Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Search of the Big "O"

I am on the verge of losing my ability to access the big "O." Not that big "O", but one that I never had trouble obtaining before - Optimism. I always carried an optimistic attitude around with me, always rejoiced in life's everyday experiences, even those that challenged me. But, lately, I find I am more a prone to "o" than "O" and it's starting to really depress me.

Where's this attitude coming from and how do I get my "O" back?

In the past when something or someone encroached upon my characteristic happiness, I could always find the lesson to learn from the experience. For example, when I drove across the country in a 15-year-old van filled with two small kids and a menagerie of animals, I worried about making the 3,000 mile trek. Instead of worrying I'd break down in the middle of nowhere, my attitude was, "If we end up in Nebraska, I guess that's where we live now." I made the trip there and back and this is the truth, the morning after my return home after that big adventure, I went out to the van to start it up and it was dead, wouldn't start for anything.

In all the years I worked as a waitress, I could gauge the experience a customer would have based on the attitude they walked through the door with. The complainers always had a poor one: their food was undercooked, their coffee cold; I believed that their negativity bred more negativity and I pitied them their pessimistic outlook. In many cases my upbeat personality and gentle cajoling could turn their piss-poor attitude into one that had them smiling when they left the restaurant. My optimism was contagious.

I haven't watched news programs for years, preferring to get my daily dose of what's happening from the printed word because I can read only the bits that I want to read and I don't have the graphic horror stories imbedded in my mind from the visual and audio impact.

Sometimes I feel as though I won't be an informed person if I continue to ignore the news. I tried to watch the programs about this most recent American tragedy in Colorado, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep or function well during the day as I replayed the details in my head. Is it a Catch-22 we are living in? Where the violence and depressive stories, via news programs and Hollywood filmmaking, promotes violence in vulnerable individuals, which in turn becomes our next big News Story? I've heard experts say that we can't blame movie (or for that matter video-game) makers, that it's the individual that the finger should be pointed to, but exactly what is it that is making these individuals do what they do?????

I know that when I read and watch depressing stories I become depressed. That's why I had this idea that I thought would transform the world. I wanted to publish a newspaper called The Optimist

where the stories were all about the good that takes place every day, like the number of successful high-school graduates and not the dropout rate; like how many places in the world are showing advances in technology, self-sustainment, and cultural tolerance, not the starvation rate or massacres.

If negativity begets negativity, wouldn't the same be true about positivity? I'd sure like to find out. I know from just my own personal experience in this matter that I cannot function well when I expose myself to the horrors of mankind rather than the beauty that this world and the people in it have to offer.

I miss my big "O" and I am on a quest to get it back. Once I do, I plan on spreading it around.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Call Too Close For Comfort

There is only one thing in this world that I would risk my life for and that is for someone I love.  If one my children (grandchildren included), my husband, family or even a friend were in danger and I could help, even at the risk of harm to myself, I would do what I could.  Nothing else is worth taking chances with my life.  I write this statement now because I can, because not too long ago I tested that theory and almost lost my life. 

I had an obligation recently, some place I needed to be at a certain time.  I arrived at my destination and was waiting at the intersection for the green arrow so I could park and go in. 

To my right I saw a friend who was also going to the same place and I opened my passenger window and asked if we were supposed to park in another lot.  He was waiting for the light on his end to turn so he could cross the street and he said that I needed to go into the lot to my right. 

A simple U-Turn, my signature driving move, was in order.  But, for some reason, perhaps because the street at this location is not busy and I wanted to be on time, I made the choice to cross two lanes of street.  My friend, realizing what I was about to do shouted, “Hold on!”  But, I was already in motion and as I crossed the lanes I saw red in my peripheral vision. 

I didn’t see the red truck but from what my shaking friend said to me after was that it was big, it was moving fast, and it narrowly missed hitting my little Scion.  For the rest of the day I replayed my close call and realized how lucky I was in that moment and how my impulsive move could have been my last. 

I apologized to my friend; he would have had to live with the image for the rest of his life.  I scolded myself over and over, while at the same time wondering why I hadn’t been killed.  When another friend heard about the incident she said, “You had an angel on your shoulder.”  I’m sure I will get all sorts of responses like that: “It wasn’t your time” or “God was watching over you,” nice sentiments but for me it all came down to luck.  I had a lapse in judgment and because of that I almost paid with my life.  What I wanted to take away from the experience, because I was still alive to learn something, was that I need to be more careful. 

I needed to find a way to remind myself to disregard the things that can distract me, to think before I act, to remember that I have a long time to yet to live and to make a conscious effort to do so.  But, how?  There are so many things to distract us while driving, not to mention our need to drive offensively due to other drivers’ distraction. 

So, I placed something in my car as a constant reminder.  My daughter Erin gave me a pretty crystal necklace that I long admired. I added a little charm to it, one with an inscription in both Chinese and English that reads Happiness. This necklace now hangs permanently from my rearview mirror.

  As it sways with the motion of the car it prompts me to make a mental note to:

·         Check my surroundings
·         Stop completely at a stop sign
·         Use my blinker
·         Look before I put my foot on the accelerator

and most importantly to remember that I have people that love me and want me to be safe. 

As we move through this life it is so easy for us to forget the basic rules we learned when we were younger.  Perhaps refresher courses are necessary or maybe another read of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. 

I am so grateful that my most recent episode gave me the chance to learn a lesson and I wish for all of you to be safe from harm.