“Happy New Year!” I said to a member of our writing community. “How are things? How are you doing?” I asked, knowing she is primary caretaker for several of her family members.
“Okay,” she said, “though nothing has really changed. I drive them to doctors’ appointments and keep track of questions and answers. Healthcare can be baffling, let alone my family. Sometimes the only thing I can do is just keep showing up. That’s what I tell myself: ‘Keep showing up.’”
I nodded. “I call it ‘stay in the story,’ which is hard when things don’t go the way I want them to. Sometimes it’s hard to find the optimism.”
We both nodded.
My readers know I struggle with optimism. Though upbeat in my professional life, I often fall short personally. Little mishaps can send me spiraling into pessimism, my default.
Last year’s mishaps paled compared to the challenges. Keith and I attended several funerals and stayed close to the lonely, the sick or disabled, and their caretakers. As family, neighborhood, and church responsibilities increased, I often needed to draw upon my 2019 resolution: Steadfast.
At year-end, I wondered what my one resolution would be for 2020. Advent messages of hope, faith, joy, and peace offered an answer. Optimism. Not Candide’s rose-colored glasses or Pollyanna’s blind optimism but something worthy of sowing.
Yesterday afternoon, I raked last year’s leaves out of ditches and beds—a on-going, steadfast process for forest-dwellers—and planted one-hundred narcissus bulbs in the hillside at the foot of our property. Scrambling up the steep slope, I thought about how sowing optimism isn’t always easy, especially when flowers don’t bloom according to plan. That’s when I need models of optimism in scripture, prayer, and community—a model like this, which happened last fall.
“How are you doing?” I asked a member of our faith community. She’d lost her son in an accident. Not having experienced this kind of loss myself, I had no idea what she might be feeling.
“Okay,” she said. “We’re grieving, of course. But his death gives us an opportunity to witness to our faith.”
We both nodded, I because I had just witnessed something worthy of sowing. That’s the story I want to stay in. And if nothing else during challenging times, I’ll keep showing up.
Optimism, my 2020 resolution.