“If all you do is spend time focusing on what the problem is, you leave no room open for the solution.” –Mastin Kipp
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”– Martin Luther King Jr.
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” –Jane Goodall
Why do we do it? Why do we always go to the cynical, pessimistic place first? Some unexpected challenge happens, and we go immediately into a panic. I do it too.
Something happened this week that made me see that I do that. I didn’t like it and I declared: “I refuse to be pessimistic!” All of a sudden I’d had it up to here (hand placed above my head) with cynicism and being pessimistic about life.
It happened at my book club group. We got to talking about the younger generation. (We’re a group of Baby Boomers.) One of the women said that she didn’t understand the younger generation and the discussion turned, as it always does with the older generation, to concern about whether or not the future was in good hands.
This kind of discussion gets my ire up. I guess it’s because I’ve been a teacher in one form and another for thirty-five years. I’ve taught high school and college classes for fifteen years, and every year, I’m excited by how bright and thoughtful my students are. So, I spoke up and said that I have faith in the younger generation and then I declared, “I refuse to be pessimistic about the young people today! I refuse to be pessimistic about anything!” This caused the other women to pause.
Later, I thought about it and I’ve decided that a better way to say it is, “I’m determined to be positive.”
My generation went through a lot of horrible stuff. We got shell shocked, so letting go of cynicism might be hard. We suffered through assassinations, multiple wars, a loss of innocence about government, and the turmoil around the Civil Rights of humans in this country. Many of those struggles go on today. But, our children have gone through some rough times too. That’s why we need to give them a break.
Let’s face it, life’s been hard for people throughout the centuries, but being pessimistic hasn’t made us happier. So I propose, we turn our thoughts to looking for the positive things happening in our lives.
Now I know that’s not easy. Some people have depression or other mental challenges, which means their brains have a hard time going to those positive places. At least it’s hard to do without help. However, those of us who can snap out of a funk need to give changing our thinking a try. All it takes is paying attention to our reactions and what we say about our challenges both inside our heads, and verbally.
As we all know life’s not all a bed roses and rainbows. Everything worth doing grows out of commitment and struggle. The baby is born with a lot of pain and effort on the part of the mother. But the pain and struggle vanish the moment the baby arrives. The child goes to school and learns discipline so they can be educated. At each achievement the child sees the value of the effort. The artist uses talent, discipline and an open connection to something larger than themselves to create their work, which gives pleasure. Any endeavor humans undertake is fraught with challenges. But people keep having babies, and children continue to go to school. Artists continue to follow their muses and create. People still start businesses, volunteer, or work for good causes. Life goes on and society progresses. The reason we continue to strive is because we see the benefits of the effort.
So, I propose for those of us who can, let’s make the effort to stop being cynical and pessimistic about the future. I don’t mean that we should ignore the problems we face. What I propose is that we look at the problems in a new way. What if, when faced with a challenge, we said to ourselves, “There is a solution to this and I can find it.”
So, going back to my generation’s relationship with our children, what if we trusted them? What if we remembered what it was like to face the condemnation of our parents and grandparents and refused to do that to our children and grandchildren? We Baby Boomers are rabble rousers. Let’s continue to be rabble rousers and strive to understand and support our children as they make their contributions to society. After all they came into the world we built for them. We have to take responsibility for that.
My generation has done some pretty amazing things. I trust the generations coming along to do even more astonishing things that will help make this world a better place in which to live. In fact they already are.
And, since I’m not ready to give up making my contributions to society, I’m going to stop concentrating on the ills, and look for all the good things that are happening. When enough of us do that, who knows what great things we’ll create.
© Lucinda Sage-Midgorden
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