As I finished writing my last post about leaving the hospital, it struck me how incredibly positive I was despite all that had happened since arriving at the hospital a few weeks before. I had given birth to my son by c-section, woke up in an alternate universe, was incredibly exhausted from my attempts to breast-feed, and had learned that my boy may have mutant superpowers in regards to sleeping and temperament. Yet somehow, somehow I still clung to the hope that my image of motherhood was attainable – that tomorrow I would be sitting in the warm summer sun on the back porch holding my peacefully sleeping baby, sipping iced coffee, and chatting in a “hey-look-at-me-I’m-totally-relaxed-even-though-I’m-a-mom” way with some friends. Oh, and we would be scrapbooking, too.
Could it be that I am actually an optimist?
This comes as a bit of a shock to me, because I have always considered myself a pessimist. Living all my life with anxiety naturally puts me in the frame of mind to assume the worst possible outcomes to situations. But imagining the worst outcomes gives me the ability to prepare for them. “Expect the worst, but hope for the best,” I always say. If I were a pessimist, I would just expect the worst and not bother to imagine the best outcome or try to change things for the better.
Not convinced that I sound optimistic? Here’s a theoretical example of how a person with an anxiety disorder could be viewed as an optimist. Back in December of 2012, the date of the Mayan Prophesy (12-21-2012) was fast approaching, of which one possible outcome could have been a zombie apocalypse. A pessimist would assume that they would be “zombified” or eaten pretty early on and would do nothing to prepare. A person with an anxiety disorder might (hypothetically) begin stocking up on water and canned food, gather tools and farming equipment that could be used as weapons, and buy several books about survival and “living off the land”. This (hypothetical) person with anxiety assumed that they would not only survive the zombie invasion, but live long enough to go through all their food rations and begin hunting, fishing, and gardening for survival. In my opinion, that is amazingly optimistic.
I haven’t mentioned “the realist” yet in this scenario. The realist would know a zombie apocalypse was not coming because the whole idea is ridiculous and would not waste time and money preparing for it. I know a lot of realists. They are super-nice people, but sometimes they aren’t much fun at parties what with all their “It is what it is” and “Bigfoot doesn’t exist” talk.
So I’m not a pessimist or a realist, but the term “optimist” just doesn’t fit me. I am NOT an “Always look on the bright side of life” sort of person. At all. Really. I would say that I’m practical, and I use all my knowledge and abilities to prepare for situations that may or may not arise (no matter how unlikely those situations may indeed be). I guess that makes me a pragmatist.
One final thought from this semi-optimistic pragmatist with an anxiety disorder: Always remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant spent the whole summer gathering food and preparing for the winter. When winter arrived, he survived. The grasshopper spent the whole summer happily singing and hopping around without a care in the world and didn’t prepare for winter. When the winter arrived, he was eaten by zombies.