How I Became an Accidental Optimist

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“You might be dangerously close to actually becoming an optimist.”

That’s what one of my friends told me recently. She’d received disheartening news about a project and we were trying to stay positive, attempting to see next steps through eyes of hope, wondering how we might repurpose what she had.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement. Me? Becoming an optimist?

I’m old enough to know by now that change doesn’t happen overnight, that our personalities and quirks are more entrenched than we’d like them to be. But I think my friend might be right, even if those closest to me are still skeptical.

I’m beginning to see the world through possibility-colored glasses.

I make myself sound so Disney. Don’t be fooled. I still worry and entertain fatalistic thoughts. I fuss at the people in my house and roll my eyes. But the tide within me is turning. I’m more determined than ever to look beyond how a situation appears and imagine potential in its place. Ever since my friend made that statement, I’ve wondered what’s brought about the change. Life hasn’t gotten any easier; the climb has actually felt steeper this last year as I’ve struggled with grief, exhaustion, confusion, and chronic setbacks.

Why the optimism?

Because I’ve been practicing without even knowing it. 

Way back in the dark ages of blogging, an overwhelmed homeschool mom with three young children had said goodbye to a career she loved to focus full-time on raising and teaching her children. She was grateful to no longer be spinning so many plates but she did miss the intellectual stimulation and tangible productivity her work provided. She started a blog. What began as random posts slowly became coherent-ish pieces, everyday stories through which she was learning about failure and grace and everyday gifts she’d been too busy to appreciate.

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Writing, whether in my journal or on the blog, became a way for me to process the complexities and frustrations of life. As I did, a serendipitous thing often happened: I found clarity and resolution, rest for my soul, perspective that I didn’t have when I began. It wasn’t always that tidy but the point is, writing helped me. Sometimes I shared what I’d written and it helped others feel less alone in their crazy and more hopeful about their mess.

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Sunday I talked with a friend who told me that her daughter always needed to write in a journal before she turned out the light. She struggled to fall asleep if she hadn’t poured out her thoughts and emotions first.

My youngest child has a spiral notebook. He writes about all the reasons why Nike is awesome. Pages y’all, about shoes and socks and shorts and why he loves them. Apparently Nike swag is the overflow of his eight-year-old heart. I’m not going to stop him; this too is self-expression as he professes undying love and devotion to Elite socks and the latest Lebrons.

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My younger brother, someone who hated writing during his growing-up years, recently re-launched his blog. Writing showed up as a form of therapy for him as an adult. When he writes, his honest but hopeful words meet others in their own places of doubt and depression.

We’re not all wired to write. But I do think that spilling our words is more therapeutic than many people realize, inviting us to access the deep places or even just the superficial chaos, pouring it out and feeling the exhale that results. Therapists often advise those who can’t sleep to keep a pen and journal beside the bed, writing down the anxious thoughts and to-do list tasks that keep us from rest.

In countless ways, writing can provide a guest house for the occupants that overcrowd your inner world. The occupants are still around but they’re not right there, smothering you with their heavy presence. 

And when our inner world isn’t so clouded and crowded with all the things, we can finally see with eyes of hope.

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I share my life with readers, those I know and those I don’t, because words are both my worship and my offering. As every writer eventually learns, we are first and foremost to write what we know. My life is what I know. The stories with which I am most intimately acquainted are my own. But I’m learning that we have so much more in common than not, that in telling you my story — both the epic and the everyday chapters — I speak into your story too, providing a place for you to pull up a chair around the table we all share.

 

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Words continue to help me name an unspoken thing and lead me along an unexpected route to possibility. I can’t explain it. But every time I’m crowded and clouded on the inside, I try to write through the overwhelm in order to see what comes out on the other side. Something always does. I never know how those posts will end up. Ever. It’s always a surprise and it always points toward hope, even though I’m “not an optimist.” It feels like a miracle every time.

After all these years, I’m just now fully realizing that the practice of writing has also been the practice of possibility. Practice doesn’t make perfect but it does bring change. Over the years, writing has slowly begun to etch new grooves in my thought patterns, to kick the dirt over the well-worn path of pessimism and to instead forge a new path of possibility.

Writing has been my faithful companion, a friend with layers of resourcefulness that I’m only now beginning to appreciate. She has been both a gentle guide and an exhausting coach, at times soothing me with her easy rhythms and at other times pushing me to dig deeper, to write even though it hurt, to persevere through all the self-doubt.

I trusted that she knew the way home, even if I didn’t, that she would excavate the truth and beauty I couldn’t get to without her. And somewhere along the way, my despairing self began to change, began to relentlessly hope, began to speak words of undying Possibility into my own narrative and also into the narratives of others.

I’ve become an Accidental Optimist. And I have writing to thank.

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If you’ve been around here the last week or so, you’ve heard me share about Hope*Writers, my favorite resource for writers.

This jam-packed site is full of everything from how to write a blog post or a book proposal to tech helps and writer interviews. There’s also a private Facebook group where you can connect with other writers just like you. #ihearthopewriters

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Hope*Writers is for anyone who writes, who wants to write, or who might be curious about writing. And this week, you can be part of their FREE Hope*Writers Summit, an event that gives you access to 12 video interviews with authors / writers / editors at various stages of the journey.

13177520_10154393267153974_6219948258442135292_n One of those 12 interviews is mine, a writer who’s been blogging for years, juggles writing with a paid job and a family, and hopes to write actual books one day. It’s an honor to be included in this mix of writers who I love and respect. I have gleaned so much insight and encouragement from their interviews.

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I sit down with one of my favorite authors, Emily Freeman, and we dish about everything from unfinished books proposals to “stewarding your story,” something I’ve learned to do as I’ve written my way through messy chapters of my own life. You’ll learn why I write on my blog and in a journal. You’ll also learn why my husband is my best editor, even though he’s not a writer.

Curious? CLICK HERE to learn more and join me this week for the summit. The first day was yesterday but it’s not too late to get in on the fun. Join us!

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I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox a couple of times a week.

 

*Affiliate Links: The Hope*Writer Summit is absolutely free but if you choose to join the Hope*Writers membership site, I receive a percentage at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links are one of the ways I’m able to cover costs and provide new content, year after year. So thanks for supporting my work!

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-For Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

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These are a collection of resources, some as short as a blog post and others as long as a book, that have helped me approach my work in recent years. {Both my right-now work and my hoped-for work.}

For me, the best resources are ones that I return to, quote, remember, and recommend. All of these qualify. Here they are, in no particular order.

 

1. “How to Make Time and Space for the Life You Really Want” by Ann Voskamp.
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This post of hers inspired this post of mine. It was, in a sense, the catalyst for the entire series and the inspiration I needed to create time when I didn’t have any to spare.

 

2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
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This book y’all. Its message rings in my ears whenever any opportunity presents itself. I don’t believe we have to be all or nothing with our yeses and our no’s. But I do believe we need to be wise and deliberate. Essentialism is like a shot glass of permission to spend yourself wisely. I say “no” with much less guilt now. And I say “yes” with more confidence.

 

3. The Magical Key to Doing It All by Kendra Adachi at The Lazy Genius Collective

What’s the solution? Being you. And your “all” looks different than mine or anyone else’s.

This short post is like a reset button for your life and your to-do list. The LGC helps all of us “be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.” This, in my opinion, is simply Being an Adult 101, and I think they should teach it in school.

 

4. A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Life by Emily P. Freeman
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“Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you’re wrong?” Then get this book.

It’s time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.

It’s no secret that I’m one of Emily’s biggest fans and have gobbled up everything she’s written over the last 8 or 9 years. She is my soul sister. The end.

 

5. The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women’s Work by Kathleen Norris
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Yes to anything that makes laundry feel sacred and that’s written with the scholarly and gentle voice of Kathleen Norris. This book is tiny. {88 pages, yay!} Best of all, it inspires me to embrace the “mundane” work of my right-now life with gratitude and grace, a thoughtful reminder that “laundry, liturgy, and women’s work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down.”

 

6. Choosing Rest: Cultivating a Sunday Heart in a Monday World by Sally Breedlove
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Again, this is a book that makes me breathe deeply and removes all traces of panic from my work. It’s not easy to rest when there’s so much to finish, whether it’s the dishes or my writing or relationships that aren’t tidy. If you can relate, this book will be a gift. It’s one to read slowly and restfully, one that you’ll want to re-read when you need reminding of what true rest looks like.

 

7. Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin
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Gretchen Rubin is our Type-A friend who is so kind and common-sense, we can’t help but adore her even though she’s perfect. I love this book in its entirety but it’s worth the price of the book for the first section — explaining the four tendencies and figuring out which one you are.

I sort everyone into four categories, which describe how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

I’m a self-professed personality test junkie. Gretchen’s simple framework has been huge in my life. Huge. {I don’t say that lightly. It’s even helped my marriage but that’s a different story.}

Knowing how I respond to an expectation {as an “Obliger”} has helped me craft my work, both my right-now jobs and my hoped-for work, in a way that’s effective for my type. For example, I need certain types of accountability and deadlines. If you’re trying to get traction as you pursue your own hoped-for work, it’s important to know what scenario works best for you and what doesn’t. P.S. She’s currently writing a book on just the four tendencies and I’m first in line.

 

8. Hope*Writers

 

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This resource is for those of you who are writers. Or for those of you who think you might be a writer but you don’t have the courage to give yourself that label yet.

Wish you could sit with an author you trustand ask all your writing questions? This is your chance to do that,
Only better.

I’ve been a member of Hope*Writers since the beginning and I’m being for real when I say that these people and all they offer helps keep me in the game. I’ve been to conferences, purchased books, and read plenty on the internet over the years. This site is like all of those resources except with friends. Who are experts. But feel like next door neighbors. I’m not an affiliate; I’m just a real-life member who’s a BIG fan. And…they just launched the FREE Hope*Writers podcast.

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I love it. As in, I’ve actually listened to two of the podcasts more than once because they’re chock full of practical help plus I laugh till’ I cry. {Also, if you have a listen, you’ll get a special trial offer to join Hope*Writers.}

 

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And here’s a list of the posts in this 8-part series.

I’ll soon have a graphic in the right sidebar of the blog {or at the bottom of the page if you’re reading on a mobile device} that links to the entire series. It’s there to encourage you when you’re tempted to quit, smothered by your right-now life, and feeling like this hoped-for work is a waste of time. It’s not. There’s hope.

Never stop starting.

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It has been so fulfilling to write this series and to walk this hopeful road with you. You’ve encouraged me with your stories and asked such thoughtful questions along the way. If this series has been helpful for you, forward it to a friend and share a dose of possibility.

I doubt this is the last you’ll hear from me on the topic, so keep the questions and comments coming. What’s something you’d love to see addressed in another post? I’m all ears.

How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

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*Book links are amazon affiliates and help keep the lights on at marianvischer.com. : )

“Never Stop Starting” & 4 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-for Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

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On February 24, I sat down to write a tidy little post for those of us who feel like our right-now lives are keeping us from our hoped-for work. Eight posts and over two months later, I’m still learning how to live responsibly in the right-now while not letting go of the hoped-for. It’s continually relevant because it’s a tug-of-war we experience every day.

This “balance” is not for the faint-hearted. Not only do you battle the limitations of the right now, you battle the voices of the right now.

Do you actually think you’re a real writer, a real artist, a real counselor, a real photographer, a real teacher, a real leader, a real coach?

Aren’t you neglecting other things that could use your attention?

Wouldn’t it be easier for you to let go of this dream and settle for a normal life?

 

The answer is yes. To all of those questions.

And that’s why we need encouragement. Because making space for our hoped-for work when there are sheets to wash and kids to raise and a real job to show up for takes creative strategy and courage. Sometimes we’re convinced that the voices are right. We’re tempted to close the coffin lid on our hoped-for work, cry a few tears, and move on like a responsible grown-up.

I’m mostly for all for being a responsible grown-up. But I wrote this series because I don’t think the answers are as “all or nothing” as we assume. There’s hope in the messy middle. So today I give you one more pep talk in this final post of the series.

1. Honor the sacred rhythms of work and rest.
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You are not a machine that can be programmed. You are a person who needs to be cared for. A person with limited brain space and finite energy. Rest sometimes feels lazy but it’s one of the most productive things we can do for our right-now work. Whether it’s a weekly one-day sabbath from all work or stepping away from the screen when you feel stuck, learn the rhythms of rest that are fruitful for you. This is how we maintain momentum, sanity, and perspective. Also, your work will be better. I promise.

 

2. Your right-now life and your hoped-for work may be more closely tied than you think.

While I blogged in the midst of marriage and motherhood and homeschooling and public schooling, I learned how to create content, how to market that content, how to run a self-hosted WordPress site, how to interpret Google Analytics, and how to create basic graphics for my posts. Unbeknownst to me, I was acquiring what smart people call “a skill set.”

A little over a year ago I ran into a friend on a rainy Friday. We chatted for a few minutes and she mentioned that the local non-profit she directs could use someone to help with their new website, manage social media, help create content, etc. She knew I could do these things because she’d been watching me do it on my blog.

All those years of making space for my hoped-for work in the midst of my right-then life? It had layers of purpose beyond what I could see.

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Not giving up on writing in the midst of the messy everyday ended up earning me a steady paycheck for my right-now season. I still don’t make money blogging, but I do make money because I’ve been blogging.

My point? Keep showing up and doing the work. Be open to learning new skills that accompany the work. You never know how it may all be mixed up together in happy, surprising ways.

 

3. Don’t focus on numbers or popular support.

It’s okay to become successful but don’t let wishful outcomes mess with the heart of your hoped-for work. It’s a normal temptation, one that even Jesus dealt with as his own work was finding favor with the masses. I love how Tim Keller breaks down this pivotal moment in the life of Christ:

When Simon told him that there were huge crowds gathered to see him, Jesus said that they should immediately leave. Though he was riding a wave of popular support, Jesus left it behind. Why? He was much more interested in the quality of the people’s response to him than in the quantity of the crowd.  

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Timothy Keller; passage referred to is Mark 1:35-38

We want to know that our hoped-for work will mean something in quantifiable terms. We want an “ROI,” a return on investment for all the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into it. Too often, we assume that ROI means “big.” Sometimes it does. But I think we’re prone to measuring results in ways that are all wrong. Jesus wasn’t interested in how many people were in awe of his message. He didn’t come to be popular. He came to change hearts with his love and his truth, to call people to himself. He said the road would be narrow. {That’s code for “most people will reject what I offer.”}

From Jesus, we learn to be wise and even strategic, but not at the expense of faithfulness to our true work.

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Jesus ascended to fame. But he just as quickly fell into disfavor, a disfavor that led to his death by the same crowds that had previously cheered him on. But life defeated death. And our hoped-for work bursting forth from the messy right-now reflects this same redemption. Friend, be faithful to the work. Keep showing up. You are an offering to your Maker and to the world he made. He can be trusted with the outcomes.

 

4. Never stop starting.

You may have awesome momentum for a solid month. And then everyone in your house gets the stomach virus and passes it around for two weeks. Momentum has packed her bags and hitchhiked to Montana. Motivation got tired of waiting for you and took off with Momentum.

It doesn’t take very much real life to yank us off the rails. That’s why you need this three-word mantra: “Never stop starting.”

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Isn’t that what we do every day in so many ways, whether it’s exercise, parenting, spiritual disciplines, or sticking to a budget? Just last night I was fed up with schedules, fed up with my kids needing money, and fed up with the dailyness of dinner. I wanted to run away {which is always my default fantasy.} But this morning I woke up with an ounce of resilience and said to myself, “Okay. It’s a new day. We can do this.”

You’ll stop. And sometimes you feel like you’ve got no start left in you. You don’t need a lifetime’s worth of start. You only need enough for today.

 

5. You need reinforcement.

You’re pursuing who you are while living in a world that is trying to make you into someone else. This is war.

Like soldiers, we need reinforcement by way of fresh hope and steady encouragement and one another. On the days when you don’t feel like fighting and in the moments when you’ve stopped believing, return to this space and remember what you’ve forgotten in the daily grind of right now.

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Share it with your friends, your family, your community. You may find some unexpected community in the process. And if you do? Link arms with likeminded others. We all need our someones.

When the right now feels extra messy and the hoped-for work is languishing in a corner, come on over to this place and find possibility again. I’ll have a link to the entire series in the right sidebar. It’s all yours.

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Though this is my last official post in series, next week I’ll have a list of ALL my favorite resources — links, books, and online spaces that keep me going and teach me useful things along the way. It’ll be fun.

I can’t thank y’all enough for showing up here. Your company has been a gift. I appreciate each and every word you’ve shared in response. You’ve encouraged me more than you know.

I’ve got some fresh content up my sleeve but I look forward to revisiting this topic of hoped-for work and entertaining your questions on the subject. Keep them coming! What are your greatest obstacles to pursuing your hoped-for work in the midst of your right-now life? What specific encouragement do you need for your own life?

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Here are the other posts in the series:

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How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

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