That glass with water in it to a 50% capacity mark

There is almost always an opportunity to be unhappy. Life can be brilliantly beautiful and yet an individual can still choose to find how horrible things are or will become. I’m not talking about depression, but rather the poor cognitive habit that people can develop that turns them into pessimists.

Often, pessimists might claim they are not pessimists but realists. They understand the risks that may come in a particular situation and want to be cautious. They might feel that optimism is for the young, naive, and delusional. However, being realistic is an interesting claim to make, because optimism and pessimism aren’t about the facts but the interpretation and desire behind those facts.

If we were being realistic, the glass that’s either half full or half empty exists in a context. Maybe you filled it up to the top and have drunk half of it. If you want more of the drink, you’d be more inclined to call it half empty. If you wanted less of it, you’d be more inclined to call it half full.

There’s also social convention at play; how many people legitimately refer to a cup as half full? The statement may or may not actually reflect the optimism/pessimism of the individual who says it.

In order to be ‘realistic’, one has to acknowledge both the opportunities and risks with a course of action. A pessimist might miss the opportunity, an optimist might miss the risks. It’s rarely a boon to be on the extreme either way in the long run.

In some ways, the question of glass-half-full or half-empty is a question of trust. It’s an indication of how a person feels the world around them is worthy of their trust. Do they want to blindly trust others or shut themselves off? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

However, my focus is on pessimism because people are rarely consistently too optimistic. It’s good to be careful, but fear can go overboard very easily. Gratitude is the best way to help temper our habits of becoming too shut down. Of course, things can go wrong. At least one thing always will, life is unpredictable. The truth of the matter is that we need to be careful in watching why we’re being careful.

Are assuming the worst because you are afraid? Are you assuming the worst because you’ve been hurt before? For those who claim to be realistic, are you actually taking probability into account, or are you making an interpretation separate from the stats?

 

The unglamorous life

Our mental image of life always seems better than the concrete events themselves. Camping in the woods sounds fun! Smores’, tents, bonding, and nature! What could go wrong? The answer is everything. There’s loud humans nearby, loud animals nearby, annoying small insects biting you and sucking you dry, no one knows what they’re doing or everyone does at the same time, and even the “fun” part doesn’t seem to have a huge pay off. On one hand, maybe camping isn’t for everyone. On the other hand, we tend to do this a lot. We have big dreams and the physical outcome is lacking.

However, there’s another perspective. If we expect incredible things and get something ordinary, we’re disappointed. If we expect ordinary things and get ordinary things, there’s not much to be excited for, and there are few instances in which we expect incredible things and get incredible things. The key then, is being able to look past the ordinary, messy problems. Life isn’t some happy-go-lucky commercial, there’s ugliness and conflict of every sort no matter where you go. However, there’s also those good, pretty bits too.

There is a kind of line between being delusional and being optimistic. The optimistic person doesn’t think everything is going to be perfectly fine and that everything’s okay; you have to be at least some way insane to believe that. Things aren’t okay. Life isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t pretend like it is. Optimism isn’t about lying to yourself, it’s about having hope and seeing the potential in what’s around you. Maybe it’s wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the glasses are still translucent. It’s going camping and realizing that everyone close enough to be able to yell at each other when the other puts up the tent in a non-traditional fashion. Maybe the smoke from the fire keeps getting in your eyes, but there’s no bugs, and being around the fire with those you love trumps the pain.  Bugs are still gross, it’s still uncomfortable to argue, and smoke can really hurt your eyes. Optimism is being able to take a few hits in comfort to do something that matters.

The attributes of a new day

There is an excitement to each new thing because of it’s newness. It’s why we buy notebooks even when we aren’t done the last one(s), why wearing something new is fun even when it’s uncomfortable, and why even folding the laundry can be therapeutic. It’s the daring nature of buying anything white: maybe I won’t stain this and remember to wash it only with other whites! In reality, no. That’s likely not going to happen, we are too forgetful and clumsy. However, that’s the key word: likely

It’s clean, hygenic, in fashion; it’s new. The newness that we like to surround ourselves with makes us hopeful. The odds might be heavily stacked again’t us, but being in something new has a special hope that isn’t as salient the older a thing gets. Birth, weddings, some of our most important days revolve around our beginnings because at that point, we haven’t messed it up yet. Overtime, things get worn and we get used to them. They aren’t new and so we don’t care if we spill something on them. We’ve already broken our ideal version of them, and now we just live like we normally do.

The only difference between our opinions when things are new and when they aren’t is that we have enough experience to know how things will likely turn out and we’ve made our peace with it. However, we need to fight a bit more. We need to keep a few things new in our heart, and keep our hopes up, and work to fulfill all they can be. It’s alright to get used to a pair of shoes, but we shouldn’t be so ready to take our lives and relationships for granted. Today is a good day. It’s a new day.