“You’re such an optimist,” a friend said, smiling and chuckling. Little does she know . . . Most of the time, I make Eeyore look happy-go-lucky and upbeat, and Marvin the Paranoid Android points at me and intones, “You’re getting me down. Stop that.” I suspect part of it is the rather subdued personality I was born with, part the rather grim outlook on life I’ve developed over the years, and partly an innate sense that David Hackett Fisher was right when he described Calvinists in general and the Separatists in particular as people “who were never disillusioned.” (Because they had no illusions to begin with.) But it speaks volumes about this year and the general mood in the air that I find more people accusing me of being an optimist.
Although, optimist is better than naive fool, an epithet hurled at me more than once. Which might be true, at least in that I don’t wake up expecting to find a foreclosed notice on the door, my bank accounts seized by [insert agency or department here], a termination letter in my in-box, and a black-bordered letter from my internist in the mail. I tend to be a bit of a uniformitarian when it comes to life, prepared for the worst but expecting gradual erosions and equally gradual improvements. Apparently some people consider that a sign of blissful ignorance. I consider it necessary for maintaining my sanity. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the Black Dog as it paced beside me, too much time feeling my heart race as adrenaline dumped into my bloodstream for reasons too petty to mention (turning pages for an organist? Finding something between my teeth? Really? Yes, really.)
I should be a lot more worried about the future. I should be stocking up on canned and dried food, on emergency supplies, on brass and lead (and then I remember moving things in That Closet to try to find something Mom Red dropped. Never mind. Too bad all the weapons that went with that ammo were lost overboard in a terrible boating accident, darn the luck.) I should be saving money in non-paper forms, I should be preparing for a month without power (which means a month without water if the city and the Water Authority also go black.) I should be ready for murder and mayhem and Mad Max.
Perhaps I’m too innocent, or lazy, or naive, or perhaps I prefer to save my panic for after the fertilizer to hit the fan. I tend to get the shakes and weepies after the crisis has passed. During the crisis I’m too busy dealing with things to panic.
Yes, the world is going to heck in a handbasket. Depending on your personal belief system, it’s been that way since the serpent introduced Eve and Adam to the
Internet, er, make that apples. Or since the death of the prophet. Or the Demiurge attempted to create beings using flawed materials.
So I focus on what I can do for and with the people close to me, to prepare for trouble in my world. The first blow fell last spring, as some of you know, and I’ve been adapting to it. it has not been fun, but at least I still have a job. Other blows will come, be they medical or personal or professional or global. Some I can prepare for, some no one is ever prepared for, not in the heart, and some? I’m not staying up late worrying about the Yellowstone Volcano. I actually did once, over a decade ago. Not again.
I’m not an optimist. I have few illusions about the depths to which humans can go of their own free will, although sometimes the sheer scale of rot makes me pause in awe and wonder. But neither do I have the spare energy and brain cells to devote to preparing for TEOTWAWKI. I have papers to grade, music to memorize, and cat fur to clean off of everything.