Optimism is essential for a healthy life, healthy vision in particular…sort of like Vitamin A. In fact, for the purposes of today’s post, optimism IS Vitamin A for AWESOME.
Why is the song ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the Lego Movie queuing in my head?
I’ve not blogged in almost a MONTH. This has NEVER happened in all my years blogging. The longest I’ve ever missed is one week. I’ve been away for good reason, though.
Back in February, I cracked a molar. This was a HUGE deal.
Admittedly, I DO grind my teeth and have all my life. But, I’ve always been the person who got the sticker from the dentist. I’d never had a cavity, never needed braces.
I’ve always had healthy teeth to go with my very healthy levels of optimism. I figured I was almost forty-five, and teeth wear out and it SURELY wouldn’t be a big deal. The dentist rushed me in to tend the broken molar and O…M…G.
I literally wept when I got the prognosis.
Both sides of my mouth needed to be rebuilt immediately for any hope of saving my molars. If I didn’t do this, then the other teeth would crumble and I’d require a mouth full of dental implants.
I was mortified.
How could this be?
I brush all the time, have floss everywhere…even in MY CAR. How could a person who doesn’t LIKE sweets, who drinks water and not soft drinks have SO much damage?
No, there was a mixup and these were someone else’s X-rays. I wanted to believe that so badly, to get another opinion, but I knew my dentist was right. I’d sensed something horribly wrong long before the one tooth broke.
Between the stress (grinding) and the Shingles and multiple illnesses that just obliterated my immune system? My teeth had been destroyed.
Cracked then rotted from the inside out leaving only shells of teeth. No matter how much I cleaned the outside, the INSIDE was the problem…the place I couldn’t reach with conventional care methods.
How dismally metaphoric.
Call Me, Ms. Optimism
In 2009, when my grandmother (who reared me, so essentially my mom) was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, I kept a good attitude. There were new medications, new treatments to slow down how quickly the disease could progress.
I’d bring Spawn (then a baby) to see her and they’d play Bubble Guppy games on my—okay, his—iPad. Brain games to combat the Alzheimer’s.
Then, my favorite aunt’s heath began failing, the woman who still did her own yard work even though she was ninety-four. Often, she’d be in the hospital at the same time as my grandmother, sometimes in the next room.
Optimism to the rescue. Hey, I can visit them at the same time. Read to them, bring flowers, bring the baby, and save time and gas.
In 2010, when my husband received orders to deploy to fight in Afghanistan, I maintained my optimism. We could do this! Sure, I was a new mom with a baby and a once-solid family that suddenly was crumbling and now my husband was heading for a war-zone, but I could do this.
Maybe I’d write a book about it.
On and on, death after death, loss after loss, through hurts, illnesses, and betrayals so deep I wondered if I might die…I maintained my optimism. Granted, I didn’t shine nearly as brightly, but the world had enough darkness. I didn’t need to add to it.
Nobody cared about my sob story.
When it comes to being a writer, I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been the newbie who wrote when I felt like it, when I was ‘in the mood.’ I let everyone and everything get in the way of sitting down and putting words on the page.
Then, I learned that amateurs listen to their feelings and professionals get to work and get $#!@ done anyway.
I blogged no matter what. Someone died the night before? I’d cry after I posted and made word count. Deadlines gave no figs about feelings. If I wanted to be the best of the best, I needed to adopt habits of excellence.
This is very true.
I’ve been blessed to meet and know many of my author heroes (mega authors, names y’all would KNOW), and I’ve seen them make deadlines and keep writing when their world was literally falling apart.
Writing through pain, through parents dying and children passing and health crises and on and on. Putting words on a page in hospital rooms, during dialysis, right before and after major surgeries.
Granted, I want to point out these incredible authors did this for more reasons than simply being professionals. Writing was also a way of easing their pain.
But, still…pretty inspiring.
Suffice to say, when I’d meet a new ‘aspiring’ writer who told me they couldn’t write or even think of building a platform because they were SO BUSY. Because of the day job, kids, and family they simply ‘couldn’t find the time’ (as if time was laying around in the couch cushions).
My response? Pick another profession.
I didn’t have a lot of sympathy.
To be blunt, I still don’t.
We’ve become a culture driven by moods and that isn’t healthy. I can’t count how many writers I’ve encountered who claimed they wanted my help to be to be the next J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, etc. etc. but after we talked? They lost all their enthusiasm because being a mega-author was just so much…WORK.
Years of work, and life doesn’t stop in the meantime just because we have a dream.
Granted, optimism sometimes is the lone lifeline we will have to keep hold of that dream. Optimism in the face of loss, suffering, pain, and betrayal can often be the only thing that keeps us putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s been that way for me.
When people I loved, whom I believed also loved me did the unthinkable? Hurt me in ways I still can’t wrap my head around? I HAD to believe something good would come out of it or risk coming apart at the seams.
Light Through the Cracks
There’s a meme/story I’ve seen passed around Facebook, particularly in spiritual circles. The idea of a broken vessel fashioned back together and how the light can shine through the cracks. Thus, the vessel is all the more beautiful for being broken, blah, blah, blah.
That is a lovely story, one full of optimism. It’s a story that I wanted to punch in the face…provided a story could be punched in the face.
After barely making it through the holidays (NOT a good time for me)…
TADA! Massive dental work you didn’t expect and can’t afford.
Once the dentist repaired my teeth, I’d be past the worst of it. Thank GOD the one tooth broke before it had gotten to the ‘you need all implants’ part. I willed myself to look at the upside.
I had the entire left side of my mouth rebuilt and thirty-six hours later was on a plane to San Francisco to speak for five days. And I DID. I somehow also managed to be funny and do my job and not come unstitched. Yay me!
Then I got home and the complications hit.
I still blogged and worked and pressed on. Then the dentist did the OTHER side, the side that theoretically should have been easier. Yeah. She spent three and a half hours on one tooth trying to save me from needing an implant, and was successful. Again, THANK GOD.
But it was still six and a half hours of drilling in my mouth and having to stop because I was bleeding so badly. At the end of it, I had a brand new mouth.
It’s only now that my teeth are repaired that I can tell the difference, how frail my natural molars had all become.
Cracked and rotted from the inside. Mere shells of what they once had been.
I come from a rough background and Viking stock. Was taught to have a pretty high tolerance for pain. After my dental visit, I kept doing my job even though I felt like I’d gone a round or five with Mike Tyson.
Getting up, getting to work, willing myself through even though I was all over.
I used the methods that have gotten me through more tragedies than I want to relay, namely listening to positive books and forcing myself to focus on what I am thankful for.
Surprise, surprise, it didn’t work. When the books that normally brought me peace only sent me into depression or a rage, I downloaded a new book.
I $#@! you NOT, the first five minutes were full of that SAME STUPID ADVICE. Optimism is the answer. Focus on your blessings, on gratitude. Be thankful. Choose your attitude.
I lost it. Furious, I returned the book. I’d had enough. So help me, if anyone ‘sent in the clowns,’ I might have set them on fire. A daisy? I would have stabbed it. Our culture is dying because of a sugar addiction literally and metaphorically. Not only that but…
We are ALL TURNING ORANGE from too much Vitamin Awesome. And here we thought it was a bad spray-tan….
And I get it. We are a society out of whack. One side is all doom and gloom and manufacturing reasons to be in perpetual despair. Our social media feeds are filled with social justice warriors newly enraged over some fresh drama de jour.
Rage porn is the new social addiction.
Humans are addicted to being outraged. They ‘spread awareness’ all over our feeds so much that our every nerve-ending is exposed and raw. We can’t bear to open Facebook, let alone consider using it to ‘build a platform.’
And, since everything hurts, we shut down.
To combat the rage porn, the sugar junkies post happy thoughts of the day and inspirational quotes on Instagram. Filtered images and cropped lives and tips for better this and better that, and how to enjoy the most from soup and laugh at salad.
I can’t help but look at my piles of laundry, the floor covered in grit because Nelson—albeit the fluffy adorable love of my life—flings kitty litter like friggin’ fairy dust.
I can’t stop staring the stacks of mail I have to sort through, the closets I need to organize, the…the…the…and all I can think is…
Did I FAIL Adulting 101?
You know that dream where you showed up to a class you didn’t know you were taking and it was the day of the final? And you hadn’t studied because you didn’t even have the book because you didn’t even KNOW YOU WERE TAKING THE CLASS?
THAT was the class that taught you how to be a functional adult, Kristen.
But don’t worry, these folks write scads of books giving advice on how to ‘turn that frown upside down’…and I want to burn it all down.
ALL OF IT.
Balance the Force
Oh how many times I need to just take my own advice. A while back I wrote a post about embracing all our feelings and giving ourselves permission to grieve. To be completely transparent, this year has had me questioning everything I believe about myself, my dreams, my future.
Did I even HAVE a future?
As many of y’all know, physical pain only magnifies emotional pain.
***Shout out to all who write despite chronic pain.
Dental work right at my birthday? I managed to ‘work’ through the next week drugged to the gills on pain meds (one of the crowns had to be readjusted). I kept trying to blog, but it was always a blank.
The more I tried to post, the worse I felt. I didn’t even have it in me to repost something just until I felt better. It took everything not to delete every social media account, take down all my websites and walk away.
THAT was when I knew something was horribly wrong.
I’d been fighting this war inside with optimism and more optimism. When that didn’t work, TRIPLE the optimism. My body, my spirit was rejecting it.
NO! SOMETIMES LIFE STINKS!
I started to get to work like usual yesterday and I couldn’t get out of bed. I’ve not felt such hopelessness in years. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop crying. I went to grab my headphones for a podcast or an audiobook. Maybe clean the house.
Scandinavian aromatherapy–>Clorox and Endust.
Then a small still voice told me to be still and be quiet. Yes, I needed to clean the house and write the blog and edit the pages and do all the things, but I would not be given the grace to do any of these things until I cleaned out the rot in my soul.
Life Can Stink for Good Reason
Yesterday I hit bottom. Thank goodness for all the unwashed laundry or I might have broken a bone! 😛
Since I barely had the will to wash my hair, I finally complied with that small voice. No audiobooks or meditations or soothing ambient noise.
Once in the quiet, alone, I understood why I’d felt compelled to push it out with nonstop noise (even sleeping with headphones).
I curled up in a dark room and I cried and cried…and cried some more. I confessed how I believed life should be different, and how angry I was that it had gone so terribly wrong despite my best efforts and careful planning.
Finally, I admitted how much I missed the loved ones who’d passed away. But, more importantly? I FINALLY admitted how profoundly I was grieving all those who were still living but no longer in my life…and who never will be again.
Life can stink because we are holding onto dead things.
Dead relationships, dead dreams, dead projects, dead bright ideas, all rotting inside. All the while, our outer self can appear healthy while, in reality, it’s rotting away, getting steadily thinner, frailer, and on the edge of disintegrating (much like my molars).
Speaking as a person of faith, I think we can be particularly guilty of too much optimism. When life sucker punches us, we look to all the scriptures about hope and love and beauty for ashes which is perfectly fine…though not necessarily balanced.
Too much Vitamin Awesome is unhealthy. We need Vitamin Awesome in the right dosages. Also, we need MORE than just Vitamin Awesome.
We need Vitamin B as in Vitamin (This is) B*%!!$&%*, Vitamin Can You Believe They Did That? Maybe some Vitamin Don’t Tell Me It’s for the Best, and Vitamin Keep Crying it Out.
Optimism isn’t always the best answer when we’re hurting. We might be holding onto so many dead things, we aren’t being optimistic in the right ways. We have to let go, cry, grieve and sort through those emotions. Separate what can be restored and resurrected from those dreams, goals, relationships that are long dead and in need of a proper burial.
Great People Sometimes Break Down
I’m like all of you guys. We’re all wonderfully different, and we all view life through our own unique lens. My lens is as a Texan reared in the Bible Belt. I frequently joke to fellow Christians that 1 Kings 19:5-15 is the first documentation of an angelic visitation with a Snickers bar.
Angel: Elija, so want you to know He DID receive your message. ‘You want to die.’ Yeah, so, request denied. Also, He sent me to tell you that you’re a great prophet…but a total diva when you don’t eat.
My POV? We don’t need another coffee mug, screensaver or mouse track pad with inspirational quotes. I adore Ghandi as much as the next person, but some days…just stop.
For my fellow faith folks, sometimes we don’t need any more uplifting scriptures..though maybe we could modify them?
Oh the plans I have for you, plans to cry your eyes out, eat all the nachos and finally admit you miss that person who stabbed you in the back and that it is okay to miss them even if it is NOT okay to let them come back in and wreck your life again…Amen.
Book of Lambentations 😀 …
Lighten up. We’re all friends here.
So after all this, I (think) I’m back. Treading new territory and my Things To Do List is giving my inner super-perfectionist apoplexy, though not nearly as much as my Things I’ve Completely Forgotten To Do List.
There is a space between us being a total ditz people can’t count on who’s driven by moods versus us being rigid and unyielding until we completely break apart.
What can I say? I do all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to.
As hard as I try and as much as I love what I do, I mess up and flake out and overextend myself.
I’m like many of you—a hot mess, a parent, a spouse, an author who wants to be excellent at her job but who also really wants an immaculate house and can’t have both.
With all the setbacks, I’ve had to cancel and move classes, I’ve not blogged, I’m behind on edits (because editing while on drugs might not be the best thing for anyone) and trust me…there is no one who can beat me up better than ME.
Which is bad. And I am stopping that now.
Okay, my GOAL is to stop that now.
But, just like my books? I’m a work in progress. We all are. Anyone who is not a work in progress IS TOTALLY a work in progress just they’re starting in DENIAL 😛 .
Anyway, good to be back! I MISSED y’all!
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you wonder if you missed the Adulting 101 classes too? Is it hard to look at social media sometimes? Either the whole world is crap and burning down or we have to learn how ten ways to fit yoga and green juice into our lives?
Do you miss being unreachable? I take time regularly off social media because I’m already aware I’m a nut…but STILL.
Is it hard to see what you do well, what you have accomplished? Do you have a hard time being negative, too? It’s hard for me to cry, to be angry, to confess that I don’t want to look at my blessings. I want to scream and eat nachos but that’s a good way to choke #DontDoThat.
Am I off base? I firmly believe in gratitude and optimism and how we do have a choice in where we focus, but the all-sugar-all-the-time seems just as toxic as the rage channel.
Sometimes I just want to be in pain, to feel it and be allowed to feel it. I don’t WANT another blog about how to fix it. And yes I admit that is COMPLETELY hypocritical but whatever. I love life tips, but also believe a good day of ranting and ax-throwing might make me feel better.
What are your thoughts…other than I’ve finally gone off the deep end?
Hint: Been here all along 😛
I love hearing from you!
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