Fatal Optimism (I made that up)
I am in a dark room, no – a dark one room CABIN, in the woods. It is a beautiful sunny day outside but in this cabin I cannot see anything. It is completely dark with the windows shuttered and the door closed. Inside this cabin there is one tiny, beautiful firefly, blinking slowly as it flits around the room. I need to see, so I am chasing this little firefly, trying to capture it – harness it’s light, as it avoids me with clever zigs and zags. . . and I am completely ignoring the obvious. I had only to OPEN. THE. DOOR. to let in a blinding light, capable of lighting up the whole room.
The firefly is hope. It was the hope I had for my marriage and for the dream of family I had built upon it. The outside is all of the rest, all of the possibilities I refused to allow myself to see because I would not let go of this one hope in this one dream. This is fatal optimism. I engaged in such a fierce hope that my dream would materialize that I could not see all of these other wondrous possibilities just on the other side of that door. To me, opening that door meant giving up. Never been good at that.
In not giving up, I encountered so much more hurt than was necessary. I was slowly strangling my ME-ness by focusing so hard on this ever shrinking possibility, on this unavoidable necessary ending. This optimism that – Things will be ok! We will work this out! I can force my life to conform to my design! – it about killed me. Ok, not really, but it did cause depression, anxiety, and a loss of creativity in me that I was afraid I might never recover. I allowed my sunny side natural tendency toward optimism to blind me, to place me inside a box. I hid inside it, convincing myself that in being positive, in being hopeful for what I wanted, I could somehow manifest this desire into a reality. My Pollyanna was frantically chasing that tiny firefly.
I sacrificed my creativity to the pursuit of this lightning bug. And my creativity is my life force.
Do you know when it returned to me? It reappeared when I began considering other possible roads to happiness and joy and a contentedness that I so desperately needed. I found a family counselor who had experience/knowledge of the destructive nature of alcoholism and its affect on family and I saw her just about every week. She helped coax me out of the darkness and into the light. My creative spark sprung to life once again.
I opened my door and focused on what would bring me joy without considering the context of my current circumstance. I did dream big – I mean BIG. It only took one tiny, tiny step to propel me forward: I had to acknowledge that the possibilities I had not wanted to consider were/are actually possible. I did not WANT to find my happiness on another path, but it was and is possible. IT IS HAPPENING. I covered miles and miles of ground toward my big dreams once I allowed myself the possibility that happiness could be realized in the paths I had once been so dead set against instead of the one I was so dead set ON.
Most importantly, I conceded that I was not giving up on the commitment I made in my marriage, I had lived it out.
When I chose to move in a direction that was healthier for me the world opened and welcomed me back (and delivered transformative surprises too!)
If you are contemplating an ending, I have a book to recommend – Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud was worth my time (times 3). Dr. Cloud explains the “necessary” part in a way that helped me make peace with my own endings. Your ending may not be a marriage, but a career, or a big move you would not consider before. Change in any form comes with the ending of something.
It is ok for endings to be necessary.
It is ok to redefine life’s dreams, it is not ok to stop dreaming.
Oh, and choose to open doors. Stop chasing fireflies.