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January 16, 2017 • By 10 2 4169

I look at all things on the bright and sunny side as if I’ve been fed with Maui Jim ad campaigns and the Coué method over the last twenty or thirty years. I was about to say “on the bright and shiny side,” but considering the dreadful untidiness of my house, I thought again. But even then, the awesomist part of my optimism takes over, noting that this vividly-living party-of-six-sheltering house has more important rules to follow than being clean. If you ask me why and how I’m an optimist, I’ll tell you honestly that I don’t know exactly. One day, when the worldwide news became too much of a burden, I cancelled my cable subscription. When the weather froze me to the bones, I moved to the Caribbean. Life is too short to get hung up over issues and tinker with them. Every problem has a solution and there are better things to procrastinate about.

Because I don’t have dinner with Scott Pelley in the background every night, people used to wisecrack that my head was firmly planted in the sand so deep that I should have come up for air now and then to see what I deliberately chose to totally disregard: how terribly wrong the world was going. I disagree: I know how wrong it is. Living with optimism doesn’t mean living with stupidity. It simply means that you choose to focus on what makes you happy, on what matters to you, your family and friends; you choose to focus on what you can actually do something about and not waste time on what you can’t; you choose to believe in the good rather than the bad nature of people; you choose to believe that we all can find a door and push it open in any seemingly dead end situation. “I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right.” Albert Einstein’s words, not mine. I’d rather wake up one day at the age of 80 and say with confidence that I bit every bit of life than … not say it. Optimism — from the French optimisme, Latin optimus (best) and superlative of bonus (good) — is cultivating and working on the art of getting what you want, thereby achieving happiness. It’s a cause and a consequence, but they’re really synonyms to me. Another way to say it is what the French call “Voir la vie en rose,” life through rosy glasses.

Living with optimism doesn’t mean either that you don’t care about what went on in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin, Orlando, Aleppo, and too many other places. Believe me, I do. Hashtag Je Suis Sick of this Shit. And I hear you, “hard to be optimistic looking at this world.” But then again how can the uncertainty of tomorrow be a tool for moving on, let alone mobilizing people and being happy? Down-hearted thoughts, worthless crap beliefs and other disgusting feelings will never improve our well-beings. “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence,” Meryl Streep recently said. Being optimistic and light-hearted is in no way disrespecting the memory of those who lost their lives; it’s a response in itself. As a matter of fact, after the attacks in Paris, people were invited to gather in bars to sing, dance, kiss and party. Even the non-profit association Optimists Without Borders is a member with consultative status on the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. The optimist is always looking for a way to help. When the pessimist tells you, “Everything’s a mess, my life sucks, it’s meaningless, the news on TV is terrible, and it’s raining again. It couldn’t be worse,” the positive thinking of yours will gather the best reassuring reply: “Oh yes, don’t worry: it could.” No such thing as a dead end to the positive outlooker. “You could be sick, you could be stuck in your car in the middle of nowhere in a hail storm or you could be running out of wine. Oh, you are? I’m sorry for you, but see? It could be worse.” (You’re welcome.) You can be happy and not be an ill wind.

Okay, but in all seriousness, if your life (really?) sucks, what can you do to change it? How do you give it meaning?

I myself wasn’t born optimistic and happy. I was born crying. But as an adult, you’d be amazed at how your routine changes when you gain all this time saved by not being angry with the world after you got rid of your TV set. Not to turn you into Mother Theresa or something, but you’d be amazed too to realize how peaceful it feels to be more tolerant and understanding (and sharing, and smiling, and generous at heart …). What do you risk trying to look at things differently? Your health might improve as multiple studies have shown. You might recover faster after surgery or live longer. You might end up mostly boringly plainly happy. 365.25 days a year. I have nothing special. Am I wealthy? No. Is my life perfect? No. Do I make the optimus of it? I surely try. And I have children: I have to be optimistic. If not for their future, let it be for my sake. A mother has got to be either an optimist or an alcoholic. My optimism still pushes me to set my alarm every night and to cook vegetable meals in spite of my having kids.

I’ll even go further and say I’m the hopeless kind of optimist; I’m the Martin Luther King dreamer kind. If optimism were a religion I’d most likely be an extremist. Milan Kundera stated that “optimism is the opium of the people.” As utopian as it sounds it totally should be. Bonus news here, this drug is free, addictive and contagious.

It turns out optimism is one of those human-to-human infections: naturally transmissible. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. Oh well!