Desperately Optimistic

Well, if this is a journal, and the whole point is for me to become a better writer, then I guess I have to write down the bad stuff as well as the good.

I’m always hearing from people that I’m grouchy, or surly, or cynical, or hard to read, when I think anyone who really knows me knows that I’m completely the opposite. Several years ago I got into a nasty fight with someone whose opinion I had previously respected, and he told me “you’re just so hard to read.” I stewed on that for a while, and eventually told my friend Bret, and he replied, “No you’re not! You’re like a wire! A tightly-pulled wire. The slightest disturbance just vibrates throughout the whole of your being.” Finally, someone who gets it! I wish he and I talked more.

Usually, I think Candide was a cynic. This isn’t just the best of all possible worlds, this world is pretty freaking awesome on its own, no qualification necessary. There’s just so much beauty and wonder in the world, and so many people who do good things so easily, without giving it a second thought. I’m desperately optimistic; clinging to the idea that everything is going to be okay despite all evidence to the contrary.

Except when I can’t. Because now I’m thinking that everything I’ve assumed or taken on faith is wrong. And I was a sap for believing it. The people who I always assumed had it all figured out, are just as miserable as everyone else. Not only was I naive to believe I could have all the things I wanted; I’ve been wanting the wrong things. Nobody has that perfect life. Nobody accomplishes anything. Nobody is truly happy, or even content, because there’s always someone else to pick away at it, or that desire that’s always just out of reach. Each of us is completely alone, doomed never to have true insight into anyone else, only passing time with each other to kill time until we’re dead. And as proof of that, everything here can be dismissed as self-indulgent, whining, crap instead of genuine emotion, or even a genuine panic attack.

I’m not sure what brought this on, whether it was job stress, or lack of sleep, or too much sleep, or staring at myself too long in the mirror tonight, or something I read before trying to go to sleep, or realizing that this year has passed without my paying attention to it, or going outside and seeing the fog roll in just over the roofs of the buildings as if it were pressing down on everything, or worrying about the election, or wondering whether next year would be the same as this one.

All I know is that I’m looking at a picture of myself from 15 years ago. And I’m back in Georgia at a friend’s house, and I’m holding my puppy, and we’re both smiling, and I vividly remember that day, and how I hadn’t started smoking, and how I had so many dreams of what I was going to accomplish, and whom I was going to love, and how I was going to raise my kids, and the kind of man I was going to be, and I wish to God I was back there right now.

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