The Blessings of Optimism
The boys had a good Christmas.
They woke up thrilled with their presents. The four-year-old spent all morning building Prison Island out of Legos while the baby toddled around, playing with Matchbox cars and plastic dinosaurs and a stuffed Elmo.
This 365-day blogging exercise is like a gift I've given to myself: 365 letters from my past self, all wrapped up with a neat bow. One surprising benefit to the practice has been a strengthened optimism. In my private journal, anything goes. But the last thing I want to do in a public forum is show up feeling sorry for myself. That pride has pushed me to see the good in every situation.
This broken leg, for example. In years past I might have succumbed to a deep depression, being cooped up in the house with lots of pain and little freedom. But it's been a blessing in disguise. It's shown me the depths of my coworkers' generosity, the unexpected thoughtfulness of strangers. It's given me a new perspective when I'm snapping photos, or shooting videos from a Gorillapod curled around the bar of my walker.
In rereading the first few months of posts, I'm struck by how boring my emotions are. I felt lazy on days when I skipped the self-reflection and opted instead to post an inspiring quote or two. But those quotes are much more interesting, in hindsight, than the documentation of feelings.
Lynda Barry captures this perfectly, in an interview with Stephen Thompson on the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour:
"The last thing I want [my students] doing is just writing about feelings. ... I just don't think a whole lot happens when you're just writing about feelings, and certainly there's not a lot left behind. I had a friend who told me this story of finding his high school journals, and he was super-excited about reading them over. ... He said he poured this beer, and he opens up his journals and starts to read, and it was just feelings, feelings -- there was no details at all. Just feelings. He goes, 'Lynda, it was so sad. It was like, original footage of the Battle of Waterloo, shot by a monkey, so there's no pictures of Napoleon. It's just BANANAS, BANANAS, BANANAS.'"
In the new year, I plan to blog less about emotional states and much more about the books, blogs, podcasts and quotes that are inspiring me.