I kind of hate it that ‘optimistic’ and ‘realistic’ seem to be set up as opposites. No one ever says ‘be realistic’ and means anything other than
‘don’t get your hopes up.’ And, sadly, ‘optimism’ can be confused with irrational exuberance. Can realism and optimism coexist happily? I believe so. Isn’t that what every clinical trial is based on — the hope that a new drug or treatment approach can make a difference in your life coupled with the understanding that it takes hard work, that nothing is a panacea.
An odd tension, then. We want our doctors and nurses to be optimistic — but we don’t want to be sold a bill of goods. We want our care team and our families to be realistic, but who needs a bunch of Debbie Downers?
Maybe it’s about integrating the essence of optimism into our very fibers so that it’s not simply a fleeting mood or a form of self-deception.
I do think we all have a choice whether we want to view our lives through a lens of abundance or limitations. Even dealing with cancer, we can decide to learn, experience, love, feel … fully and in the ‘now.’ That is fully embracing life, as it presents itself. Not easy to do, nor even possible to hold that feeling all the time. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed or sad. Sometimes we feel the basic unfairness of the disease. But, little by little, if we work at it, that feeling of optimism, that life is a wonderful gift can works its way to our very core. Maybe, just maybe, that’s when optimism becomes something greater and becomes how we live.
It’s like that one scene from Winnie the Pooh, where Pooh and Piglet are walking along in the snow: “What day is it,” asked Pooh. “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh.