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