September Hello & Goodbye – and holding on to optimism in the face of defeatism.

by Laura Lynch LCSW, Life Coach

Well originally I was going to write about how glad I was for September to  come.  Kind of the perfect month for me.  The  intense desert heat recedes, the only Holiday is Labor Day, Fall is coming (my favorite season) and for me it is the real beginning of the year.

As a kid getting out of the school the summer stretched out gloriously – Free at Last! But by August we were more than ready for fall, the start of school (buying or having clothing  sewn), organizing notebooks with school supplies and most of all relief from boredom that finally descended on the house. (I was one of five).   Note this was ancient days, back when children could be seen running around the neighborhood, pre home computer, pre-internet, pre-cell phone, pre-social media, pre-video games days..The one thing i that was for sure that the year all five of us were in school my mom was finding a way to celebrate – talk about Free At Last!

This year I was glad for September to come because of unusually eventful summer with medical issues, and also because it means that November is that much closer and we will finally be free of this ridiculous political year.

But somehow September came and went and the only change was some cooling of the weather.  More medical issues with my husband getting to spend his first time in the hospital (I got desperate 3:00 a.m. texts asking me to take him out of there now!) and of course relentless election coverage.  (I did get an unexpected call from a New York based media organization wanting me to participate in an internet radio interview, the only issue is having to come up with money.  I am still wrestling with this, since I don’t have extra money lying around. But I do feel validated.)  The call also motivated me back to writing, enough of the excuses.

Finally I just cannot believe it is October 1.  Oh September, why can’t you stay a little longer? The holidays are bearing down.  A colleague reports that some stores already have Christmas/Holidays decorations up.  It’s as if holiday-loving zombies were in charge. Or perhaps holidays loving Daleks who really want us to enjoy the holidays. (see Dr. Who).

September is a usually a time when I feel a renewal of optimism, the kind of optimism which puts a spring in your step. The kind of optimism in which you know you have a good teacher this year, that you will be surrounded by good friends, and suddenly feeling a little more energised after a few weeks of enervating summer boredom.  For some people of course September means that you can see the year’s end on the horizon, and if you have had a terrible year, that gives you a glimmer of hope. Perhaps seeing the season change on the calendar reminds us that we still have a chance, that we should not quit, that this season is change to refresh and renew. (I think Fall cleaning is just as good if not better than Spring cleaning). I also know that the plants in my yard have survived the desert heat, and that is an accomplishment in itself. The kind of optimism that allows your mind to be settled, to not be fraught with worry, and to allow stillness as well as movement. (The seasons will keep coming and the earth will keep turning).

Path

I was thinking that this year America is seeing almost a death match between the forces of optimism (or if you prefer, reality-based optimism) and pessimism (which can also be reality based).  Too much optimism is what keeps the casinos full and people getting married in the chapels in Las Vegas.  But optimism (or positive thinking) leavened in reality and acceptance makes it possible to respond to challenges and change without too much cynicism and gives you much needed energy and motivation. Pessimism  or negative thinking has its place, it provides the ability to be prudent and not be too illusionary or delusional.  Politicians wield both optimism and pessimism as tools of persuasion.  In both cases it may be a matter of telling people what they want to here. Too much positive talk may seem to dismiss real misery,  and perhaps deny reality, and have the aura of a phony used car sales rep. Too much negative talk may distort or exaggerate, and lead to self-pity and tiresome whining.

On balance, having a spirit of optimism, leavened by enthusiasm, passion, dedication and hard work will get you far.   This does not mean you are not allowed to have a negative mood.  Reality-based optimism means you can see things clearly, especially the bad things, but you have decided that based on your values it is worth to go the distance. Sometimes fatigue can set in. The other day, exhausted, I  cleaned house by doing a task (say vacuum the furniture) then sit down for 10 or 15 minutes, and get up again to the next chore.  In other words, rest and retreat will help you get back to it soon enough. You don’t have to be unpleasantly relentless, ie The Terminator, who keeps coming back, stupidly, but gets his in the end. Besides, optimism is more likely to attract people you can rely on to help, with a good team or support you are more likely to have some success, or if you fail, have that support in any case. Having a sense of humor also helps a lot.

For sure, my grandparents and parents did not get through the depression and World War II by whining, being overly cynical and too negative.  There were no guarantees. They knew that individual effort was important, but on the other those times really reinforced the importance of community, of coming together. (The word stress was not even in anyone’s vocabulary. My grandmother did not complain, ever, about how stressed she was. If the word was in the general vocabulary, I am not sure she would have used it anyway. (For more information on how the idea of stress became so popularized, see the work of Hans Selye – http://www.stress.org/about/hans-selye-birth-of-stress/. Of course us Norwegians come from a stoic stock). They understood and accepted their circumstances, but kept at it.  I  believe that reality based optimism can be a major ingredient or catalyst for resiliency. So even when things seem bleak and possibly hopeless, you will keep going for another day. In other words, in spite of being imprisoned for so long, Nelson Mandela still came out with reality based optimism, and his jailers not so much. Too much pessimism in society as a whole becomes like a low grade fever, an enervating illness sucking the life of motivation, and burning away trust.

In ever increasing times of cynicism, fear and pessimism, being optimistic can be downrght brave, but you are risking being seen as foolish.  It can make you stand out from the crowd. You may even feel lonely.  It may actually take more self confidence.

positive-sun

I want to end the year preparing for renewal, and put things into place so by next September some of the seeds I have planted will be growing.

I am including a self evaluation I did for one of my groups (out of my own mind, so not really scientific or comprehensive). This covers some of the aspects of optimism and pessimism, both positive and negative with undercurrents of resiliency.

Your Outlook: pessimist or optimistic

A = Agree  D = Disagree  N = Neutral or Not sure

A D N    1.  I tend to think things will turn out just fine.

A D N    2.  When problems arise, I just don’t think I can deal with them. (Esp. in a bad

mood).

A D N    3.  I like to (and usually do) keep picking myself up and keep moving forward. (With a little help from my friends as need me)

A D N    4.  Oh come on being a pessimist is just being a realist.

A D N    5.   If I keep trying I know I will get my way, or find a solution of some sort.

A D N    6.   If I yell loud enough I end getting my way.

A D N    7.   I think that acceptance is important in having a positive outlook.

A D N    8.   I know I am right, because (those) other people are wrong.

A D  N   9.   I usually base my decisions on my mood at time, good or bad.

A D N   10.  I don’t dwell on the negative (past, present or future).

A D N    11.  It is important to me to find someone to blame. (Because its their fault).

A D N    12.  I am pessimistic generally because of my past negative experiences. (The past is prologue, dontcha know).

A D N   13.    I am easily influenced by negative or pessimistic people, they probably understand things better.

A D N   14.    Part of being a positive person is making other people feel good, and just helping others.

A D N    15.    Being snarky and cynical is a sign of intelligence, you can’t really trust uplifting people.

A D N    16.    Where fools rush in, angels fear to tread.

A D N    17.    I like to say yes to change, new things and life in general.

A D N    18.    Being creative, resourceful, persistent, open and having gratitude is a part of being optimistic.

I will leave you with an old favorite pop song that shows youthful optimism (with clear-eyed understanding of what could happen), back when summer seemed to stretch out and September was a distant promise. Hey optimism can be romantic!

“See You In September” originally released June 1959,  written by Sid Wayne and Sherman Edwards (recorded by Tempos, Pittsburgh, PA.

I’ll be alone each and every night
While you’re away, don’t forget to write
Bye-bye, so long, farewell
Bye-bye, so long
See you in September
See you when the summer’s through
Here we are (bye, baby, goodbye)
Saying goodbye at the station (bye, baby, goodbye)
Summer vacation (bye, baby bye, baby)
Is taking you away (bye, baby, goodbye)
Have a good time but remember
There is danger in the summer moon above
Will I see you in September
Or lose you to a summer love
(counting the days ’til I’ll be with you)
(counting the hours and the minutes, too)

Bye, baby, goodbye
Bye, baby, goodbye
Bye, baby, goodbye (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
Bye, baby, goodbye (bye-bye, so long)

Have a good time but remember
There is danger in the summer moon above
Will I see you in September
Or lose you to a summer love
(I’ll be alone each and every night)
(While you’re away, don’t forget to write)

See you (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
In September (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
I’m hopin’ I’ll
See you (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
In September (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
Well, maybe I’ll
See you (bye-bye, so long, farewell)
In September (bye-bye, so long, farewell)

 

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