you, you can know that I genuinely want to know how you are, that I have no interest in “fine” or “good” because I had my social niceties sandblasted off long ago and would only ask if I genuinely for at least a few seconds, cared about you. Some days, that’s as good as it gets. Which to me, is choosing to live.

4 comments:

Yoga Korunta said...

Choosing life may require more courage than the alternative.

Jim said...

What I see when I look at the glass is.....You have more glass than you need.

kathz said...

It's no good - just at the moment I identify too strongly with Marvin, the paranoid android in Douglas Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (original late 1970s radio version). Famous Marvin lines include:
"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed"
"Pardon me for breathing, which I never do any way so I don't know why I bother to say it ... oh God, I'm so depressed."
"Do you want me to sit in the corner and rust, or just fall apart where I'm standing?"
"Would you like me to go and stick my head in a bucket of water?"
"Life's bad enough as it is without wanting to invent any more of it."
"Life - don't talk to me about life."
Somehow quoting Marvin makes me feel a little bit better ...
Alternatively you could try pretending you're Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and remember your favourite things .... (or does that one require a supporting cast of seven singing children?)

belledame222 said...

"I can't go on I'll go on"

(Beckett)