I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I had cleared just enough off my to-do list for the day and pulled out of my driveway to hit the grocery store.
And then I saw them.
The trucks. The ones with long ladders and a crew of at least two men. Parked in front of not just one, but two, of my neighbor’s homes on the very same afternoon. To install Christmas lights.
I just about came unhinged. Yes, I suppose partly because it’s only early November and I can’t wrap my head around Christmas just yet. But more because this just pushed me over the edge into the dark, scary void. That place where if anyone so much as asks me to tell them whether their head is still attached to their body, I will lack the intellectual faculty to answer them because I’m so overwhelmed.
I didn’t even know this was a thing. Until today.
I started some mental meandering on who the most classic optimist is/was. Pollyanna (from the 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter) is the archetype. But I had no idea that there is a whole “principle” bearing this character’s name. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Pollyanna Principle (courtesy of the all-knowing Wikipedia):
If a pessimist should learn optimism, then would the converse also hold true? Should the optimist learn pessimism?
Our culture holds the trait of optimism in high regard. We like optimists almost as much as we like extraverts. I suspect most of readers will immediately answer that question with a resounding “no.” If an optimist has no need for learning pessimism, then I contend that my goal — learning optimism — also lacks value. In other words, either both sides of the spectrum should learn to adopt some of the opposite thinking, or neither should.
Few situations reveal my pessimistic nature more than these semi-annual conversations with teachers. How awful does it sound that some of my most negative beliefs occur around my kids? (But then I wonder whether that might be true about a lot of us? Please don’t leave me hangin’ here.) This week was conference week. I dutifully showed up with my notepad and pen, ready to jot down what the teacher wanted to share about my kiddos.
And I fully expect them to share something bad.
My heart is so full of love and affection for these kids. I genuinely delight in them and cannot fathom my life without them. Yet I enter these meetings assuming I’ll be hearing about their worst academic habits and traits. (Do you think it’s safe to conclude, then, that pessimism isn’t related to one’s love for another?)
Some say truth is relative.
I’m counting on them being wrong. If it’s relative, then not only is my salvation in jeopardy, but my mental state is, too.
My theme verse for this series is Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,think on these things. — Philippians 4:8 ASV (emphasis added)
I pack school lunches every. single. morning.
And I have for nearly ten years now. Last week, as I stood in my kitchen, staring down at the empty lunch boxes on my kitchen counter, I got a little grumpy about having to do it again. “I’m so over making lunches.” But, I cobbled together a collection of leftovers, juice pouches, baby carrots and the cursory apple and sent my people on their way.
Just a couple hours later, I stood at the stainless gates that are my refrigerator and bemoaned that there was nothing I’d like to eat. Nevertheless, I rummaged through and found something to throw in my gullet.
Q: When is the bright side not the right side?
A: When it’s the left side.
A few years ago I shared my comedic shopping travesty with you. My brush with fitting room fame was a direct result of weakness in my left shoulder. Since that time, I’ve had surgery, gone through rehab and made reasonable weight training part of my regular routine. (I blame P90X for my original injury. Sorta.)
This daily writing challenge has just begun and I’m already questioning whether there’s value and purpose in it. Case in point, my friends: I am a pessimist. I’m not really commenting on whether He’s interested in the content of my thoughts as much I’m wondering whether my “cognitive defaults” are of any consequence in His eyes. In short, does whether I’m an optimist or pessimist even matter to God?
I’m going with yes. Yes, He cares about our thoughts and perspectives. (And if God cares about them, I’m pretty sure I should too.) Our thinking shapes our actions and our feelings. Our thought patterns guide the way we engage with both God and others. Romans 12 indicates that new thinking is part of becoming a new person:
I love starting projects.
Cleaning closets. Organizing the garage. Planting bulbs in the yard for spring color. Sinking my teeth into a Lindt dark chocolate bar… the kind with a touch of sea salt. Finishing projects is a whole different story. Somewhere in the middle, I just give up steam. The “to donate” pile lingers in the corner of the closet for weeks. The garage has a strange collection of tools that never really find their home on the peg board. And I still have boxes of unplanted bulbs. (I’ve got no problem finishing the chocolate bar, however.)
He couldn’t even look me in the eyes.
The weight of yesterday’s foolishness on his conscience made it impossible for him to lock his gaze with mine. Though I had tucked him in bed with assurances of my love for him, he still awoke this morning unreconciled.
He’s since apologized and our relationship is restored, yet he still bears a countenance of guilt. I console him again with scripture:
While delivering that truth to his tender heart, I pondered why I don’t often wake with the awareness of guilt that he so frequently does. I’d love to think that’s because I have fully internalized the grace contained in the Lamentations passage.