As I’ve gotten older, I’ve increasingly realized the lines separating behavior that is “optimistic,” “realistic” and “pessimistic” are blurrier than I thought.
So rather than getting all tangled up in the various permutations of each, I try to keep it simple and choose my “optimist mentors” wisely.
Let’s take my baby tortoise, Malti, as an example.
She loves to go outside and play. In particular, she enjoys a game I call “Malti tries to sneak in the forbidden gate….again.”
The game is played like so: I let Malti down in the yard, and she takes off. She makes a beeline parallel to the fence all the way to the gate that closes off my neighbor’s yard (which is full of cats, dogs, chickens, a huge koi pond and large water turtles).
Her goal? To get to the gate and under the wrought iron spikes.
My goal? To catch her before she achieves her goal.
Here I’ve learned that baby tortoises can suddenly get a lot faster when you take your eye off them for a few seconds.
I’ve also learned that Malti can play this game all day long (and I do mean ALL day long).
She never ever ever gets tired of trying to get inside the forbidden gate.
Now I realize some people reading this might have another name for Malti’s behaviors other than “optimist.” To understand why I label her actions so positively, you have to know Malti.
Malti is just over one year old. She has been very ill with a respiratory disorder since this past January. She has been in and out of the vet and has had at least 22 shots in 8 months.
Yet when I take her outside, a treat she loves, she just can’t wait to play her favorite game again. She doesn’t whine or complain. She doesn’t hang back or shrink from new adventures (or old adventures!).
She isn’t a sad sack case of “poor me.”
She goes for the gusto every time, giving the game her very best and hoping – quite certain, actually – that THIS will be the day she finally gets inside that gate.
So am I the pessimist for assuming that if she ever does make it inside, the cats, chickens and dogs will immediately “hunt” her down and the turtle poop she eats will kill her with bacteria (or the big mama turtle will just sit on her and that will be that)?
I don’t know. I think I’m more of a realist in this case, since I know the three cats that live there (with their long kill history with area songbirds), the three voracious foraging chickens and the two dachshunds (hunting dogs if ever there were a pair).
But I could be a pessimist. Maybe they will all get along famously. If I ever fail to catch up to her in time, I certainly hope this will be the case!
But for now, I’m not taking any chances.
Today’s Takeaway: After reading the story of Malti’s favorite game, what do you think? Is she an optimist or just stubborn? Am I a pessimist or just keeping it real? How do you know when you are being optimistic or pessimistic – do you base it on certain behaviors or things you say, or do you just have a gut feeling you use to tell the difference?