What Makes Me Feel Optimistic In A World Full Of Bad News

good news, what makes you happy, Shannon Bradley Colleary
Clare will still hug me after I buy her chocolate cake. Preferably in the Louvre cafeteria.
If you read my blog you know I’m capable of catastrophic Irish morbidity.

Case in point. When my daughters strike an aloof attitude toward me as I leave the house, I have to muzzle myself from saying:
“You should hug me goodbye in case I’m run over by an anachronistic horse-drawn carriage on Pico Blvd. and die.
“Then you’ll wish you’d given your old mother just one last kiss. And rue the day you didn’t tell her she was the singularly most important person in your young, now-orphaned lives you little shits.”
I might have actually said it once. Maybe twice.
So the other night — as we were flying, cramped with no champagne or movie screens in economy on the godforsaken, shmutzy, sub-marginal American Airlines where we have our miles — I set aside my certainty we were all going to plummet into the Atlantic Ocean to our watery deaths and looked out of the window thinking, “Look what humans did!”

Someone(s) much smarter than me figured out how to get a bunch of dead weight all the way up in the air and keep it there as it is jet-propelled halfway across the globe.

That got me to thinking about all of the other things humans have figured out.
  • Roads.
  • Suspension bridges.
  • Checks and Balances.
  • The automobile.
  • Ivy League Colleges.
  • Gelato.
  • And let us not forget … the Bumpy Bunny vibrator.
I was suddenly infused with this overwhelming sense of optimism and hope.

Sometimes it seems as if we humans are destroying ourselves as fast as we can, but mostly I’m amazed by how we’ve evolved from Neanderthalls to make room in our lives for more than mere animal survival.

That we contemplate and pursue supercilious (yet vital) things such as Beauty and Grace.

I see those things in my home on a constant basis.
  • The constellation of freckles on Bridget’s face.
  • The surprise of hearing Clare play her pianoforte with an inimitable musicality.
  • My kitty Marilyn Monroe’s blatant wantoness as she flips on her back to have her belly rubbed.
  • Henry’s continuing love for me despite my utter lack of discretion and persistent eau d’ bossiness.

Being as happy as I mostly am can be terrifying, and I often wait for the other shoe to drop. For some rogue malevolent force to snatch it all away.

Last month, I read an astonishing article in Vogue magazine written by Madonna Badger, a woman who lost both of her parents and all three of her children to fire in one night.

She ended up in a psyche ward and on suicide watch, but very slowly, over the course of two years, she’s coming out of her grief and choosing to rebuild her life.

She writes about a pivotal moment, when helping a friend sort through antiques in her warehouse, that brought her perspective and healing:

“… as I spent day upon day going through box upon box looking for beautiful objects, two things happened.
“One, I had to stay in the present moment. It’s hard to go too far down one road or another when you’re using your hands and your eyes and your brain so intently.
“The second thing was that as we found old photographs, I was forced to reckon with loss, with transience.
“I came to understand and be at peace with the notion that the people in the pictures I was looking at were all gone now—that the little girl in 1905 who owned the doll I was holding in my hands was dead; that all this stuff was really just the ephemera that gets left behind. There was really no judgment about it.”

I take this to mean that Badger realized, on the vast timeline of humanity, she would be here only a short time longer than her children and parents and that their time on earth was no less meaningful than hers.

That they had, indeed, existed.

This woman’s resilience, strength, grace and humility make me feel so optimistic, despite the tragedy that brought it forth.

So, I leave you with a few of the beautiful things I’ve seen recently and a wish that you’ll be struck by Beauty today.

Whether it be the consistency of our mail delivery system.

  • Or the way your neighbor’s yellow lab muzzles the palm of your hand with his warm snout.
  • Or how your lover smells of lavender and calendula.
  • Or the delicious practice of kissing your child’s still-round baby cheeks. 

Who knows what will strike you. There are so many beautiful things.

The carousel at the Place de la Concorde.
The carousel at the Place de la Concorde just before we hopped on.
The Louvre.
The Louvre.
Napolean III's apartments the Louvre.
Napolean III’s apartments the Louvre. I wondered who this woman was and imagined what her secrets might have been
Bridget walking the Grand Gallerie at the Louvre.
Bridget walking the Grand Gallerie at the Louvre in her brand new white beret channeling my favorite heroine, Madeline.
Napolean IIIpic
The chandelier of my dreams. Oh to be bathed in its luminescent light.

What makes you happy?

2 thoughts on “What Makes Me Feel Optimistic In A World Full Of Bad News”

  1. So much beauty and so much to wonder at…I love your photos of the art you saw! Thanks for sharing. I can get lost staring at old paintings myself, wondering what that person’s story was. Who did she love? What did she dream?

    Today I’m feeling extremes of the spectrum. I am tearfully, heart-wrenchingly wistful for an artistic wedding cake business that I closed a year ago, missing the buzz of busy-ness as if I have carved something out of my soul.

    Absolutely at the same moment, I am optimistic and full of hope and wonder and appreciation for the time I now get to share with my family by being at home.

    Trying to balance the two has been an interesting journey this year.

    Today, though, even through tears, I am awestruck as well at the beauty of nature that I have time to enjoy now at my new less-frantic pace, right outside my window: I can see hoarfrost-covered blue spruce shrouded in fog around an icy pond and a garden in repose, and it is silently wonderful.

    Thank you for reinforcing that sense of wonder, today of all days.

  2. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. So often I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even worse, I find myself trying not to be “too happy” thinking that somehow being morbid balances my fate. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Love and gratitude are two of the most important words, I believe. I have them tattooed on me as a reminder but sometimes I still forget!

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