On Being an Optimist
I am, and at the age of 64, will likely remain, an optimist by nature. I have always lived with the outlook that there is a positive side to nearly every event, incident, issue, etc. that has occurred in my life, no matter how hideous or tragic it may be. That may sound a bit silly and unrealistic but it has served me well over the years. Without getting into my specific personal circumstances, I can say with certainty that this approach is the reason I have not only survived RA, but thrived, despite it. I have always looked at this disease as a challenge to work with and manage and I never allowed it to control my life or thoughts. I knew that, with the right plan and tools, I could work with it. That does not mean that I did not have dark times of doubt, etc. but even then, I believed, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, that I would prevail and that is why I did! This attitude then guided my actions and, by extension, allowed me to develop solutions and clarity about how best to proceed.
What does optimism mean?
Optimism is defined by most as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. It is also considered to be a philosophy that in a nutshell states that this world is the best of all possible worlds and the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe. That is exactly how I feel and it forms the basis for how I approach every decision I make and choice I come to. I truly cannot imagine how I would have coped with everything had I not had this as an underlying principle.
I love the feeling of joy and contentment. I strive to achieve that in some way, every day. It need not be something big like the joy of hearing I was going to be a grandmother for the first time, a memory that evokes chills of delight to this day! Rather it can be something simple, like witnessing a kindness done by one person to another. Or a beautiful sunset viewed from my porch in Vermont. If you embrace those feelings of joy each and every time they present themselves to you, you will find them more and more often in your life! I promise.
Optimism can be practised
Which brings me to a very important point. Optimism is a practice and can be learned. I have friends who insist they are pessimists by nature and that is that. I do not believe this and never will. If you learn to view the world through a prism of joy and possibilities it will carry into every aspect of your life, social, career, health, etc. It also gives you the courage and motivation to make the necessary changes in your life that will bring that sense of contentment and accomplishment to you every day.
Here is a recent example from my life. I have a great deal of dental issues, likely related to years of RA. I have had more root canals than I can count, almost every tooth in my mouth is either a crown or an implant (I have 4 and 2 in process). Tooth pain is my friend and constant companion. That said, I refuse to let it rule my life. Over the recent holidays, I had two extractions while entertaining/hosting a dozen people for 10 days at my home. I could have curled up in my bedroom and everyone would have been fine with that. But, being the optimist that I am, I chose to stay engaged, do activities, etc. and the fact is, it made the recovery less intense since I had the wonderful distraction of family and friends! This choice made my life better. It really is that simple.
I hope you consider the practice of optimism in your life because it can be yet another tool in the management of RA.
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