At one point, my wife, Mandy, and her friend Raven used to have some playful nicknames for their husbands: “Dream Killer” and “Fun Ruiner.” I cannot, for the life of me, remember if I ruined fun or killed dreams, and I refuse to ask Mandy because I can’t tolerate the endless mocking that will follow.
There are times when my innate cynicism and Mandy’s lofty ambitions to have a good time, consequences be darned, don’t gel. She’ll concoct some extravagant plan for a silly activity to bring a little joy in her life, and my natural response is a lot of hemming and hawing and repeated attempts to pin-prick her ballooning enthusiasm.
That sounds like I’m the “Fun Ruiner,” doesn’t it? Maybe that was me.
Anyway, my tendency to lean into pessimism and naysayery is among my many failings as a human being. I use a general feeling of hopelessness like a security blanket, a way to handle all of the stuff I don’t like about the world and myself. No matter how much I screw up, I can take sweet, cold comfort in the knowledge that everyone else screws up, too. During times when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing (which come frequently), I’ll often reassure myself that no one else really knows what they’re doing either. We’re all just bumbling around, doing the best we can.
Well, some of us are evil dictators or heartless killers or radioactive mutant people hiding within the depths of the earth, but I’m talking in general.
Doesn’t that feel nice? Doesn’t knowing that you’re equally as clueless as that dude over there, whomever that dude over there may be, just warm the cockles of your heart? I know it does mine. Contradictory as it may seem, that feeling of insignificance often empowers me enough to make it through the day. Hooray.
And, yet, I know in my barren husk of a heart my brand of cynicism doesn’t exactly blend well with my desire to raise a mentally and emotionally healthy daughter, or be the kind of person a spouse enjoys coming home to. And thus, I’ve had to adapt and change. Or at least try.
Now, I can’t imagine a world in which I ever win some kind of contest where champions are crowned based solely on the strength of their optimism … or, frankly, a world in which such a dumb competition even exists. But even though I’ll never be named “Grand Optimist,” (so stupid … I mean, how the heck would you even measure that?) I’m still trying to improve my outlook on life. I’ve tried adopting an attitude of “optimistic cynicism,” an overall feeling that everything is going to pot, but maybe things aren’t so bad in the present. It is, admittedly, a strange way to look at the world, but it motivates me to live in the moment and, in turn, say “yes” more frequently.
Instead of being the “Dream Killer” or “Fun Ruiner,” maybe I can be the “Dream Encourager” or “Fun Supporter.” Admittedly, these titles are still kind of lame, but should I do enough to earn them, I’ll no doubt be a happier, healthier me.
Besides, what do I have to lose? I’m inevitably going to die, anyway.
Sorry. Old habits.