Sunday, August 1, 2010

Eeyore was Right -- Optimism is Highly Overated

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. 
"So it is." 
"And freezing." 
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."
As much as I want to possess the exuberance of Tigger, the innocence of Pooh or the wisdom of Christopher Robin, I am Eeyore. Utterly.
Before my 30th birthday I was Rabbit, always optimistic I could handle any obstacle but secretly I expected the worst, making me jumpy and unsure.  When life roughed me up in my thirties, I became Eeyore and I'm okay with it.
Eeyore is not an optimist.  He doesn't wake up believing today will be magical because he "thinks" it, nor will proclaiming his deepest desires make them happen even if The Secret says so.  Eeyore knows chaos rules and all the optimism in the universe can't make good things happen.

With Eeyore I can toss optimism out the window, but hope is another matter.

Before dawn on the day before Thanksgiving 1994, I sat on the edge of my 3 year-old's hospital bed.  In her darkened room, I ran the possibility of her death through my mind for the millionth time.  She'd been sick with cancer for almost two years and the month before she had relapsed with her disease reducing her chances for long term survival to about 30 percent.   

Blythe’s nurse, Madelyn, opened the door and light sliced through the darkness until she shut it behind her.  Using a pin light, she checked the latest I.V. bag dripping into Blythe’s veins.

“Mom,” said Madelyn. “You look down. Is there anything I can do?”

“No,” I said and toyed with ending the conversation there but after weeks of never stating the obvious, I needed to say my deepest fear out loud, even if it was in a whisper. “I’m afraid Blythe is going to die.”

Madelyn motioned for me to stand by the door in front of the window covered by a curtain.  A faint light shown behind her face.  She had two children. Her youngest was born the year before with vital organs transposed. During her pregnancy, no one knew if the baby would survive. She pulled back the curtain and the nurse's station beamed into view.

“Never give up on hope,” she said. “See all those people out there,” and she pointed to the nurses, a ward clerk, a lab tech and Blythe's doctor.  “They are here this morning because they believe Blythe will survive. They have hope. It’s not right that we have it and you don’t. And we know more about her illness and its treatment than you do.”

I saw them, heads bent toward computer screens, charts, and tests results. Another physician peered at an x-ray film on a light box.

“You’ve got to have hope, Mom. It’s the only way you’re going to survive this. And besides, Blythe needs your hope too.”

She walked out of the room and it seemed to me that I did have a choice to make. I could continue on my helplessness harangue making my life miserable or I could choose to have hope.  Having hope wouldn't change the outcome and wouldn't make Blythe well, but having hope would change me and allow me to cope and function amidst all the despair.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human one.
Teilhard deChardin