I recently had drinks with friends, and we were talking about loss, and how adulthood can knock you, and all your beliefs sideways. For some reason when we are growing up, adults present the world to us as based on a set of rules.
We believe that if you go to school and work hard, you will graduate, build a great career and get opportunities to pursue your dreams. We are also taught that families are there for us to create, and love will also fall into place if you are a decent human being.
Those of us having the conversation have been adults for some years, and we know that that is not the case. Success does not fall into your lap because you work hard, and fulfilling relationships are not a product of being a good person.
We were a varied bunch but each of us has suffered a major loss – divorce, failed business, child loss, inability to have children… you know, life. And yet here we were, chilling and choosing to have fun and enjoy each other.
There is a phrase I believe I coined and love, ‘stubbornly optimistic’. It means hanging on to optimism no matter what. You see, the events of life knock you sideways and sometimes out. Cynicism, bitterness and anger then wait for you, and your broken heart with welcoming, albeit cold arms.
Cynicism can even seem cool. There is a black wardrobe and catch phrases waiting for you; phrases that make you sound wise and cautious instead of scared and hurt.
I am finding that choosing to remain optimistic means applying faith like a balm. You can’t decide to have faith once because it washes off. It is a practice.
In fact, faith is like an ill-fitting pair of jeans that looks great around your butt and thighs, but is too large around the waist so you have to keep pulling them up.
You wake up in the morning, and choose to wear them, knowing that each time you reach for something or get up, you will have to pull them back up.
When you remember your losses and start to despair, you pull your faith jeans back up. When you catch yourself withdrawing from risk and opportunity because you are afraid, again you pull your faith jeans back up.
I think when people say ‘don’t give up’ and ‘hang in there’ they are referring to the obstinate choice to remain optimistic, to remain in faith believing that the God you believe in has a plan and that your losses aren’t for naught. It is a stubborn choice, compounded by the fact that we have never heard of a prize saved for those who have lived a particularly painful life. And when you find yourself entertaining a cynical thought like that one, you pull on your faith jeans one more time and ‘hang in there’.