The Other I

July 23, 2017

I always thought I was an optimist…

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 7:59 pm

When I was about 12 years old, I remember telling my father, as he predicted the imminent death of my mother’s brother and his law partner, that he was an impossible pessimist.

He looked at me thoughtfully, and finally replied “No, Terry, I’m a realist.”

And so in this case, he was right.  My uncle was dead within months.

Today, more than 5 decades down the line, I am thinking about the virtues of the realist who has the courage to recognize that coming events may not be those we are hoping for.  Not merely disappointment, but disaster, death, betrayal, anguish, pain, loss.  All these things happen, and however fortunate any us may be in our lifetime, none of us will escape them completely.

The news today almost inevitably contain items that can fill me with anger and despair.  We are threatening and killing each other with weapons of mass destruction and calling it heroism (at least if it’s our side that’s doing the killing;  if it’s the other side, it’s terrorism and evil).  We are destroying the eco-system, the air, water, and other living organisms on which our very survival depends and saying we don’t believe it.  We create a system in which individuals can become seriously rich on the backs of those who can barely make a living, and call it “the Great American way.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just dismiss the implications of these news stories as unrealistic pessimism, to be dismissed with an optimistic smile and a loving assurance that everything will turn out for the best.  But seriously, I can’t.

And I find myself looking to those in the past who have faced close-up the realities of war, of sickness, of starvation, or terror, and ask which of those responses do I want to emulate?



First of all, I want to be a realist.  I want to face the fact that some of my fears are not only reasonable but might actually occur.

I don’t want to run away, but I don’t want to simply give up either.  I can’t solve all the world’s problems — I can’t even solve all my own problems.  But I can do something besides pretend it isn’t happening.  Right now in my life they are very small, unheroic mostly everyday things I can do.  It means trying to help when I can.  It means turning off the news sometimes when it’s using up more energy than I can spare or is riling up feelings of irritation and anger in my heart that get in the way of doing those small things that I can do.  It means getting enough sleep.  It means using whatever skills I have to take care of myself so that I can also take care of others.  Perhaps someday it will simply mean letting others help me.

Yes, I’m an optimist,  And that has often given me the energy to accomplish things I might not have tried if all I’d seen was the dark side.

I won’t live long enough to know how some of our biggest struggles will end.  But these days I strive for the courage to be a realist, and to face that reality with hope rather than depression and despair.





  1. Very nice words (the quote). Sometimes I thought being mortal is a blessing! We don’t have to worry about how things will turn out.

    There is yet hope going by what some pundits say. The deaths due to violence are dropping. People below poverty levels are less numerous (though unbridled population growth can at any time turn the tables)…according to the well-informed!

    I agree with you readily – ever since I stopped reading daily newspapers with their disturbing headlines, my BP must have surely dropped down by a few notches..


    Comment by tskraghu — July 23, 2017 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

    • I’m so glad to touch base with someone else who finds skipping all those daily headlines has health benefits! I suspect for myself at least they include other things besides lowering my BP. Like paradoxically increasing my ability to think perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by theotheri — July 24, 2017 @ 12:40 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks so much Terry. Your father was a realist and a person of deep feeling, knowing his brother-in-law well enough to sense illness and decline. You are definitely your father’s daughter, inheriting his intelligence and compassion.


    Comment by Carolyn Grassi — July 25, 2017 @ 8:13 pm | Reply

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