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I choose optimism, to believe that everything will be alright, that the world is inherently good

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason ChaneyI bet you've heard them all: "Don't worry, be happy." "Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face." "Keep calm and carry on."

Yep, society is not in short supply of positive and uplifting messages meant to raise your spirits. I assume it's because life is hard, and situations arise that really upset people. To summarize it in two words (one of which is censored because we are a family newspaper), stuff happens.

All of that applies to me as well — but I don't think I'll get much out of those uplifting sayings. Thing is, I'm just one of those eternal optimist types. I am already turning that frown upside down. I am already taking my lemons and turning them into lemonade.

What could go wrong? More like, what could go right. Cloudy day? — The sun will come out … tomorrow — ain't that right, Annie? Rainy day? — Everything is going to get so green and beautiful! Lost car keys? — Well, at least I get to stay home and take it easy. Massive asteroid hurtling violently toward Earth? — Eh, maybe it won't be as bad as everyone thinks.

I'll admit, optimism and journalism make strange bedfellows. It's our industry, after all, that coined the saying, "If it bleeds, it leads." Once, one of my reporter colleagues announced on a late December day that his New Year's resolution was to be more cynical — and I'm not sure if he was joking or not.

But I think the world is in constant need of a positive spin. Taxes are going up…but just think of how many critical services they will fund! The traffic in this town is insane…which means that the community is vital and thriving! See? It's not that hard if you try. And just think what that unflinching positivity can do for your psyche and even the people around you.

We've all been around that person who is perpetually miserable or irritated with everything — that person who can turn any silver lining into a big gray cloud. "It's such a gorgeous sunny day, today!" "Yeah, but it's supposed to rain all day on Thursday. So much for my fishing trip." An optimist, such as myself, might counter the grumpy response: "Well, it's supposed to be nice on Friday. Maybe you could go then?" But it wouldn't work: "I don't want to wait an extra day. I'll just suffer in the rain." It's exhausting and deflating, and you can't help but sink into the malaise and gloom — no different than when you stand too close to quicksand.

I just wonder why — why worry so much, why ruminate on what's going wrong, why frown your way through the day? It is well documented by health experts that worrisome thoughts, prolonged stress, anger and sadness cause all sorts of health problems and just make us feel lousy in general. But hope, happiness, relaxation and the like provide numerous physiological benefits and prompt the brain to release feel-good chemicals that make you even happier. So, I figure, why feel bad when you can feel so, so good?

But I can hear the chorus of naysayers already — like a gigantic group of Eeyore clones rolling their eyes after Pooh wishes them good morning. ("What's so good about it?") To them, I am naïve. I am the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. I am Pollyanna, who they might remind me suffers a terrible fall that renders her paralyzed.

Perhaps they have a point, but I think pessimism is more of a self-protection mechanism than it is a reality check. If your default assumption is that everything sucks, nothing ever disappoints you. If you always expect the other boot to drop, you're less likely to get kicked. If you don't take time to smell the roses, you'll never get your face poked by a thorn.

But I just can't do it. I may suffer once in a while for it, but I can't cross over to the dark side. I choose optimism, to believe that everything will be alright, that the world is inherently good. I will be that shining light in the dark, that example of positivity we so desperately need in this world filled with broken-down cars…and pyramid schemes…and robocalls…and clogged toilets…and door-to-door salesmen…and leaking faucets…and papercuts and……

Wow… No wonder everyone is so glum. Perhaps the world is no damn good. Apologies to all pessimists. Please forgive me. Be worry, don't happy.


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