I took some cello in collage, the instruments were stored in the cellar. They weren’t really stored there, I just like how ‘C’ can be used in so many ways.
My cello instructor was one of those subtle wise-cowboy intellectual types from Texas. He once told me this:
Be careful not to practice your mistakes.
You will become very good at them.
I have since tried to follow that advice.
My wife is an optimist. I am a practicalist. She will plan a picnic first and I will look at the weather report first. I have grown to understand a few things about optimism.
The first thing is pretty straight forward. Being an optimist has many rewards, altering reality is not one of them. The second thing I’ve learned took a bit more to get to.
When my wife decides we’re going to have a picnic I will mention to her it might rain. She replies that “It’ll be fine”. At first glance it might seem that learning rain is in the forecast would allow one to better plan for the day however, I have learned something from my wife, if it starts to rain during our picnic then, “We’ll deal with it”.
And I have to admit, it is kind of fun to run around in the rain, quickly gathering blankets and food while the kids scream and head for the car. That’s a good memory to have.
The question returns to, what kind of mistakes do I want to practice making? Should I plan inside activities for a rain storm that might never materialize? Or should I live an optimistic life and have fun when, no, because things don’t go as planned?
I have come to accept that my experience with optimistic people (who are usually women btw) is this: overall they have much more fun than me. My first inclinations to be suspicious about things and to take care planning might have served my hunter-gatherer forefathers, who needed to watch out for wolves and ill weather, but it doesn’t serve me well in my modern life.
It is unfortunate that practical worries can’t be turned on and off like a switch. But I can practice how I want to respond to the world of today. I can try to be more positive about everything. When I’m successful people say I’m in a good mood. And, in truth I end up having more fun, too.
There are demons that still hold me prisoner sometimes. At those times I try to tell myself, this is a prison of the mind, and I can choose to change the way I think about things, I can choose a different life. It doesn’t always work, but practice helps make me better at it, and overtime I get better at being optimistic, and overtime my demons have less power as they get out of practice. I think what matters is what actions I choose to take in response.
I go out of my way to make myself do things (like write or make music) even when I feel that everything I create is worth fish guts. I try to take care not to eat too much ice cream when all I feel like doing it watching TV. And I try to find interesting things to talk about with my wife (even when I feel she isn’t interested in the same things as me).
Often it’s not quite the optimism of planning a picnic on a rainy day. But for me these things are optimism, I am optimistic that tomorrow will be better than it seems like it is going to be today, and if I’m wrong then at least I tried, and I’ll make the most of whatever comes, better prepared with an idea of the way I want things to be.