Unlearning Pessimism

As a pessimist “in recovery” I love hearing stories of how seemingly “bad” things happened to people … that ended up being the very best of things! …but only in hindsight of course.

I heard a wonderful story yesterday of someone that was born with an ‘open bite’ – meaning her front teeth didn’t come together normally.  Apparently genetic, her siblings all got braces to “correct” the condition, but they didn’t have the money by the time it was time for her braces.  Naturally, she spent time focused on this being “unfair”. Who wouldn’t? It’s your front teeth!

BUT, turns out those orthodontists weren’t quite as knowledgeable as they thought.  Turns out, simply pulling and tugging teeth to be where they weren’t meant to be is not wise.  Her siblings, in adulthood, all LOST their front teeth because the roots of the teeth were too adversely affected by the process.  NOW, she is truly grateful that she wasn’t “lucky enough” to get braces too!

I have a story like that. I’m sure we all do. In my case, our cat broke its leg and had to be kept confined to a room during recovery.  We didn’t feel it was right to abandon her trapped in a room, so my husband moved in his video games and a temporary bed and basically “bunked” with her, childhood-sleepover-style (yes, we love our cats).  Of course, this whole situation was “bad”, “unfortunate”, “wish it wasn’t happening”.  BUT my husband and I both look back at that time of our lives as a blessing.  Our marriage had lulled into a low, and we were becoming emotionally separated as we went along the daily grind not noticing.  His forced separation brought into clear focus the emotional separation happening between us – and once highlighted, we worked to correct it. And did.  We both kinda credit poor Gigi breaking her leg and all the upheaval that went with it, as resetting the track of our marriage towards success.

I love these stories because it reminds me that we do NOT *know* if something is ‘good for us’ or ‘bad for us’.  So why do we spend so much time immersed in these judgements?  Why do we lament that

“I wish this didn’t happen”

“Why did this happen to me?”

Usually, the “bigger” the bad, the longer it takes to be able to realize and recognize the benefits of the experience.  This awareness is part of my process of recovering from pessimism.  To keep that awareness in mind, that “what if this wasn’t happening TO me … what if … this was happening FOR me?” 

When we label something as “bad for us” we try to resist it with all our energy (basic survival instinct).  As if we can hold it back and make it ‘not true’.  But it is true, the reality is that it IS happening.  And by spending all of our focus trying to resist, we often miss out on the very growth that this lesson was given to us to learn.  Whereas if we considered the possibility that it could be happening FOR us, it changes the perspective of “Okay, how can I work WITH this?  How can I make the best of this challenge?”

It is not easy to remember, that’s true.  But these types of stories remind me that I never truly know what is bad for me in the long run.  And I’ll wager the more we look for the good possibilities that could come from a challenging situation, the more we will find of those!

What’s your story of something “bad” that became something “good” in retrospect?  Can you keep this safe space in mind the next time something “bad” appears in your life’s path?

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