Tag Archives: emotion

Consciously Optimistic

At the beginning of the California stay-at-home mandate in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, I wrote about my choice to remain cautiously hopeful. I wrote about my acknowledgement and acceptance of this moment in history as uncertain, uncomfortable, challenging, and scary, but that I would continue on as a writer, as a teacher, as a creative, as a smiler, as a laugher, as a lover. I maintain this stance; over the past month I have continued to produce art with my written words, I have continued to teach yoga and meditation, I have continued to smile, to laugh, and to love, and I am not stopping any of this anytime soon. Yet, if I am to be honest I must express that I too, like many, have had my moments and days of doubt, dread, and darkness. I have felt anxiety tighten my chest, stress crinkle my forehead, and tears fill my eyes. And all of that is perfectly alright.

            I have been an optimist all of my life. From childhood to present, I have always been the one to find the silver lining, to look onward and upward with faith and hope, and to get right back up when knocked down. I am still very much this way; it is who I innately am. There is, however, a sizeable difference in how I play the role of optimist now. I was once a blind optimist – someone who denied the extent or even the existence of the problem, the darkness, and even the truth in favor of remaining positive. While my seemingly invincible positivity was a quality many people around me admired, my years have since taught me that there is a fundamental flaw in blind optimism.  Blind optimism does not leave space to experience the valid feelings and emotions of loss, anger, fear, and sadness that are all part of the human experience. It bypasses the necessary step of processing what we feel and experience which ultimately allows us to learn and to grow. When we are blindly optimistic, we effectively limit our life experience, hinder our own growth and evolution, and ultimately trap ourselves into storing up issues and emotions that we never fully deal with which often leads to their resurfacing and causing more problems later down the path. Furthermore, we may inadvertently invalidate other’s real and true feelings and emotions in our denial of their presence.

            Thus, I have learned to be a conscious optimist – someone who acknowledges and accepts the heavy, the hard, and the dark. Someone who sits in the discomfort and wades through the challenge. Someone who allows time to process, to understand, and to learn. Someone who fully acknowledges and holds space for the experiences of others. And someone who after all of that still makes their way back to optimism. I continue to be an optimist, a seeker of the silver lining, a believer in the best, a holder of hope for a greater world, but I also allow myself the time and the space to feel what arises from the shadows.

            In this time of quarantine, I have had to face a myriad of feelings and emotions from the shadows. I have experienced worry and anxiety revolving around my finances as 75% of my income has suddenly come to a grinding halt and the process of applying for unemployment is confusing and unstable. I have felt the fear of my older relatives and vulnerable friends contracting the virus and struggling to defeat it. I have experienced anger at our government for how they have handled this pandemic and for the structures they have built that are now failing the vast majority of us. I have felt the loss of not being able to perform my vocation of teaching at the same caliber that I once did. I have experienced frustration of being forced to remain inside when everything in me wants to be out in the world. I have felt the intense missing of my sister, my extended family, and my dearest friends whom I am uncertain about when I will see and embrace again. I have had my moments and my days of feeling overwhelmed by the present situation and an almost desperate desire to break free of it.

            For as positive as I remain, I am not invincible to these feelings and emotions; none of us are. Sometimes, they are very present with me and demand my full undivided attention for a few hours or even a few days. And again, this is perfectly okay. The days we are living now are hard; perhaps some of the hardest we will ever know in our lifetime. As these days continue, we are all going to feel an intense array of emotions and all handle them differently. The truth of the matter is there is no right or wrong way to feel or be in this time. Whatever you are feeling is valid, however much time you need to be in that feeling is more than acceptable, whatever you need to do to cope and process that feeling is fine (so long as your coping strategy does not cause harm to yourself or others). Allow yourself the space to really experience every sensation and emotion that is coming up for you in this unique circumstance. Allow yourself to sit with it and understand. And when you feel ready, move on from it with the wisdom that you have gained from processing it.

            In the age of social media, there is a big push by individuals, influencers, and brands to remain overtly positive during this pandemic. There is nobility to that sentiment. As I said, I am remaining mostly positive and continue to hope for the best, am actively looking for silver linings, and continue to practice gratitude for what I do have. The caveat is that I do not and will not remain positive at the expense of denying and belittling the real and true feelings of anxiety, worry, doubt, anger, and sadness that do at times arise in me. I cannot ignore what is present in my brain and in my heart. And I absolutely will not tell others to ignore and invalidate their own unique feelings for the sake of positivity. In truth, positivity is stronger and more potent when we have returned to it after going on an inward journey through the dark rather than taking a mental vacation in which we ignore the fact that anything other than the pleasant is present. I am often positive, but not always. I am usually grateful, but sometimes cannot find the will to be so. I am typically hopeful, but I too experience doubt. And this goes for all of us who wear the title of optimist. And in this time that is so uncertain, so challenging, so scary, I am feeling all the feels – the good and the bad, the light and the shadow, the yin and the yang. And if you are too, that’s more than okay.