Let’s explore what it means to be Throbbingly, Extra-Rationally Optimistic in a way that makes your life burn well. I’m going on the assumption that by now you’ve made a list of 25 things you desire and you’ve put the items on that list to the bliss test. Great! Good job! I also hope you’re beginning to practice our 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life.
Optimism is a tricky thing. It has a bad rap as being foolish, fluffy-headed, liable to get you hurt and in trouble. It can be and do all of these things when it’s executed in a misguided manner, directed toward the fulfillment of desires that are really conditioned attachments or addictions and not authentic preferences.
For example, I used to be very optimistic that I could live a life of constant partying and shameless self-promotion and thereby become a indie art world icon, not unlike Nico of Nico and the Velvet Underground fame. This was misguided optimism because it had to do with my conditioned attachments to attention, glamor, and various unsavory behaviors. It was also an optimism that was based on a very limited and actually pessimistic assessment of my worth as a human being and also of the goodness of the world. In other words, I didn’t trust that I could be valued by others for my intellect, my sensitive intuition and my kind heart– in large part because I didn’t value those things in myself. For a long time I thought those major virtues were actually liabilities– they prevented me from being as tough and cool, nihilistic and frivolous as I thought I needed to be to be accepted.
It actually wasn’t until I was working at the Andy Warhol Museum (you see, I was NOT kidding about my Velvet Underground / Warhol / Nico fandom) as a curatorial assistant in the archives, and I there came a cross a long-out-of-print biography of Nico which focused on her highly ignominious death in a ditch after collapsing while desperately seeking heroin in the hot sun that I came to question my aspirations and lifestyle decisions. I thought to myself, “Hm, perhaps I do not wish to die alone in a ditch while desperately seeking heroin in the hot sun. Perhaps my current choices are leading me in that direction. Maybe I should try something else?”
The Need for Change
Those thoughts were just the beginning of me questioning my false optimism. It would actually take real tragedy and shock in my own life– the ugly dissolution of everything that I had planned and hoped for– until I became willing to work on cultivating a more genuine path for myself that had less to do with fulfilling glamorous images and gaining the approval of hip people and a lot more to do with living by spiritual principles and being of real service to the world.
Optimism put in the service of shallow hopes and aspirations that do not take into account a balanced, compassionate and accepting view of who you are CAN indeed be quite damaging. However, if you’ve been living a life that’s not burning well for quite some time (you’ve felt stuck, flat, afraid, paralyzed) it can be damn hard to achieve a balanced, compassionate and accepting view of yourself! What’s a person to do?
It’s a double-bind: In order to improve my life, I need to see myself much more kindly and much more clearly so I can cultivate a truly positive vision. But my life is messed up to begin with because I don’t see myself kindly or clearly, and everything in my messed-up life thus reflects back to me all the messed-up things I believe about the world, myself, and other people: it sucks, I suck, and they suck.
In other words, it’s awful hard to start improving my vision for my future and my perception of myself when to all appearances around me, such improvements are not justified.
For example– when I was at my lowest point after my party girl life came crashing down, it was very difficult for me to believe that I was a vibrantly worthwhile person who could have a major positive impact on others and thereby sustain herself financially and creatively.
Why was this so tough to believe? Because I had alienated all of my friends with the power of my crazy, was utterly broke, and magestically miserable. I used these undeniably yucky circumstances as prime evidence in support my view that I was hopelessly flawed and mostly worthless. This view of myself fueled the alienation, the crazy, the brokeness, and the misery by causing me to desperately seek quick-fix validation outside myself from dubious sources (shady and unstable guys– a long-time favorite!).
A very unhappy circle.
The Way Out of the Double-Bind
In order to alter my perception of myself and the world and thus come into an authentically optimistic vision that could improve – rather than degrade – my life, I needed the help of others. A lot of others.
I needed therapists, spiritually-oriented friends, mentors, and books and advice columns and horoscopes by loving authors who addressed me compassionately and deeply. I recommend that you seek out all of these resources. Hopefully, this blog and maybe even personal consultation with me can serve you in this way. All of these resources things can help you get a better idea of what’s possible.
So, Carolyn, What’s Possible?
Imagine that I’m back from the future. Really. I’ve been to 1 year from now, I’ve hung out there, and I’ve seen what’s up with you. I have a report of my findings to share. As I have a world-wide reputation as an utterly honest and infallible time traveller, you know you can trust my report absolutely. Here’s what I’ve found: all of your authentic preferences arrived. They just showed up one day. You were hanging out, doing your thing, and one-by-one, things just started falling into place, magically and synchronistically.
Man, I’m serious. I talked to your future self. I found out all about it. You didn’t strive, you didn’t work extra-hard– it all just happened. The gypsy caravan that’s so rad you can hardly stand it showed up full of gold coins and pug puppies, and it carried you to a house that looks just like a Lisa Frank sticker exploded all over it, wherein you proceeded to dress up in a very glittery manner ala David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust era, record a hit freak folk album and soak in your clawfoot bathtub before your roaring fire place while writing a much-sought-after self-help book and didactic novel.
So– what’s your experience like after you learn about this great news?
Odds are, you’d feel a wonderful ecstatic lift– like, WOW! The world is a MUCH kinder place than I thought it was! Whoah! Who knew, baby? Things aren’t so bad after all! You’d feel exhilarated, giddy, glad and boggled. You’d stop beating yourself up for what happened in the past. You’d stop pressuring yourself to make something good happen because you’d know it was going to happen. You’d deeply relax.
You’d feel thrilled and blessed and you’d derive much pleasure out of anticipating the arrival of the gypsy caravan of gold coins and pug puppies. This anticipation would be so much fun that you’d probably start jotting down notes to yourself for song lyrics for your freak folk album, self-help book, and didactic novel. You might even want to begin really writing those things, so as to get a head start. You’d experience a surge in energy and a lot of great ideas for what you’re going to do with that caravan and what kind of uplifting parties you’re going to throw in that house. You might start reading about how to take care of pug puppies, ’cause sister, you gotta be ready. There’s going to be a gazillion of them, remember.
Probably you would want to focus on savoring the pleasures of being a relatively anonymous person of modest means for the duration of the remaining months before the magic kicks in full force. You might slow down, take it easy, revel. You’d cease trying so hard to impress anyone or get ahead. You’d be much more generous with your time and willing to help others out because you’d cease to be so worried about your own future. You’d let your freak flag fly and no apologies about it, honey.
In other words you would let-go. You’d have fun! You’d stop resenting what you lack now and regretting what you did in the past because– heck, what have you got to complain about? There’s a freakin’ awesome gypsy caravan comin’ round the bend! You’d be your true self and every atom of your being would start humming with joy, humor, and goodness. You would yourself become the sort of very magical creature that magical gypsy caravans are notoriously drawn to.
Sound good? Well, that’s the power of Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism. Stay tunes for more ideas about practicing it!