Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Disease of Incurable Optimism

Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end! – Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Like Mr. Micawber, I find I have become an incurable optimist.  It is, as the name suggests, a disease.  Not a good thing, though its propounders would, being the optimists we are, hold otherwise.

Alas, we are wrong.

How do I know?  Because, in spite of my best efforts, life daily proves me so.

Yet even so proven so wrong do I persist – hence the nomenclature of disease, or worse, perhaps, insanity.

Thus it was that yesterday I turned the page from Easter Sunday and saw on the top of my Monday to-do’s, Sandra Communion.

Sandra died Saturday night.  The sight of her name and my plan so plainly writ before me left me thunderstruck in the silence of knowing myself for a fool, believing, though I know better, that there would be plenty of tomorrows for the doing.

I am bereft of sense.

It is not the regret of thinking I could have, should have, done it sooner – that is present, but this is something else entirely – the shame at a pride that would be so sure of tomorrow that it would actually commit the commitment to paper, as if the writing were the deed made possible . . . as if my thinking it thus would make it so . . . as if Sandra’s own pleas to be let go were of no moment . . . as if her own sense of her failing did not matter because I willed it, believed it, otherwise.

My son asked if optimism were not better than pessimism and my answer was undoubting, even before seeing the proof of my own foolishness: No!

No, because realism is the best to aspire to . . . realism that can hear the pleas of the dying and know them for the truth they are . . . I used to know better, but now find myself making this same mistake again and again and again . . . Micawber and I, such boon companions, are the fools, pitied by those around us, the unsurprised by life ones who feel the pain but not the startling jump of the unanticipated . . .

That’s what the day after Easter looks like to one who cannot shed this damned optimism . . . poor, poor fool she . . .

Maybe it will be better tomorrow . . .


  1. Only a few of us live as though the time we have left is the time we have left. How much of what we do would we do if we did?

  2. If not tomorrow, then the next day... or the next... or next year. Or, as I like to think, the dark days we experience -- and share -- help make it better for future generations. Peace, love, and smiles,

    1. Marilyn, Nicely thought, nicely lived, nicely said. Thanks. Beth