Friday, May 13, 2011
Hope is not one of my stronger virtues.
I'm a pessimist, you see. Added to my perfectionism, it can be rather paralyzing at times.
As everyone knows, pessimists enjoy being pessimists because we are constantly in a win-win situation. We suspect the worst will happen in any given situation. If the worst happens, we have the satisfaction of being right. If it doesn't, we have the joy of having things turn out well. Hedging our bets we live in the safe and cozy, though shallow and dim, world of doubt.
Almost three weeks ago I planted 72 green bean seeds. I know, because I counted them. The package said they should germinate within 5-14 days.
On day 2 I began declaring, "They'll never come up. I'm a failure as a gardener." I repeated this melancholic mutter each day as I went out to check their (lack of) progress.
My husband, the eternal optimist, would cheerfully and consistently respond, "Just wait, you'll see. They'll be fine."
Unconvinced, I would pout and shake my head, "I have a black thumb."
This morning, after 21 days of waiting, I went out and counted 71 beautiful spring green bean sprouts.
But I've deprived myself the joy of hope these last three weeks. Yes, I am happy now that they are up, but I wasted three weeks' opportunity for hope, trust, peace, patience, and joy... and we're only talking about green beans!
It has made me seriously reflect: is being a pessimist really a win-win?
(beans don't come up) three weeks hope + 1 day sadness = 21 days happiness.
(beans come up) three weeks hope + 1 day happiness = 22 days happiness.
(beans don't come up) three weeks doubt + 1 day vindication = 1 day bitter joy.
(beans come up) three weeks doubt + 1 day surprise joy = 1 day surprise joy.
I'm no math major, but there appears to be a lot more happiness on the side of the optimist.
Being an optimist requires vulnerability. Your hope just might be in vain. You might be crushed. You could be setting yourself up for failure. But to live without bitterness, doubt, frumpiness? It just might be worth the risk.
There's one more seed that hasn't come up yet...
... it's probably a dud.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you think it's possible to change from one to the other? Would you want to?