I’ve written before about how my natural personality and emotional inclinations are to be positive and optimistic. But I’ve also written before about how I’m an anxious person, and that I worry a lot about the future, and people I care about, and the general state of humanity.
These are pretty bleak times to be an optimist. I’ve been asked by people who are close to me (because through my writing over the past few years, I’ve made some friends who have introversion and anxiety in common with me…and we share a lot of the same personal values…which seem to be under siege daily) how I can maintain any sort of hope about anything. How can you parent a son right now? How can you be a parent at all right now? How can you be married to a man right now? How can you exist as a woman right now? As a feminist? As an introvert? As an empath who cares about other people all the time, basically involuntarily? How do you manage your anxiety? How are you writing anything? How are you human? How do you do it without losing your whole entire shit?
Can’t lie. Sometimes here in the past year or two…particularly in the past six months or so…it’s gone beyond ‘weird.’ Sometimes it’s pretty tough. But I can still do it. Because I’m not always a happy, sunshiny, ‘rainbows and lollipops’ kind of optimist. In fact, there’s always an edge of darkness to me. That doesn’t mean I’m hopeless and surrendered and beaten. I have too much spite in me for that. The bastards won’t grind me down. I’m optimistic out of spite. I still have hope, therefore, hope still exists.
I get it. Sometimes life just piles it on. You’ve lost people you love. Public policy isn’t going your way. You don’t like the way you look and feel. It weighs on a person. It wears a person down. I’m no exception to that. But those, ‘How can you…?’ questions for me have their own answers built into them. I can be a parent because along with J, I’m proud of the young man we’re raising. Not to wave my own flag here, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job so far. And I can focus on my own life with J, which is happy and comfortable and exciting and fulfilling instead of the outer circles of humanity whenever I need to. That helps me manage my anxiety. That keeps my hope alive. And writing? Well…when shit is not going well ‘out there’ or even inside my own head, I can make up a story about how I wish it worked. I can make up a story about a couple of folks life has tried to beat down with all of its pummeling crap and they never gave up. My entire novel, Waiting, is a collection of these kinds of stories. And Roger and Dora, one of my favorite sets of imaginary friends, are part of these stories…two people who face a lot of life changing their plans for them, and at first, they believe that’s not necessarily good. But with each other? Hope is there. Hope is fed. Things are better. They’re both still kinda dark in ways…but both optimistic. And that’s kinda like me. And it’s kinda like J too.
When I got into a pretty bad anxiety spiral a couple of years ago, that’s when J let his Dark Optimism out to inspire mine. It’s what led me to publish a book, to be honest. This exchange is dark…but optimistic…and without both of those elements, even with the confidence I’d built writing online and letting some friends read my work, the novels wouldn’t have happened.
“The world could literally end tomorrow, Jen. It’d be nice to hold a book you wrote in your hands, right? What are you waiting for?”
Yeah. What was I waiting for? What better time than now? When am I ever going to have a ‘perfect’ time to have hope…to do what I’m dreaming about…to accomplish the things I want to accomplish? When will I ever really be ‘ready?’
It’s easy to have hope and joy when things are running smoothly. Maybe I like the challenge of remaining positive in the dark. Maybe it’s that spiteful streak I have. Maybe it’s my Dark Optimism. Maybe it’s my relationship with J…another dark optimist. Maybe, like when Roger meets Dora, J is the other wolf that answered when I went out in the dark to howl at the moon. That’s what the moon is, right? Light in the darkness. Wolves are dark optimists, I think.
Anyway, I’ve written a bunch of posts about the music I listened to while I was writing the stories I’ve written, and how those songs influenced the stories, and readers have told me they like that inside information. So here’s some about Roger and Dora’s part of Waiting…
I don’t feel any guilty pleasure about liking OneRepublic. They’re a modern pop group. I’m 40 and some people consider me a progressive intellectual, so I’m supposed to only like hipster bands no one’s heard of that don’t get played on mainstream radio or older stuff. All their songs kinda have the same ‘sound.’ So what? This is a great song, and writing Waiting, I was kind of on a OneRepublic kick. This one here is how J and I fit together to stay hopeful and entrenched in our Dark Optimism, and it’s the song playing in my head when I think of Roger and Dora; the one that played a lot when I wrote them. There are some typos in the lyrics in the video, but…you’ll get the idea.
If we only die once, I wanna die with J. ❤
I know that’s dark. But optimistic.