The Pessimistic Optimist


That’s me. In a nutshell. I have been trying for a while now to change the way I look at life and the world around me. While it is hard to be optimistic these days about the world, my life on the other hand, well, there is plenty to be optimistic about. However, as a result of my childhood and the difficulties my parents faced, I have always been a pessimist. This is a learned behavior, and it is very difficult to unlearn.

My mom and dad worked very hard (see  happy-birthday-to-me-2008/) , but there always seemed to be more bills at the end of the month than money. We often would have been homeless had it not been for family and friends. We never went hungry – EVER, but there were times that, say, in the summer, we would go without gas so we could keep the electricity on (let me tell you – cold showers – OMG! I even had a boyfriend who would come in town on leave and would stay with us – he never complained about the cold showers – must have really cared about me, huh?)

When we were little, we really didn’t realize these things. We were kids and we played outside (me reluctantly, of course, being my girlie girl self) and went to school and that was what we did.  I don’t remember many Christmases from when I was little, but one in particular stands out. The church took care of our Christmas that year. My sis and I went to the church basement and there were all of these toys! A kids wonderland, really. We thought  it was great! I remember I got a black cat, with a red nose and a purple ribbon around it’s neck.  This was the year that adoption dolls became very popular. Christmas morning, My sis and I both got one. This was a big deal, looking back and knowing what I know now, how expensive they were at the time, and how little money we had.

As the years went by and both of my parents health went up and down – and of course, my dad’s drinking (sorry daddy – it’s true), we moved many times. Sometimes into our own place and sometimes in with family. By Junior High, I realized the differences in the “economic class structure”  .. sure, we are all the same, but people who lived in the big expensive houses generally were not friends with people like me.(ie: Duckie and Andy compared to Blane and Steff in Pretty_in_Pink ) It wasn’t that they really thought they were better than me, it was just how society was, and still is maybe, not anyone’s fault, just the way it goes. I got very lucky. I made friends with some of the  “big house” kids.  Back THEN we all thought these cliques and what not were so important….anyway, that’s another blog.

By the time I hit high school, times got very hard. Dad’s health was pretty bad, though he had quit drinking! 🙂 Mom’s health too. So I worked. I paid bills. Life happened. The utilities were cut on and off. Once, the water was cut off, and we got a water key so we could turn it on at the street to use it when we needed to.

They worked their asses off, don’t get me wrong. I know they did. They did the best they could and I am grateful each and every day that they did. Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who do.

We were also not an, how would you put it, emotional family?  Well, that’s not entirely true – anger is an emotion. There weren’t hugs, kisses and “I love you”s” …we grew up in a very cold home. Not abusive. Just cold. I think I can count on my hand the number of times my parents told me they loved me – and though I am pretty sure he was, I never really felt as if my dad was proud of me.

With a childhood like this, it is hard NOT to be a pessimist.

I realized a few years ago, though, my pessimistic view of life was aging me well before my time a making me quite unhappy. It was also rubbing off on my kids. I didn’t want that for them. I didn’t want that for me.

So, my children never go to bed without knowing that I love them. I tell them often that I am very proud of them – and not just a generic, insincere proud – specific parts of them so that they know I mean it. They don’t leave the house without knowing I love them.

It is difficult these days, with the world in the shape that it is in, to be positive all the time. I catch myself falling back into the same rut. I have to make a conscious effort to not be the pessimist I was. I hear myself – my old self – out of my youngest’s mouth all the time and it worries me. I tell him all of the time he is going to have a heart attack by the time he is 15. He thinks I am kidding. I am afraid I am not.

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, but it isn’t all rain and manure, either.  I wake up everyday. I am healthy. Heck – I had cancer and only found it by sheer luck. My children are healthy and smart. I have a wonderful husband. I have a roof over my head and shoes on my feet.

I hope that everyone can remember that. No matter how hard life is, it could always be worse. Someone, somewhere always has it worse. Pray for them and thank God for good things you have.

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4 responses to “The Pessimistic Optimist

  1. Pingback: Day 18…. Toys- for – Tots… | The random thoughts of a chaotic mind

  2. It sounds like you and I have a lot more in common than I ever thought possible Anna. Although I grew up w/ an extremely abusive alcoholic dad who came and went, my mom worked 3 jobs and we went hungry plenty of times, went w/o utilities often, and I don’t have any happy memories of childhood save one. Christmas of idk, maybe ’83. I knew we would be very lucky to have something to eat that night, but I sooooo wanted an adoption doll~ remember those? before cabbage patch?~ we lived in a tiny town near senoia and when we woke up our porch was covered and i mean covered with things….. food for a month, and not just beans either… ham, and turkey and fresh fruits…. and I didn’t get ONE adoption doll…. I got 3… each one different. To know that the whole town put that together for us is something I never forgot, and I have worked really hard to be there for marina. My mom was NEVER home. I have NO memories of her as a child and I refuse to let that be my daughters childhood. I worked hard so that she could have dance classes and have a fun childhood… but it seems now is the time where I will need more than one job and it breaks my heart. Yes, we have shelter, we have food, we have clothes…. and I know that is all she needs. I just want her to have everything that I NEVER had… how do you curb that feeling without feeling like a failure to her? Especially still living w/ my dad who is a very hard man, and my sister who is a whole lot like him, I know its no wonder that her boys look to me when they need a hug or a kiss, or just to sit in someones lap for a min. My baby sisters kids do the same thing. I guess that means that I am doing something right, I just feel so selfish sometimes and want to just be able to focus on my own daughter, but how can i leave those little ones out???? you know….. I am so sad that we were never friends in school… I think having a friend like you back then would have really helped me. I too worked at age 17 after my mom got copd and got really sick to help take care of my baby sister. My fault she is a total spoilt brat now. I hope that one day even though I know I will feel totally out of place and my stupid shyness will kick back in, that when you come up here next time, I will get to meet you in person. I am sure we used to see each other in the halls at school, but that is hardly the same thing. Thank you so much for being the person that you are today and willing to share your hard times in life to help ppl see that we are not alone. You are an amazing friend. *hugs* and yea…. I did cry. 😛

  3. Anna Allen Chappell

    Don’t cry! It made me a stronger person and it makes me appreciate what I have now even more! (Of course, it has also made me spoil my kids – bad bad thing – learned my lesson w/ Dork…hoping to curb my desire to spoil a bit w/ Goose…)

  4. you make me want to cry. Life is not a box of chocolates, but it is what you make of it. Someone once told me to “Bloom where you are planted”. As easy as that sounds, it is quite difficult to act on it. I am there with you- finding the sunshine of life. And I too hope to show my children the optomistic side of life. Kudos to you, my hats off.

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