Pessimist Schmessimist

I am not a pessimist. That is, I unconsciously look for and anticipate the bad things in life, and can find something negative in the best of days. But, I'm not a pessimist. Really! Okay...maybe a LITTLE. But it just sounds so DEPRESSING to be labeled a pessimist. No one likes a pessimist unless you're Woody Allen, and even then they only like you because you're supposed to be a genius, and are rich.

I don't want to be a pessimist. But this year on my birthday I was forced to come to terms with how bad I actually am. Let me tell you about my day.

For my birthday, Tim took the day off work to take care of the kids (who had off school for Yom Kippur). I slept in until 10:30, then got up and played with the WiiFit that Tim got me for my birthday. Daniel gave me an "extra long snuggle" when he saw me as my birthday gift (which is actually quite a treat from him since he doesn't usually like to do it, and it was all his idea so it was very sweet.) Emily gave me sundry colored pipe cleaner creations all day. (It was actually more like birthday week from her...I got crafts and rocks and whatever took her fancy all week long.) A little after noon we went to eat at Nifty Fifties so that I didn't have to cook. (Tim had wanted to make me a birthday dinner, the way I do for everyone else, which was a very sweet thought, but Tim can't cook much besides rice and hot dogs, and I had visions of me sitting in the living room, fighting the urge to just get up and do it myself while listening to the inevitable noises of chaos and frustration eminating from the kitchen. So, we went out instead.) After lunch, we went to the Franklin Mills outlet and bought winter coats for ourselves since we were already out that way, and then on the way home we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery and redeemed my free birthday ice cream coupon. I basically had a wonderful day spent with my favorite people in the world who all went out of their way to show me how much they love me.

So, when I got home, you'd think I would have sighed in contentment and basked in the glow of my birthday treats, right?

No. I found some reason to be upset that I can't even remember anymore. Something about the kids and feeling like Tim wasn't helping. It didn't matter that Tim had spent the entire rest of the day giving me a break and letting me sleep, I was upset that he didn't get their milk, or whatever insubstantial thing it was. And then, an hour later, when Tim asked me if I'd enjoyed my day do you know what I did? I paused, and then said, "Yeah. I mean, this last part wasn't very nice, but besides that it was good."

Ingrate. Ingrate ingrate ingrate ingrate.

It wasn't until later, after the kids were in bed and it was just us on the sofa together, that I thought about what I was doing. What was wrong with me? Here I had this great husband who'd given me this great day, and these loving kids who were the joy of my life showing my how much they loved me, and I was focusing on this one little thing at the end of the day?

As I thought about it, I realized that I've done this sort of thing all my life. Give me a lousy day with one good thing in it, and I will see it as a lousy day. Give me a great day with just one lousy thing in it...and I will see it as a lousy day. What kind of way is that to live? And yet, I have enough powers of self-analasis to know why I do that. It was ingrained in me from as early as I can remember.

My family wasn't what one would call particularly affectionate. We loved each other in our fashion, as long as it didn't involve words or physical contact in any way. It was something rather deduced than expressed. From my mother this has never been a problem. I can blame her incapability of outward affection on her Scottish lineage and know at the same time that she loves me. I have never doubted this, because I can just tell...something about how she reacts, the tone of her voice, the little things show me how she feels.

My father, however.... His little things also told me how he felt, but it wasn't the same as my mother. I remember always being faintly aware that he didn't like me very much. He didn't like anyone very much, actually, including himself, which was probably the whole problem. But I didn't care about all the other people, I just cared about what he felt about me. I spent my entire childhood and young adulthood trying to make myself lovable for my father...and the only time I felt like I succeeded a little bit was when I was in trouble. He would always come through when there was a problem, albeit rather sternly and without much tender concern, still it showed that he DID care. And he always liked to talk about what was wrong about things, so I knew that if I would complain about something he didn't like, that I was guaranteed to have his attention, and even something of his approval for thinking the same thing he did. I did this all unconsciously, of course, but through it I've learned to look at everything through the filter of what I can find wrong with it.

Well, that doesn't make a girl very happy.

And I realized, while sitting there on that sofa next to my caring and loving and affectionate and open husband who is nothing like my father, that I was ruining my own happiness. And I began to wonder what it would be like to not do that. So I grabbed my brain, told it to stop, and MADE myself feel the joy of my day. It was, in truth, wonderful, if I could only make myself realize that with more than my intellect. And an amazing thing happened: I actually began to FEEL what I was thinking, and felt in my heart as well as my head how blessed I was to have a family who would give me such a day. I turned to Tim and thanked him for giving me a wonderful birthday, and told him how happy I was to share my life with him. And I meant it. And I was - shock of shocks - happy.

But, no cure comes that easy. On Friday the 17th, a week later, we went out for our 9th anniversary. Tim had made reservations at the Melting Pot, and my mother was coming to watch the kids so that there was no pressure on when to get back. He had arranged to have roses on our table and everyone wished us a happy anniversary when we came. It was very nice. And yet, on our way there, I looked at him and felt disappointed over what he was wearing. He was wearing a perfectly acceptable pair of tan slacks and a button down shirt. But I had gotten all dressed up, and I had wished that he'd chosen to wear a shirt and tie and make it REALLY special. And I actually said this thought out loud. To Tim. He deflated immediately, and I kind of sulked and felt like it was all ruined. All ruined because he wasn't wearing a tie. Seriously. It took about 5 minutes before I realized what I was doing. I was ruining my own happiness again, almost like I had tried to look for some small thing to make a problem out of. And that's kind of exactly what I had done. So I turned to him, said I was sorry and that he looked great and that I was being ridiculous. And we went on to have a great time together.

My comfort is that at least I'm more aware of it than I used to be, so maybe I can stop myself quicker in the future, or maybe even stop doing it altogether and actually feel consistently happy in the blessed life I have. Hey, miracles happen. Maybe my days as a pessimist are limited.

Everyone enjoying the WiiFit.
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