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You Too Can Become An Optimist!
by Gwen Boswell

I think it would be fair to say, that everyone, even the most optimistic, bubbliest of characters have down-in-the-dumps days (what does that even mean?), where they feel at odds with the world at large (and that too!). For your regular type of optimist, and I am lucky enough to be a member of that happy, occasionally boring, but without a doubt often extremely irritating band of people, it is very easy for us to realise it’s just one of our rare blue moods. We therefore convince ourselves that by tomorrow, we will have snapped right out of it and will be back to realising that the very famous glass is half full once more. Not only will the glass be half full, but it will be half full of something really scrumptious and it is likely be a lovely glass too, probably blue and sparkly and on a table covered with a really delightful tablecloth, almost certainly embroidered. The sun will be shining through the half full glass and the birds will be singing as they flutter by admiring the pretty glass. Anyway, I think you get my drift....

Alas, for our opposite kind - the pessimists - it is a very different story. If only life was as simple for these people as it is for us. It goes without saying that on their bad days, or should I say worse days, not only is the glass, as usual, half empty, but who cares about the stupid glass and how much is in it in the first place!? It’s a glass for goodness sake. If that’s all they had to worry about, how much was in a glass, life would be very easy and the pessimists could have time off worrying about the true state of important matters and join the silly bright-eyed, bushy tailed optimist brigade. Matters like the possibility of rain tomorrow (probable) and if they will need to take their umbrellas to work (likely), which of course means they will need to get an earlier train (inconvenient), to be sure of a seat (uncertain), so they do not have to stand holding said umbrella, briefcase and newspaper (damn near impossible). You can see the complex lives our pessimists’ lead.

But for both outlooks, if we think deeply about the consequences of the contrary happening under certain given circumstances, I am convinced our responses would be almost the same. Now we won’t get too serious about this. We will dump world peace, global warming, religious disharmony, nuclear disarmament and cricket, recognising that these subjects are for discussion on a far higher plane. However, I will endeavour to provide the pessimists with a scenario to consider which may, note may, swing them over to the other side and think, "Oh my goodness, how lucky was that!" ‘Lucky’ is a pretty innocuous type of word unless you are a pessimist; as for these worrywarts ‘lucky’ has four letters. (NB: It also has four letters for very poor spellers too).

So pessimists, I offer you a test involving the humble safety pin, chucked at the bottom of a drawer (you can never find one when you want one and when you don’t want one, you find it sticking out from under your nail when you are looking for batteries, or an envelope or something). But today, on the way into a very important meeting, where you, my example, is to stand on a small podium and undertake a PowerPoint presentation, find that your trouser flies has broken, exposing the Bart Simpson underpants that Nanna thought you might like for Christmas. Surely, on sighting a shiny safety pin on the floor two minutes before proposing to enter the meeting room, you would think, "Gee, that was lucky!"

For the ladies, virtually the same scenario applies, differing only in that the embarrassing gaping hole appears due to a popped off button just at the point where those of us that can remember the complexities of our first aid course should commence CPR. Swap the Bart Simpson’s for a dingy, once white bra, which has seen better days and really doesn’t go with your snazzy suit. Again, a pin, just a silly old pin could be your salvation. How marvellous would it be to find one! How lucky! I know you are thinking the pin would likely stick into your finger as you rearrange your bosom in order to pin your blouse together and you’d therefore get blood on your blouse. Or for the male pessimists, the pin would stick into you and – no, the pin sticking into you is probably enough for you to cope with the given example. But this pin doesn’t. In both cases it saves the day and you climb onto your podium with confidence and vigour, knowing that the parts of your anatomy that should never be seen during a presentation are safely tucked away behind your strong little metal friend.

Come on, this has to make you grateful for the little pluses in life! Just think of the consequences of not finding the pin. You may soldier on with your presentation, thinking that you have done enough with doing up the last button on your jacket to hide your embarrassing predicament, but perspiration would inevitably begin to bead on your brow. You would start wondering if Bart Simpson’s cheeky grin is peeping out from behind a curtain of silver teeth, distracting your audience when you are in the middle of a very involved talk on the merits of door knob manufacturing. You would be straining to hear if any one is chuckling. Oh for a pin, you would inwardly groan.

So there we have it, and I wait to be inundated with mail from pessimists everywhere, thanking me for changing their thinking on life. If after a fortnight, I am not in receipt of hundreds of thank-you letters, I will assume that the pessimists, on reading the word ‘optimist’ and ‘glass’ in the first paragraph, panicked, then swore and quickly turned the page.