Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Optimism vs. Pessimism

Last week, The Simple Dollar posted about optimism and pessimism, and it got me thinking.

First, I'm thinking I need to read the book that inspired the post.

But second, I realized that my entire outlook on life has changed in the last 18 months.

I used to be a pessimist - or as I called it, a realist. I wasn't just "glass half empty", I was "and the water's probably polluted anyway". I was frequently frustrated with things in my life that "kept happening to me". I was irritated with all the people in my way on the subway or sidewalk. I felt put upon, even though I had overscheduled myself. I found most of my obligations to be burdens.

And then Baby M was born.

The circumstances surrounding her birth were catastrophic. You could easily say that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and in fact, one of the worst things that has ever happened to anyone I know. And yet from the moment she was born, I was optimistic. It wasn't a choice - it just was.

I think it was probably a coping mechanism to start. During her first week when her survival was most in question, I had to believe that she would be okay. I had to get my milk to come in for when - not in case - she needed it. I had to learn to take care of myself post-surgery so that my family could go home and I could handle grocery shopping and driving. These things were not burdens. They were goals.

As we dragged on for months and months in the hospital, I was optimistic. She had avoided the more dangerous complications that face preemies (brain bleeds, necrotizing enterocolitis, surgery) and I was confident that she would ultimately be okay, which meant that the roadblocks at the time (oxygen needs and eating problems) would be temporary. And we can handle anything for a short time.

During her first months home, when her feeding troubles were at their worst, I started to slide into pessimism, and things felt very dark. It felt like I had been promoted to a job that I wasn't qualified for, didn't want, and couldn't quit. Scheduling surgery for her feeding tube allowed me to feel optimistic again - and from that moment, my life has gotten better than it ever was before.

I realized that if things aren't working, you have to change them, even if your choices are between bad and worse. A complicated birth and a child with disabilities happened to me. But what that looks like from here on out is up to me - and I choose optimism. I choose to be happy with our lot, and being happy makes things easier. And that leads to the opposite of a vicious cycle - a cycle in which things get easier and easier and happier and happier, all because of a decision to stop letting bad things be permanent, personal, and pervasive. 

I don't get grumpy waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. I chose this - I wanted a baby so badly, and I fought to stay pregnant, and she fought to stay alive. Every moment rocking her is a victory. Every chance to kiss away an owie and every giggle is better than a gold medal. I get one chance to be with this baby in her early years - one chance. I cannot waste a single second being pessimistic about our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot tell you how much I needed to read this post today! I love your philosophy.


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