“Every day is a new opportunity to make a happy ending…” –Albert Einstein
Last night I gathered my courage and let my family know I was embarking on the Sick with Optimism blog. For me, I have a lot to say and there are those around me who feel it would be good to share my thoughts and experiences as they may be helpful to others with a chronic illness or disability. It might even be helpful for their friends and family too! That being said, it has taken me a long time to find the courage and appropriate theme to compose this blog.
Back to my dinner table. After my brief announcement a debate ensued. The central argument was around the fact that I have been pretty irritable lately, so how could I call myself an optimist? My response was twofold. First, I had not really thought of myself as an optimist until I had recently been accused of it and upon reflection (see previous post) realized I’ve been accused of this often throughout my life. The second point, for which I received more support, was that optimism is not the same as happiness.
According to Dictionary.com, Optimism is “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.” Happy is defined by the same website: “delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person; Characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind. Favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: a happy, fruitful land.
While Thesaurus.com does list happiness as a possible synonym for optimism, I would argue that you can be optimist even when you are unhappy about something or irritable from fatigue or chronic pain. I do feel, however, that if one is optimistic it is easier to be cheerful, or glad, but that optimism does not automatically equal happiness.
In the end, there was no agreement around my kitchen table, except that we agreed to disagree. However, if one is to receive what I am trying to say in this blog it is important that you understand this is my position. In a nutshell, any suggestions I might offer on the topic of optimism are not the recipe for happiness, but I do believe that optimism is an important ingredient.
To be clear, it is my position that one is neither totally optimistic or pessimistic, but that these frames of mind represents two ends of a continuum. Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist, but I feel one can gradually move the needle along this continuum from more pessimistic to more optimistic with some positive input and effort; I do hope to explore this idea more herein, or at least provide some fuel to help get that fire burning.
I welcome your thoughts!