On Optimism

Before I opened my eyes, my mother was dead. She’d died the worst death imaginable.  She’d been consumed by fire as I stood by helplessly watching.  My car was totalled when I hit the trees that seemed to appear out of thin air, even more disturbing was my insurance companies insistence that it wasn’t an accident and that even though they couldn’t prove it, I would not be reimbursed for my loss.  I’d come home see that there had been a sewer pipe that burst in my home.  The stench told me that everything I owned had been caught in a deluge of filthy, fetid water while I was gone. Still, none of those could stack up to my being told, in a voicemail, that my headaches were from a brain tumor that would kill me slowly and painfully. 

My irreverence is often fuelled inspired by the literary genius of  Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Grant Morris, and Warren Ellis.

The day was off to a great start because I know that I can cope with those things, and far worse if I needed.  Because I have in the past, individually and collectively.  Then I allowed myself to smile, because those things haven’t happened.

At least not yet!

That’s the answer I’ve learned to give when I am accused of being “A bit too happy/chipper/optimistic.” by someone who hasn’t learned to deal with the inevitable bad turn of events that happen to us all. 

Yesterday a few people who’d seen my blacksmithing video and knew a few other things I do in life told me how lucky I am to be able to indulge my hedonistic fantasies, travel the world, and wake up every morning with limitless potential.  I am routinely accused of simply not having had to deal with the same mundane issues of love, loss, sickness, and death that 100% of the human race has to deal with and that’s why I can be so optimistic.

It’s a false conclusion!

I read a book whose title and author escape me.  It talked about how the author was able to negate a man’s greatest fear, death.  He did it by imagining and embracing the worst, most horrible ways that he could die.

Men of his time-period didn’t have cars to crash or worry about tumors.  They dealt with being thrown off cliffs to feel their spines shatter on the rocks below, impaled by spears to see the ropes of their intestines spill in front of them, or the feeling the last second realization that he couldn’t dodge the arrow that would pierce his eye and continue its journey into his brain.  Then he made peace with it.  He took time to not only deal with his death, but also how he would live if he were crippled.  If he his dignity and manhood had been stripped from him and he would be reduces to begging.

This is what I do.  This is why I smile.

I smile because by the time I get out of bed to start my day; I have made peace with and mentally overcome the worst that the world can do to me.  Everything else is not even worth mentioning.  A woman doesn’t want my attention, a deadline is missed at work, and I lose a client that was dear to me, I don’t get fight-ending choke I was battling for, none of those things are ever going to rattle me.  They are tiny, small, inconsequential, issues that wouldn’t ever cause a ripple in my pond.  That’s why I have such a rewarding, upbeat life.

If you can help me remember the name of that book, please leave it in the comments,

~Watt

6 comments

  1. Joe Guzman

    Yusef, Are you serious about losing your mother that way? My sincerest condolences! If you can still smile and be optimistic after that, then I admire you all the more and am (as ever!) happy to count you among my friends. It really put my own problems into perspective. Send me a regular email and we’ll talk. All best, Spitt

    Like

  2. YusefWateef

    Thanks for the outpour of emotional support, just be sure to read the whole thing.
    “Then I allowed myself to smile, because those things haven’t happened.”
    ~Second paragraph, last line.

    Like

  3. Joyce Judge

    Good to hear from you my friend….you look damn sharp in the photo…..life agrees with you and your methods..lol so continue on forward still into the unknown, jj

    Like

  4. AC

    While I’m not familiar with the book, the idea of negative visualization is an ancient practice touted by Stoics like Seneca the Younger.

    It’s a mind exercise of sorts that allows you to withstand the downs in life without having them completely wipe out. I know you’re reading ‘Mediations’. “Letters from a Stoic” is also really good.

    Like

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