I’d like to think that I’m as realistic and practical and, yes, as cynical as the next person (you probably can’t work in the service industry this long without getting to be like this to some extent), but I’d also like to think that I’m generally quite a positive and optimistic person. Sometimes, in certain cases, I can be relentlessly optimistic. Sometimes I’m optimistic to such an extent that I wonder if this annoys people (usually the people I work with).
For example, the other night, when I got in my car, I noticed that there was some foul-looking excrement on the windscreen. Whatever creature left that must have had some serious gastrointestinal issues…
Anyway, it was reasonably confined, and not significantly obstructing my view of the road and my surroundings, so I figured I’d just leave it, and clean it off once I got home. As it so happened, when I went to retrieve my things through the passenger side door, I noticed that the same foul substance was on the back part of the car, just above the left rear tail-light.
Great, I thought, more things to clean.
And yet, as I started cleaning, as disgusted as I was by it, it occurred to me that it didn’t have a strong smell, so, for that, I was grateful. It also came off pretty easily, since I suppose it was reasonably “fresh”…
I did not enjoy the cleaning one bit – I had better things I could be doing – but the positivity kept pouring out of me: I told myself that it was fortunate I hadn’t been around at the time, and that it all landed on my car instead of me. Even worse, it could’ve landed inside my car, like that one time I parked on the street outside my sister and brother-in-law’s old apartment, and as I opened the door to get in, a bird flew overhead and dropped something on the inside door handle.
And somehow I still like birds (?)
Another recent example is to do with the toilets at my workplace. They actually get cleaned, I believe, on a daily basis (if not twice daily), and this person does an excellent job, but the toilets often smell strongly of bleach for a great part of the day. This is fine because it’s a great way to know that the toilets have been cleaned, but it’s not great if you don’t like the smell of bleach. I don’t think the smell of bleach is pleasant at all, but every time I go there, I think, ‘well, there are worse things this place could smell like’.
Speaking of work, people will often ask me during the course of a day, how everything’s going in my department. Sometimes we have good days, and I could say so, but I tend to jinx things, so I might answer in a roundabout way instead. It is not uncommon for me to tentatively reply that the day is “not terrible”, and you can usually tell by my tone how far from terrible it really is. Things might be pretty chaotic, and I will still say “not terrible” or “could be worse” (another favourite phrase in my department).
(If we ever struggle to think of how things could possibly be worse, we might point out that the place could be on fire, or we could be on fire. The sky might also fall, and we could be flooded in. You are only limited by your imagination.)
Traffic jams don’t even stress me out any more. If I’m on a bus, I take it as a chance to get more reading done or, at the very least, a chance to rest. If I’m driving, it means more time to listen to music. Sometimes when I drive to work in the morning, and my drive coincides with the radio news report, I listen to my playlist instead. I usually get through 3-4 songs before I get to work. If there’s a bit of congestion, I might get 5 or 6 songs in, and that actually makes me pretty happy. (I suppose it helps that I always plan to arrive early, so I’m not really in a rush anyway.)
As I reflected on this positivity the other day, an interesting thought occurred to me: Maybe you need a measure of stoicism to be an optimist, or maybe optimism builds resilience? Perhaps strength and hope build off each other…?