As I grow older, I am appreciating my mother more and more. Among her many attributes, my mother was an inveterate optimist, to the point where I frequently found it very annoying. If a conversation became too depressing or contentious, she would immediately change the topic to something light. I remember my teenage self trying to persuade her that she wasn’t being realistic, that she was in denial about the world around her. To that, she replied that cute puppies were real too.
I came to understand that her optimism was a shield she had developed to survive in a world where she lost her mother at five years old, then was shuffled around from one relative to another. She never had a real home again until she married my father, but even then there was tragedy when her full-term first pregnancy ended with an empty crib. So, she avoided, as much as possible, what was unpleasant or distasteful, and lived to be a happy 96 years old.
I have been very blessed in my life, enduring none of the tragedies my mother did. Still, I am frequently disturbed by what I read and see going on in the world, and as I look at Facebook in the morning, I sometimes despair when I see the children caged at the border, read about the disappearing monarch butterflies, and hear more and more angry, hate-filled speech. I could go on and frequently do, but when I allow myself to wallow in the negative, I become enervated and unable to bring myself to any constructive action.
So, as an antidote, I watch crazy pet videos or James Cordon performing musicals with Lin Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt. It’s not that I am unaware or uncaring, but I need to remind myself that there are things to smile about, that cute puppies are real too.