Sunday, October 25, 2009

Optimism Vs. Pessimism

We've all heard the saying about the optimist seeing the glass as half full and the pessimist seeing the glass half empty. It seems like an easy way to throw everyone in to two groups and in my humble opinion it is a great way to separate the two. One is correct and one is incorrect. Before I tell you which group is correct, I ask that you picture yourself in a restaurant. This restaurant asks you if you are an optimist or a pessimist when you entered and put an "O" or a "P" on your forehead so they would remember. You order your food and a fine bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine nicely compliments your meal and you both are enjoying it. The waiter walks by and sees that both of your glasses appear to have half the amount originally poured. He lifts the bottle from the table and pours it into the glass of the person with the "P" on their head and returns the bottle to the table. He walks off to tend to another table. The point is, in his opinion the pessimist saw the glass as half empty and wanted it to be filled. The optimist sees the glass as half full, so they obviously don't need any more yet. If this restaurant existed, my guess, is that a group of optimists would burn it down.

I am always being called a pessimist, but to be honest, it works for me. To me optimism is similar to religion, in that it is the hope for the best possible outcome. In religion, we live our lives in the hopes that in the end we are taken to a better place. My feeling is, we become nothing more than worm food or something to fill an ornament on the fireplace mantle. That is if we're every lucky enough to have a fireplace.

Now faith is fine. If that's what you need to get you through your day that is fine, but seriously, it's not optimism. I see faith as almost a pessimistic view. A view where you believe that no matter what you do, good or bad, that the end result lies in God's hands. Think about the story of Noah. Religious people love this story. God reaches out to Noah and tells him to build an ark and the animals get on two by two. Of all the characters in the Bible, Noah probably shows more faith than anyone. What's lost in the story, and to those of strong faith, is that God did not offer the weather report to anyone else and killed everything else in the desert and promised never to do this again. Yet every year thousands die to floods, tsunamis, etc. So optimists, is this the kinda trustworthy guy you are waiting to sit and have tell stories to you while dancing around on clouds? God in my opinion was the first politician. Now listen, I'm not religious, so my point of view is skewed, but the Bible (and yes, I've read it) is juicier than any Harlequin novel and a hell of a lot scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote. Whole cities turning to salt? Wow! That God guy gas quite the temper. I won't even get into what he let them do to his son.

OK, I lost my train of thought for a bit. My point was that to me, optimists and religious yo-yo's seem to be one group and those people who do analytic thinking and realize that not everything is peaches and cream are the other. I wrote in my facebook status that I'm glad I'm not an optimist because "Imagine going through your entire life never having the ability to be pleasantly surprised."Maybe that sounds a little harsh, but the point I was making is that if you are truly an optimist, then when little things go right, you shouldn't be that thrilled, yet I'll do a fucking back flip if my baseball team wins. I'd also like to think that while a positive outlook is all fine and dandy, you have to get let down quite a bit. When I meet someone and think there might be a relationship involved, I stay positive, and turn myself into Opti-man. Then a few weeks, months, years later, I want to hang myself. A few days later I'm over it. What I've noticed is my truly optimistic friends go into a series of stages of depression in which they resemble a casting call for the role of Alex in Fatal Attraction. What I'm saying, is that when things go wrong, us pessimists roll with the punches, not into the fetal position like you optimists. Nancy Kerrigan was an optimist with dreams and aspirations. When faced with adversity (and a lead pipe to the kneecap) she screamed "Why Me" on national TV. Why you? Because God loves you Nancy.

It's funny, because the people who have been so quick to judge me over the past few years have so much to say about how others live their lives, but quickly shut down when that metaphoric magnifying glass is held over their lives. I've had people tell me I waste too much time in the bar and it's a sad pessimistic thing to go there all the time to watch games and get drunk. Let's see, going out to be with other people, have stimulating conversation over drinks and food is a pessimistic way to live? Yet, sitting alone watching hours upon hours of mindless shit like Grey's Anatomy with a pint of Rocky Road is going to lead you down a positive path? I think not. I'll take a sober or drunken conversation with a complete stranger over heavily anticipating to find out if McDreamy or McSteamy bangs the new girl in the closet. Sorry, my pessimistic views don't allow me to look forward with great desire to three hours of the full frontal lobotomy that has become network television.

You know what Monday through Friday is to an optimist? Hoping it won't fucking rain or be too cold during the weekend. How optimistic is that? You know what Monday through Friday is to a pessimist? Well, it's going to rain and maybe it'll snow, and I know it's going to be cold, but that's when apples are around fucknuts, it's October. When it doesn't rain and the sun shines bright and warms the land, the optimist throws their little brats into the car and heads off into the fall foliage and enjoys the day. The pessimist does the same, yet without five days of thinking about the weather and making back-up plans.

Half of all marriages end in divorce. That's a fact. Pessimists know this, optimists make excuses for those that didn't work out and say things like, "it wasn't meant to be." It wasn't mean to be is like my favorite phrase it is what it is. Basically, it's a cop out and a way not to deal with the fact that one or both of the parties probably shouldn't have gone through with this in the first place. We all die. That too is a fact. Tragedy not withstanding, this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Yet it amazes me, how optimists face this adversity compared with pessimists. My mother was given six months to live. I immediately gave her three. She lived over another year. While difficult I cherished every moment. Almost every moment. The moments I hated were when those optimists would call and tell her of some new drug they read of or how their half-sister's niece had cancer and it just went away one day. When my mother finally passed, it was time. We grieved, we moved on. Not the optimists, they wanted the grieving to go on forever. They wanted to remember her struggle every day. They wanted candles lit and events held in her honor. Let it go. It's part of life. The last part.

I'm always told that a pessimist can't have a positive outlook and that my negativity is apparent in everything I do. I wake up every morning and go to work. It's a necessary evil that we all must do. I don't enjoy every part of it, I need to vent often, but it's called work, it's not called Happy Hour. I coach children and honestly, In the 20 years of working with kids, I've raised my voice only a handful of time. I don't even own a whistle. I go into every session with kids expecting some behavior issues and some bumps and bruises and they happen. It's over, I go home. I watch as other's I've worked with expect the best and then when little Joey bumps his head, they rush to his side, like he's Ryan White (look it up). They take this home with them and carry it over into the next class and start that one with a 20 minute safety speech that bores the kids and myself.

In life, there are bumps in the road. Optimists see them as challenges and pessimists see them as inconveniences. Optimists figure a way to conquer them. Pessimist see ways to avoid them. I find that optimists work very slow and don't get a lot done, because they aren't as properly prepared as pessimists. I would like to think of myself as a realist, but s few people don't like that term. They think it's my mask for pessimism. Maybe it is. I really don't like to label things.

Next time you go out with someone who is all smiles and sunshine and they ask the waiter to fill their water glass, explain to them that they don't need it filled, it's already half full. Then explain to them that their life is like that glass of water, but in life, we don't get refills. Then smile and go back to eating.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sleeping With The Enemy

Have you ever been in a situation where for the right cause you hide your loyalties and you jump on the bandwagon? I have not, but I know a man who has. This man is a happily married man with a handful of kids who loves his Yankees, but for the right price, can jump on the Red Sox bandwagon. A few martinis and a hot blonde can make me do a lot of things, but root for the Yankees is not one of them. Sit back and enjoy the tale.

I was at my favorite bar watching a mid-season game between the Sox and Yanks when I struck up a conversation with another local. I don't think it was the first time we had chatted, but this was definitely a turning point in the friendship. If my memory serves me right the score was tied and I was talking an immense amount of shit about the Yankees. Apparently, my incessant chatter had gotten to a very attractive young lady at the bar. She left her stool and walked over and said she would bet me that the Yankees would win. I asked her what she wanted to bet and for the life of me I can't remember what I offered to pay out, but somehow she offered to lift her shirt. I'm pretty sure that her offer came about due to my inability to concentrate and make eye contact with her, due to her tight white sweater, which seemed to be stretched to it's maximum resistance. The bet was a no-brainer and it became a source for a tense game.

Soon after the bet was made, my new friend seemed confused, rattled, even a little disoriented. He wasn't sure what to do. He knew all about commitment, his lovely wife, his wonderful kids, his love of the Yankees. This was his Eve. The Red Sox and a voluptuous set of foreign (to him) breasts were his apple. Now maybe this choice wasn't truly of biblical proportions, but seriously, how many times can a married man see a young ladies breasts without repercussion or a wad of singles being present? Apparently, enough Ketel One and hot blond was his serpent. I, if for only one night, had converted a long time Yankee fan into a Sox rooting lunatic. Innings rolled by, the score and lead changed and it got towards the end of the game.

By this time, I had drank so much beer, done so many shots, that I didn't know if the Sox were winning or losing. The game was down to it's final pitch. The Sox won and the young lady approached. She shook my hand and very politely congratulated me. She was quite stunning and suggested me and everyone else in the bar go to Atlantic City. I thought for a second, looked at the $100, maybe $200 in my walled and chose against it. She congratulated me again and went to leave. Thoughts of our earlier wager had left my drunken skull, but apparently had not escaped Mr. Married with Children's. He halted her exit and in somewhat slurred speech reminded her of her verbal contract. She returned and stood facing us, one of us on each side of her. She lifted her shirt and despite only showing us her bra, we were content and did not feel it necessary to to dispute the original contract. The young girl left and we shared a few more drinks.

Since that day, we have both shared this story with others, many times within each other's company. It was not a lewd moment by any means and we laugh about the fact that not only was the bet made, but how she so nonchalantly made good on her promise. Even funnier is that in all the time that has passed, I wouldn't know if I've ever seen this person again. Although I'd like to think that in a police lineup I could pick out at least parts of her. It was one of those funny moments, that make a single guy happy and a married guy even happier and nothing actually happened. I think if given the chance we'd both like to thank her and for one night a Yankee fan said "God Bless The Boston Red Sox."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Best Day Off

Songs, stories, cliches about the weekend are everywhere. Hell, they even named a restaurant chain after one of them. Everybody looks forward to their days off and rightly so. A hard week's work should be rewarded with some relaxation or entertainment. Sometimes there are just moments that occur, usually insignificant at the time, that come back to us. One of these very recently came to me, almost like a dream. I don't know what the feeling was that day, or why it took place, but it mattered. That is all I know.

I was away in New Hampshire, working at Pierce Camp Birchmont. I don't recall which summer, but I do know it was a Monday. Our day off was always Monday. The bus took us into one of the harbor towns, I believe Portland. We ran off the bus and into one of the local pubs. Drinks were poured and swallowed at an alarming rate. The new staff did their shopping, while the old guard sat and downed pint after pint. Eyes became glassy, speech became slurred and everyone was giddy, because we still had half the afternoon and the evening ahead of us. It was business as usual at PCB.

When I would go away to Birchmont it was for a little shy of nine weeks. During that time I made calls home very infrequently. To go two, maybe even three weeks without a call home was not an oddity. Right or wrong, Birchmont time was mine, I did not share it with others, until I arrived home. This day, I got up and excused myself from the table. I walked outside into a slight drizzle. I walked about two blocks away from the pub in the direction from which we parked the bus. I remembered seeing a pay phone. As I walked the rain got heavier, but I didn't notice at the time. I got to the phone and dialed home. My mother answered and soon after my father got on the other line. We spoke, about nothing and everything. The tone was always the same. There was no joy, no sorrow, just touching base. We shared stories of our summers and talked about plans for the near future. We talked about our lunch that day, maybe our dinner plans. Like I said, nothing special. About an hour later I hung up the phone, we said our goodbyes.

I honestly don't know if we talked again that summer other than to make arrangements for my arrival and pickup in Roslyn, NY. To this day, I don't know what happened. I don't know what drew me to the phone. I know that my day was meant to happen this way. I returned to the bar and joined my friends. The magical thing about Birchmont is nobody asked where I was. There was no need for an explanation. I left, quietly and without fanfare. I returned and continued in the quest for a debaucherous evening.

Over the past ten to twelve years, this day has come back to me. A light drizzle, a pay phone, a school bus. Every day occurrences, that sometimes go unnoticed will trigger this memory. What was said will always be unknown, forgotten, maybe subconsciously making me realize how lucky I was to have my family, to have Birchmont, to have the life I complain about so often. Maybe something else. Maybe it kept me from something. Maybe it lead me to something. Maybe the girl of my dreams walked in the bar while I was gone. Maybe it was to be my darkest hour. I don't know why this seemingly insignificant moment is so emblazoned in my memory, but when that trigger does happen, I remember a day, cool by summer's standards, standing in the rain, just calmly chatting with my parents. As I closed my eyes that night, I thought about what a wonderful day it was. Others complained about the rain, the bus ride. Not me. In many ways it was a reflection of my life. The little things that make me happy. The little things that make me who I am. The little things that we take from our experiences that make the biggest impact. These I'd like to think are our heavenly moments on earth. Early Sunday mornings, feeding my baby brother his bottle, meeting eyes with someone you know you'll have some future with, shaking the hand of someone and knowing they will be a friend forever, and talking on the phone, in the rain when everyone else is there to party. These are the times in my life I remember. At times they bring me to tears. At times they bring a smile to my face. We can't manufacture these times. They just happen. I'm thankful this day did and I remember it fondly. I always will.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Letter to September

Well September, you showed signs of bringing me out of the doldrums at times and for the most part you did, although you left more doubts in my mind about certain aspects of my life. I don't really know what to make of you. Maybe that's why I have put off this letter.

I looked forward to you. An elongated weekend filled with BBQ's and other festivities was on the agenda. The holiday weekend had me laboring at home, fighting what started as a bad stomach ache and progressed to something worse. It cost me a day with some good people, eating and relaxation, always a good duo. A little respite from the bar as my social outlet. I took it with a grain of salt, as I figured it was better to be sick this weekend than the next. A few days later, my brother's birthday arrived with little or no fanfare. He had bigger things ahead.

In this time I also "met" someone new. An acquaintance from a time long ago. A friendship was born. Two hearts and minds that thought alike, but were in different places. In a different time, maybe we'd be more then just friends, who knows. But you helped me get through a difficult time. I can only apologize for my comments that made you decide against maintaining this friendship. I feel that if nothing else, we were someone to lean on, someone to trust with our feelings, if only through our messages and brief talks. I guess when the stakes are too high, the risk isn't worth the reward. I accept your decision, even if I do not agree with it. I miss you.

September brought my brother's union with his lovely wife Diana. I couldn't be happier for them and I'm proud of my brother for finding someone who gets him. If I prayed I'd pray for her sanity in the years to come, because 29 years of knowing him has tested mine. I won't repeat what has already been said in a previous blog, but September 13th was a special day. It will be difficult for anyone to top this day. The weekend couldn't have been a bigger success.

The last two weeks brought on Football, a BBQ, and somewhat tumultuous times for me and someone close to me. I somewhat came to terms with my new found status, but is it mutual. Things to preoccupy myself have made this month quite nice on many levels. I have a friend who has been there to listen to my stuff and I for them. I feel a lot closer to them now than I did even two weeks ago. It's nice at times to get new people's perspective.

If I have one gripe with September it is that you have decimated me financially. Lack of work, excessive spending (not all voluntary) and some bad habits have really tightened the screws. Many more nights spent at home than gallivanting about town.

I'm going to chalk up September as a good month, aside from the incredible weekend of the wedding, it's been a month of good and bad off-setting each other. Nothing too crazy, nothing too exciting other than that big event. I can handle months like September. October rolls in with promise for more money, playoff baseball, and possibly some new found friends or maybe some reconnecting with old. I look forward to October and the winter months with great optimism. I just feel something good on the horizon. Maybe it's just gas.