When It Comes to Optimism, We're All Mutts

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

The movie Pretty Woman was on this past weekend (again) and I found myself watching (again). Either I need some better cable options, or Hollywood is falling down on the job, because it seems the same movies keep playing over and over and over. Last week I jokingly mentioned the Forrest Gump channel. If you missed that movie last time it was on, have no fear – it’s coming again.

One of the scenes I always enjoyed in Pretty Woman was when they went to the opera. As the lights were dimming for the opening act, Richard Gere told Julia Roberts that a person’s first reaction to the opera is very dramatic. They either love it or hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.

It’s that way with my morning posts. Sometimes I’m really happy with what I wrote, and other times I feel I left something on the table. But the responses let me know that, even when I think I missed the mark, it was just what at least one person needed to hear that day. That’s why I love reading the responses. It puts us on a more personal level.

Yesterday, a very perceptive friend responded with a tough question – “Are you talking to yourself?” I know I give this impression of a rock-solid optimist who never frowns and always sees a brighter future, but the truth is I’m no more delusional than any one of you. Well, maybe a little. But the point is, there are days when I need to read my posts as much as anyone.

Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean you’re never down. There will be days when you feel the weight of the world crashing down, and times when hope is about as distant as that exotic destination you know you’ll probably never get to visit. Some days you won’t feel like doing anything, and dreams go from a burning passion into a silent resignation that nothing will ever change. It happens.

On the other hand, feelings of despair don’t necessarily mean you’re a pessimist. In a world where everything has become so polarized that you’re either this or that and there’s no in-between, your personal outlook is likely a mixed bag of good, bad, and indifferent. It doesn’t mean you’re mixed up. It just means you have emotions like every other person, and some days one is more prevalent than the others.

It means you can see a better life, with enough clarity to be drawn to it, but with enough restraint to keep you from getting in over your head. It means you believe in yourself enough to dream, but you also live in a world where reality says some dreams will take a lifetime of work. And it means you have the ability to shed tears like anybody else, but you also know the sun is shining on the other side.

This is a time of year when a lot of people experience feelings of immense joy and excitement. It’s also a time when just as many people fall into a deep depression that even they can’t quite explain. Same day, same weather, same traffic, same everything. But it affects us all in very different ways.

The point is that none of us are a complete package of optimism or pessimism. Yesterday, I’m told, was National Mutt Day. Well, maybe we should haver been celebrating ourselves, because in a lot of ways, we’re mutts. There are no absolutes in our lives or our outlook on life. We all have a little of this and a little of that, in varying proportions. That’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us human.

Sometimes, the best way to talk ourselves out of a mood of despair is to talk somebody else through the same transition. It may not change everything on the spot, but it does help us look a little closer to find that ray of sunshine we so desperately need. And in helping others find hope and possibilities, we find hope and possibilities for ourselves.

Life is in a constant state of flux, and no mood ever lasts forever. Feeling down doesn’t mean you have to stay there, and when you’re on top of the world, there will still be days when things aren’t perfect. None of us will ever be happy and optimistic all the time. The best we can do is look for those things that bring us closer and focus on them until the clouds go away. And they will. They always do.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Focus on Solutions and Give Hope Room to Grow

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I looked at the weather this morning, and we’re in the single digits – 7 degrees. For those of you who live by the Celsius scale, that’s 14 below zero. For those who don’t need a thermometer to tell them whether they’re comfortable, it’s #&!@ing cold! One of the nice things about having the option to work from home is I don’t have to go outside and f-f-f-frrreeeze. I think I’ll stay here and stay warm.

Yesterday was a somber day here in Dayton. A 30-year veteran of the Police Department was laid to rest, having been killed in the line of duty during a drug raid last Monday. He survived on life support for three days as doctors made plans to harvest his organs to sustain life for others who would not have survived without them. In his final act, he gave the gift of life.

Just three months ago, our city awoke to the news that somebody had gone into a popular nightclub district and opened fire at random, killing nine people and injuring 27 more in less than thirty seconds. I won’t dive into the topic of rapid-fire assault rifles, but that’s something this nation certainly needs to address with common sense instead of soundbites and fears of a larger conspiracy.

When these things happen, we’re left to wonder what goes on in the mind of somebody who would do such things. It’s easy to blame violent movies, video games, upbringing, lack of religion, poverty, broken families, and the ills of society. But none of those things, by themselves, can explain the drastic change in somebody who was once an innocent child, singing nursery rhymes.

We all started out pretty much the same. Sure, there were differences in where we were born, our station in life, and how we were raised. And without a doubt, there are people raising kids today who shouldn’t be trusted with that responsibility. But even in those families, if you were to follow the kids through a day in kindergarten, you wouldn’t see any future killers. They’re all just children.

So, what makes one child grow up to become a doctor, another to serve their nation’s military, and another to open fire on innocent victims? What goes through a person’s mind in that instant when they do something they know will result in their own death or a lifetime of incarceration? Why is that one conscious decision worth the inevitable consequences? We may never know.

What we do know is that, short of a diagnosable mental illness, the one common denominator in these people is a lack of hope. Whether that’s due to drugs, environment, family life, or whatever, the lack of hope can make us act in ways that a person with even the most basic level of optimism would never consider. It’s the feeling that they have nothing to lose, and no reason to go on.

We all know people who live with the same feelings of despair. For some, it’s driven by financial concerns. For others, it may be related to health, relationships, education, family issues, their job, or even politics. We all deal with some of these issues at some level. If not, we’re just one stroke of bad luck away from it. We can’t escape heartache. It’s part of living. All we can do is try to manage it.

If you ever feel like the weight of the world is crashing down on you, take a step back and breathe. Assess the situation for what it truly is, not what it could be if everything that could possibly go wrong does. Write it down on a piece of paper. If you’re dealing with multiple issues, list them all. Then prioritize them in the order of what needs to be handled first.

Most times you’ll find that there are only one or two really urgent matters that need your immediate attention. The rest are what military experts refer to as collateral damage. An entire stack of bills can go away if you can correct the underlying problem of income. Don’t dwell on the symptoms – focus on the solution. In the moment that you identify a solution, you find the first glimmer of hope.

Fix what you can fix and let the rest take care of itself. Adversity is a part of life, and suffering adversity simply means you’re still living. And as long as you’re still living, there’s hope. Some things we can’t change, and in those cases,  we just have to adapt. But when we focus on the things we can change, the surrounding problems just don’t seem quite as big.

Hope begins with the realization that we’re not just here for the ride – we control the outcome. We’re only on this planet for a short time. Don’t get bogged down in despair. Today and every day, find hope. It’s right there inside you. All you have to do is give it room to grow.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved