I didn’t realize I was a pessimist until I married an optimist. It was matter of factly pointed out to me in the middle of an argument over nothing important. I skew negative on all of life’s shit? Well, fuck.
Realizing that was very humbling for me. Here I thought I had evolved past the negativity from my childhood, and re-made myself a shiny, happy person. But I really hadn’t. Yet. My role model for my negative life outlook was my mom. She had a traumatic childhood, struggled mightily in her marriage to my dad, and raised us alone. I remember hating when she told stories about me, because they were never good. My mom only seemed to remember my asshole qualities and my shitty moments. Here’s her story about my birth: She went through 13 hours of excruciating pain. When she was mad about something I did, or didn’t want to do, it was the birth story guilt trip. I went through 13 hours of pain, for this? Every time she’d recall my non stop crying as a baby, my brattiness as a kid, and my selfishness as a teen, it taught me that life was hard and I made it harder by being shitty and hard to love. I developed a pretty toxic inner voice. Constantly reminding me about the bad things that might happen, how much I sucked, and why I need to play it safe.
Shifting your outlook to be more positive is about as easy as resisting free Krispy Kremes after a night of unplanned binge drinking. It’s hard! I’d take one step forward and three steps back. It also required a heavy dose of self-mothering and patience. Parenting toddlers AND yourself is fucking crazy. It was maddening to think I was in control, and could will myself to change without putting in the effort to make change happen. I had to work hard to grow an inner voice that was kind and loving, one that could stand up to the critic inside. I had to let go of a lot and choose to do it differently than I had experienced as a kid. It’s through this process of confronting my experiences, letting go, and cultivating my own positive inner voice that I finally realized my mom’s shitty memories of my childhood weren’t about me at all. They were about HER struggles parenting us completely alone. She didn’t have a supportive husband. She didn’t have books to help her, and she sure as hell didn’t have google to tell her the magical answer to her burning questions.
So where am I today? I’d say that I’m a pessimist who chooses optimism. I can shift that critic into a friend. I can tell the asshole inner voice to shut the fuck up. I can think negative shit, and worry about stuff – but then I can also choose to believe it will all be ok, and that there’s good to find. While I haven’t yet made peace with the pain from my past, I do choose to see the good in it. Because of my childhood, I now think before I talk. I understand the power of words and how they can with harm or help you when you’re a kid. I’m grateful for that knowledge, because my kids don’t ever feel un-lovable, and they see the good in things, even when I don’t. Sometimes I get upset because something didn’t go the way I want, and it’s pretty incredible to watch my kids talk to me about how it’s ok, and it’s still good. I’m a half way pessimist, living with optimists. Life is good.
I didn’t realize I was a pessimist until I married an optimist.