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Thoughts on Living With an Optimist

The other day, I arrived at the first boss fight in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. For the record, I hate boss fights. I detest them and always have since a first play-through of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords led me to a massive boss fight that culminated in a very short cut-scene of a ship flying off into space, leaving all loose ends just like that: loose. The reason I bring this up is because my husband endlessly encourages me about this Deus Ex debacle.

“You can get him, I know you can.”

“You’ll pick up on the trick of it soon.”

“Don’t give up. Just give it a few more tries.”

And when he says these very nice things, which he believes by the way, I want to pick up my elite gaming mouse and throw it into his 24-inch LG monitor. Reasonable response? No. But I get weary of all this encouragement and positive talk. Frankly, after the first boss attempt, I counted on the inevitability of misery and angst cookies. (Incidentally, cookies made in angst always turn out best.)

Here’s why I get annoyed: my husband is so positive. So happy and positive. All the time. Even in the face of enormous, crushing facts. When we lived in Boston and had no money and I couldn’t get a job and we were borrowing money to pay our student loans? He was downright upbeat. When I decided to do the freelance thing and risk our well-being? He was certain things would work out.

Now, I get that I’m a pessimist. I always plan for the worst case scenario because I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than caught off-guard. So when Mr. Happy Go Lucky walks around, the miserable facts of life bouncing off him like bullets off the chest of Super Man, I get antsy. It seems foolish to me to expect that things will always work out. The world, in my mind, delights in squeezing the last ounce of joy from the souls of the unprepared. When he says, “Everything will work out for the good,” I wonder where he is getting this guarantee for us. The way I see it, no one rightfully has that guarantee.

But, as the boss gunned me down for the 15th time one afternoon, it occurred to me that I may have married the man, at least in part, for this obnoxious optimism. I suppose I get antsy and annoyed mostly because I am afraid he may lose that positive outlook if the world fails him one day. He has a pretty astonishing track record of successes so far, but what if one of our children dies? What if some twist of fate means the loss of his job and the inability to find another? What if, what if, what if?

Truth is, I feel protective. I do value his positivity and fear it going away. Yes, it seems like foolishness to me, but maybe expecting everything will go wrong is another sort of foolishness. Revelations: what if living with an optimist has made me believe that he and others like him just might be onto something after all. Isn’t that a sort of optimism?

Do any of you keep these optimists around, too? Is it possible that human nature, no matter how depraved, ultimately craves hope and idealism? Here’s the recipe for my angst cookies, because I know you’re still thinking about them.

Recipe for Angst Cookies

  • 1-1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar. Add applesauce. Mix. Then the egg and vanilla. Mix.

Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Once mixed, toss in the chopped dried fruit.

Add the dried stuff to the wet stuff. Mix until just incorporated. Don’t overmix!

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined or lightly-oiled cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown.

By Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

4 replies on “Thoughts on Living With an Optimist”

I’m an optimist currently dating a pessimist, so I can’t relate exactly – but I do know that mouse-throwing feeling. It can be hard to deal with someone who constantly thinks everything is going to hell, who thinks nothing will work out, and is always anticipating the bad. It’s exhausting. There are definitely days where I want to throw things at him and tell him to stop being a Debbie Downer. I’m sure I provoke the same reactions in him when I tell him things will work out, because I truly do believe they will!

I’m an optimist like your husband, and I know that annoys people but I don’t care. My mother is the President of the Catastrophisers Club: everything is Worst Cast Scenario, nothing good will ever happen, and when it does she worries what will come along and ruin the fun.  And there is a difference between being an optimist/pessimist and being inactive or being caught unprepared. You can be an optimist and still believe in lie insurance, ya know?  We optimists hope for the best outcome while we work towards making it happen. Personally, I’ve never found that worrying ever changed the outcome of anything.  So why not hope for the best? I’d rather be disappointed for a minute than spend days worrying for no reason.

You sound as sensible as my husband, who is sensible indeed.

I think if your mother is the President of the Catastrophisers Club, then I am at least Treasurer. :] Worry really DOES accomplish very little, you’re right. However, I think in the case of my husband, he occasionally is so positive that he doesn’t see the hits out of right field that bonk him on the head.

But, you know, I’d probably rather get bonked on the head once in awhile then worry over all the bonks that never come!

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