Confessions of a Pessimist

confessions

I was born without two things: the ability to whistle and the hand-eye coordination required for playing any sport. I’m not sure which parent to blame for these genetic deficiencies, so I just rotate. I think the fact that my body rejects the idea of whistling is directly correlated to the fact that I’m not a sunshiny person. Sunshiny people, by definition, have to be able to whistle. They must also love mornings, birthdays and drinking half-full cups of coffee – all things that don’t agree with me. Along with the usual side effects of being a non-sunshiny person, I am what most would classify as a pessimist. But, can you humor me and use the term realist even though we both know it’s just a cop out? And speaking of what’s real, this is your six month reminder that Christmas shopping is right around the corner. You’re welcome.

Every year, right around November, I say something to the effect of: I sure won’t be sad to see this year end. I know – horrible, right? But I bet if I took a show of hands, I wouldn’t be the only who has ever said they are excited to see the year go bye-bye. This past spring, I started thinking about why we do this. After all, when a loved one is terminally ill, the one thing in the world we wish for is more time. I often hear empty nesters say how they wish they could go back to when their kids were little and freeze time. And the instant we discover our first gray hair, suddenly the days of an awkward, zit-faced teenager don’t look so bad. So why are we so excited to see each year come to an end?

Is it because long ago, someone, somewhere, brainwashed us to believe that we get a new start come January – when in reality, the only thing that gets a new start is the calendar? I hate to be the one to pop the sparkly balloon here, but your problems are still right there waiting for you when you wake up on January 1st. It’s not going to be any easier to put down the Oreos just because it’s a new year. The bill collectors aren’t going to lose your number in a freak accident. Your dog’s bladder won’t magically grow three sizes so that you won’t have to let him out at 5 a.m. anymore. If we all know these things are true, then why are we still so happy at the thought of a New Year?

As someone who has been living in constant anticipation of the New Year for about a decade, I can tell you it is because I have always felt stuck. Stuck in a cycle, living a depressed and pessimistic life, where I never thought any of it was going to change. That’s the real reason why we long for a New Year – because we are just hoping that something, anything, might change. But rarely, does it. Year after year, I would get so frustrated. It seemed like I couldn’t catch a break: layoffs, family problems, relationship drama, health scares and financial issues. You name it.

But this year, something did change. Finally.

Does that mean everything started going smoothly? If by smooth you mean awful, then yes. This year has been one of the hardest yet. It began with me in a nearly clinical level depression – the result of a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances; and culminated with me sitting in a room waiting to get a breast biopsy, which I couldn’t pay for, while contemplating all of my regrets and the mess that had become my personal life.

I realize this is the part where I’m supposed to say that being faced with the possibility of having cancer caused me to change my life, but it wasn’t. It was the fact that I was so sick of my life the way it was that death didn’t even scare me. It was the fact that all I could think about as I sat in that room was all of the time I’d wasted on sadness – something that most of us don’t contemplate until we discover that we might not have as much time as we had planned on. I thought about all of the years I had wished away because I was fed up with my life.

It never mattered how many times people told me to let go of the past since I couldn’t change it – I didn’t believe it. I knew they were right, and I would nod my head – but inside, I was full of doubt. Again, I blame this on my inability to whistle. There’s an old saying: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” I’ve never met a quote that held more truth.

I took some time to logically analyze my life. As it turns out, I was full of questions for myself. Am I happy the way I’m living? If I’m not happy, do I want to be? If so, then what needs to change? Am I choosing to stay in this cycle of depression because I feel it is a way of punishing myself for my wrong choices? If I find out I’m dying in a month, will I feel satisfied with how I have lived?

I had to make a conscious decision in that moment to change my way of thinking and to begin again. And the most important thing I had to do in order for that to happen was to make peace with myself, my mistakes and with others. I had to change the way I viewed the past decade of my life and start looking at all it had taught me – not what I had done wrong.

So, what about you? Maybe you took a road that led you nowhere. It was a beautiful road, paved with pretty flowers and good intentions but turned out nothing like you had hoped. Perhaps you invested thirty years into your spouse and they left you for someone else. Or maybe you were laid off from what you thought was a lifelong career. Or perhaps you were the best parent you could be, but your child hasn’t spoken to you in years. Maybe you broke someone’s heart and you hate yourself for it.

Begin again.

Take all of the wisdom that you can from the situation, stop beating yourself up, and begin again. Your life won’t change until you do.

A New Year can start at any moment.

Photo by Helga Weber

confessions

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28 thoughts on “Confessions of a Pessimist”

  1. I made the decision at the age of 8 to change my life. Growing up in home with alcoholism, abuse and family illness I had become depressed, terrified for my life and desperate. I decided I did not want to continue to be so terribly unhappy. I was determined to find a better way and I was willing to try almost anything to get there. I wrote about it here, “Learning to love this life”: http://livelovework.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/learning-to-love-this-life/

    I agree completely that the time to change myself is now. At any moment I can decide to try something different or think something different if what I’m doing isn’t working for me. No matter what happens to me or around me, I am gratefully responsible for my own happiness and I can take steps to live my best life possible every day.

    Great article, thank you for the inspiration today!

    1. Oh, that is a pretty young age to think of change. Fabulous! If you ever asked me, I decided to change myself years ago, just because I saw boys and girls around me who were better than me. But sincerely, I never needed to change. I need to be myself.

      Now that I have found that out, I explore myself and every day learn something more about me..like..a life where there are little less judgement about the world and a little more care and thinking about ourselves. What say?

      1. Ah yes. Very true Jaky!

        You must embrace who you are. I spent many years trying to be who everyone else wanted me to be. I’m a people pleaser to the very depths of my soul! Hard to break that cycle.

  2. Chrysta! Thank you for that information and the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the article, it was a long time coming for me but I’m glad you learned this at such a young age. It is an ongoing battle, one that I fight everyday – alot of my negativity has just been the way I grew up. Lots of negative people around me and it’s hard to break.

  3. Britteny,

    I’m so glad you were able to finally see and start the life-long process of growth and discovery and development.

    I love what you said about a New Year beginning at any time. So true. At the moment we decide to drop the past and create a new future, that moment really marks a new beginning, a rebirth of life, if you will. It’s unfortunate, but true, that some of us have to sink to the bottom of the well before we fully and deeply reevaluate our lives and begin the climb to the surface.

    Thank you for telling your story. Have a wonderful journey on your new path!

    1. Thanks Ken!

      Yes, I am just glad I was able to learn these lessons at a (quasi) young age. It was hard having to hit the bottom, as I did many times, but it was definitely worth it in the long run.

      Best wishes!

  4. Hi Britteny,
    We can a chance at a new start every moment of every day. We have many choices, letting go of ‘old stories” is one of them.
    be good to yourself
    David

    1. Yes very true!

      It is especially hard for an emotional person who has a hard time letting go/ embracing change/forgiving themselves.

      And I am all of the above.

      thank you and best of luck to you David!

  5. thanks for the post Britteny
    i always believe in the “new life” approach
    starting all over and beginning once again
    it brings me hope

  6. Many of the people that consult with me have similar questions and problems in their life. This starts and ends with the mind that is based on illusion and not reality.

    We are not our mind or our thoughts. We are conscious energy having a human experience. One of the most difficult things to do in life is take a leap of faith.

    I can assure you that we always land safely on the ground and that we are looked after and provided for more than the mind realizes.

    1. Good words of wisdom Justin!

      I have to say that my faith is what gets me through most everything, although as you can see it is hard for me to lean on that at many times.

      It’s a work on progress. and always will be, I’m sure.

      Thanks!

  7. Such wisdom in your words here:

    …”being faced with the possibility of having cancer caused me to change my life, but it wasn’t. It was the fact that I was so sick of my life the way it was that death didn’t even scare me. It was the fact that all I could think about as I sat in that room was all of the time I’d wasted on sadness – something that most of us don’t contemplate until we discover that we might not have as much time as we had planned on. I thought about all of the years I had wished away because I was fed up with my life.”

    I’ve been thinking about how we use the time we have ever since I turned 50 and became older than my father was when he died (he died half way through his 49th year). I feel so young, but something about the idea that I could be dead by now too really has me looking hard at my life. 49 just seems too young, and there are no guarantees are there?

    So brave to share your story.

    Catherine

    1. Ah yes, Catherine.

      I can imagine that has put great perspective on your life. 49 IS young… and so sorry for your loss.

      Thank you so much for reading, I’m glad you related to it.

      As much as we all have these little moments that make us realize how truly short life is and how we need to embrace every moment, why is it soooo hard to keep living like that on a daily basis? It seems like with the next home project or family problem we immediately lose sight of that perspective.

  8. Britteny.

    I truly laughed aloud about the Oreos. Amen to that!

    I really enjoyed your straightforward and disclosing post. Thank you. You have been on quite a journey and it seems as though your insights might be changing you.

    Whatever shakes us to be better friends with ourselves is a good moment. It can be crisis, a gradual shift, or a slight nuance of temperament. I was sincerely working on this friendship when I was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago. While lying on the couch resting and recovering, I was able to cement the friendship. About 80% of it for me is listening intently, honoring feelings and thoughts, and offering kindness. I was pretty apt at doing that for others. But my own self was waiting patiently.

    Blessings all around

    1. First of all, so happy to hear that you have recovered! And yes, why is it we are so much harder on ourselves than we are to others? I will give someone a million and one chances, yet, I beat myself up over one bad decision for years.

      Thank you so much for reading and blessings to you too Susie!

  9. Thanks for your insight, I’m not really sure which category I fit since I smile and laugh but love tons of coffee and despise mornings. What were some of your first choices as you sought to begin again?

    1. Hmmm. Paula… Yes, perhaps you are just a non-sunshiny optimist! Whatever that means.

      Anyway,the first choice that I HAD to make was to forgive myself for the things that I just couldn’t get past and realize that I could let those regrets keep ruining my life and future relationships, or I could truly let myself walk away from them and see if things could change. I was never giving myself an opportunity to change by clinging to the past.

      Alot of it was trying to subconsciously punish myself, I think.

  10. I’m a high optimistic naturally, so I love getting perspectives from those who struggle with optimism. The best thing for me is waking up each day knowing that the past is done. No going back just moving forward.

    If I make an effort to do just one thing better than the day before, I’m making a better life for myself.

    Great insights!

  11. “………………………So why are we so excited to see each year come to an end?” Every first January I enjoy this day very much but I don’t think like you. I don’t question myself for a moment “Why are we excited? Why are we pleased for this day? Everything is OK, Nothing change in my life only without time. But why so pleasure so enjoy?” …………..

    Really it is interesting article. My thought is changed by reading this article. Life which is started again and again. I think he /she is Pessimist who can’t start his/her life after break of natural motion of life.

    Attitude is the most important element of life. Many days ago I heard a powerful speech……….
    “You can change your life by changing your attitude” I believe it 100%.
    However, Many many thanks to you for this article.

  12. I was recently watching a documentary on the sun, turns out Earth being destroyed is a forgone conclusion. So, in light of this, I will take an extra bite, go out even though I’m tired, stay up, wake up, and most importantly I will try to remind myself to do this as much as possible. It is impossible to ‘live every moment as if it’s your last,’ because you’re already doing it, whether it is good or bad.

    I enjoyed this article, and at 2:33am it has validated sleep deprivation.

    Thank you.

    P.S. The only reason your words resonate with me is because you’re not quoting, regurgitating, or selling hollow words that mean everything when said, but nothing when thought about. I envy honesty!

  13. I think I’m at that point now, to continue down the same old path or to change my life. Funny thing is I’ve been at this point before – I remember saying I’ll change but well I’m there again now.

    1. Benjamin,
      I feel like I’ve been at the point for the last few months! Off and on I guess. It’s funny how we all want to change in one way or another, but rarely make those changes because it’s scary and uncomfortable. I’ve come to the conclusion in the last couple months though that I’m more scared of NOT changing. I’m scared of not trying, not seizing opportunities, and not giving my full self to life!

  14. I read your article on TheCollegeCrush “When Sorry Is Never Enough” and that led me to the Jamie essay and so on and so forth… I ended up here. I relate to you so much, it’s a bit scary. In a good way.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about… Thank you.

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