I am, by nature, an optimist. When the world seemed to be a simpler, safer place, it was much easier to feel this way. But these days, my sense of optimism is seriously being challenged. Much of the globe is already in crisis and chaos. Now, news of skyrocketing prices and global food shortages of epic proportions threaten an already fragile existence. Close to home, talks of an impending recession, foreclosures of an unprecedented number of American homes, and fears of an unsustainable environment, leave little for the optimist to cling to.
A couple of years ago, I wrote two articles in this newsletter about what makes people happy. One talked about Martin Seligman’s book, “Authentic Happiness” and the other reflected several other authors’ views. Now I am hearing titles of books extolling "the virtues of melancholy.” Eric G. Wilson has written a treatise called “Against Happiness.” Elizabeth Farrelly has written “Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness.” Is the future really this bleak?
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I wanted to write an article this month about the return of spring. But every time I began to do so, I was struck by the sense that my love of spring seemed quite trite in the face of all the issues we face and this current state of melancholia.
And then it struck me. Spring actually might be the perfect metaphor for what I was experiencing. There’s something magical that happens every spring. The hardened, blackened snow melts away, revealing tiny crocuses and tulip buds hidden below. Frigid temperatures disappear, warmed by a nurturing sun. The roar of the snowplows is replaced by the sweet songs of robins and cardinals. The grayness fades and suddenly there is colour everywhere. Energy that was sapped during the winter is reinvigorated with an ample supply of newfound power. Projects that were left on hold over the winter are taken up again. Windows are flung open, fresh air floods in. Spirits are raised. Anything seems possible.
Life is a series of cycles. Could we experience good times without experiencing bad? Could there be new beginnings without endings? Could there be evolution without revolution? Would it be possible to love spring as much if it didn’t follow winter?
I have faith that despite our foibles and mistakes, we continue to learn, evolve, improve the world and make it a safer, better place. But perfection is impossible and more bad times will come. So maybe my optimism has just become more realistic.
Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”
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