As I mentioned in a previous post, I am an optimist. I haven’t always been an optimist. As a child, I had a pretty bright outlook. It was sort of in the middle that I developed a rather dim view on life. Fortunately, in the last couple years, I have found my inner rose-colored glasses. I missed my rose-colored glasses. It’s good to have them back.
According to www.dictionary.com, optimism is defined as: 1. a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. 2. the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world. 3. the belief that goodness pervades reality.
Yeah, these are all accurate reflections of reality, as I see it.
Some things have happened recently that have left me contemplative. My life-path journey seems to follow a circuitous, serendipitous road. I trust this is indicative of a curiosity about and a joyful embracing of the presence of life more than a simple lack of direction. Outside of that dim-view time, I have tended to follow the sights, sounds, and smells that fascinate me most. I don’t think of myself as a risk-taker, but lately I like trying new things–from foods to adventures. I was even brave enough to traverse the Royal Gorge Bridge and cross back over by way of the aerial tram. It was very scary, but fortunately I had someone to hold my hand (and whose arm I could grip with ferocity, when necessary) through the very scary parts. It’s been slowly building, but within the last 6 – 8 months, I started looking at situations with the assumption that they would work out for the best. In general, people will do the right thing and will be kind to each other. If things don’t happen that way, it’s a fluke.
I’ve come to believe strongly that every interaction between people is an opportunity for a positive relationship to be established. Sometimes, that relationship will last the 5 or 10 minutes you’re in contact, but sometimes it turns into a lasting friendship or business relationship. I’m not sure when I realized how much it fed my soul to be able to make someone laugh or to find a point of commonality with a stranger, but I now know that it’s a very powerful force in my life.
Some people find this irritating. I understand that and will dial it down a bit when I’m with them. When I go visit my sister, we usually go shopping for the week’s groceries the morning after I get there. Once, as we were leaving the grocery store, she said, “Do you have to speak to everyone in the store?” I said, “I didn’t talk to everyone. I didn’t talk to that guy. But I can if you want.” For being best friends, we have some glaring personality differences! When my son was going into his Army recruiting office the week before leaving for basic, he asked me to wait outside. His reasoning: he had to take care of some business, and I would get to be best friends with everyone in the office, and before we left I’d have everybody’s phone number and several of the guys will have asked me out on dates. Well, I think he was exaggerating, but I can see how it would be distracting for him to take care of Army business if I’m in there making new friends. So I waited outside.
The contemplation-inducing events? They range from dealings with the IRS and the CO Department of Revenue to orders placed through Amazon.com.
Everyone knows that dealing with the Internal Revenue Service is not meant to be pleasant, right? Some even say the agents have been trained to be unhelpful, and the really good ones are downright grumpy. As a payroll professional, however, I have just not found this to be true. When you call the IRS, you will get the next agent in queue. They answer with Mr/Ms LastName and their ID number, and they are very professional. Now, each time I call the IRS, in spite of nay-sayers’ dire predictions to the contrary, I have left the conversation with all my IRS-related issues resolved. Every time I have conversation with an IRS agent, there has been a story and/or a laugh shared. And I understand that has more to do with how I relate to people than with how they were trained to process calls. Usually, I’m calling to get information or to let them know that my company doesn’t actually owe them money as their records seem to indicate. One time, however, I misapplied a deposit to the incorrect quarter. By the time I received the letter, there were penalties, fees, and interest charges. Now, it was my fault–I wasn’t paying attention when I posted my deposit. I called just to ask how to get the deposit applied correctly. The agent helped me, we got everything taken care of, we had our story-sharing (he was raised just a few miles from where I was), and then he asked if there was anything else he could do. I asked if there could be any grace for me regarding the extra fees since I was so new at my job. He hesitated, and then said, “yes, let me take care of that for you.” I don’t know if that’s how they normally handle that situation, but I know I was given grace because I asked. I’m also pretty sure that if I’d called with a grumpy and defensive attitude, my company would have been paying those few thousand dollars in fees to the IRS.
When you, an employer, begin withholding and paying income taxes on behalf of your employees, the various tax agency are probably grateful, but you will soon receive letters saying, “um, you’re paying withheld taxes now? well, why didn’t you pay before this? and before that? and before that? and …” So, you send the letters and make the phone calls to explain that you didn’t withhold and deposit taxes on behalf of your employees in those previous time periods… because, well, you didn’t have any employees to withhold from. In my experience, this is a quick and simple fix. However, the letter I got from CO also had our name spelled incorrectly. Now, when you call the Colorado Department of Revenue employer help-line, you will most often be greeted by a message along the lines of, “Hi. This is Colorado. We care deeply for you and respect you far too much to leave you on hold indefinitely, or really for longer than about 15 minutes. It appears that your wait time will be more than 15 minutes now, so we would like you to call back later so we can help you sooner.” and then they hang up. This is much kinder than the state of CA, which says, “we’re busy” click. But still. Playing around on the website, I discovered they have a walk-in office in Colorado Springs. The first time I went in, there was a hand-written note on the door saying that the agent would be back later due to a family emergency. Later, like this afternoon, or later, like in a few weeks? I wasn’t sure, and neither was anyone else in that location. I was able to get in to see the Tax Examiner a few days later. The wait wasn’t too long, and the agent was very helpful… again, professional, like the IRS agents. When we had resolved everything, he looked to the door as if to say, “Next.” I stood up to go, but then made a decision. As I stood up, I asked his name. I put out my hand and said, “Keith, thank you so much.” He looked at my hand for a moment before shaking it. I said, “My name is Joni, and I really appreciate your help today.” He gave me his business card and told me to call him if I had any more questions. When I got back to the office, I emailed a thank you note to him and connected with him on LinkedIn. A few days later, he emailed me that he noticed there were a couple other things we’d missed, with information on how to take care of them. One of the items involved pretty big fees, but with his help I wasn’t charged for anything. We’ve stayed connected and I have a new relationship because I was friendly for a moment when it wasn’t required.
I don’t always get to know, but I really hope these interactions bless the person I’m talking to as much as they bless me.
How could this relate to Amazon.com? This is the instance that really made me start to question this whole optimism thing and if there was more to it than a sunny vs cloudy outlook on life. I’ve been trying to eat more healthfully. Real food is, for some reason, much more expensive than fake (processed) food. Fortunately, amazon.com sells a lot of organic and natural foods for less than the local grocery stores do. I had several things I wanted, but I had to stay in a budget. I ordered chia seeds, hemp seeds, and organic almond butter. (If you talk to my really good friend Julie at glutenfreeveganfam.blogspot.com she’ll tell you exactly why those are wonderful things to have. I just like the seeds on my salads and in my smoothies and the butter on a lot of things. I highly recommend you pay her a visit.) As I was checking out, amazon asked if I wanted to use my amazon visa (sure, I only use it when my daughter uses my debit card and I forget to get it back from her, but I pay it off right away). Then amazon asked if I wanted to use my points. Points? I remember my amazon visa would periodically send me an amazon gift card, but there hadn’t been one for quite a while, so I just figured they weren’t doing that anymore. Evidently, they’ve been storing them up for me. Well, my current order didn’t even use half my points. Since I had more on my shopping list, I went back in. Ultimately, I got almost $200 worth of groceries for free (because amazon.com doesn’t charge for shipping if you spend more than $25).
The question I’ve started asking myself and others: Does optimism attract positive, even unrelated, results from life? I’ve been watching my more pessimistic friends, and it seems that the bad things they expect happen. Is it a matter of focus? Am I only seeing my positive results because that’s what I hear from my mouth and mind? Am I only seeing their negative results because that what I hear them talk about? Or are the results truly guided by the attitude? By the way, I’ve also seen studies that add the caveat that pessimists have their levels of success because they see life more realistically and are not disappointed.
I’ve heard that optimistic people live longer, healthier lives. That’s probably best–they enjoy life more. If your life sucks, why would you want it prolonged… especially in bad health. “Studies have shown” that optimistic people have more good things happen, while pessimistic people have more bad things happen. I still have down days when it’s hard to see any good in life. While I used to have a few (never consecutive) good days, now I have a few (never consecutive) down days. And I know the best thing for me is to talk to someone who loves and understands me. Not the ones who answer the phone with, “How aaaaaarrrrre youuuuuuuuu???” (FYI… NOT helpful). My depths of despair are not nearly as deep, and they’re much easier to climb out of. Is that because I’ve made choices toward optimism? My medications haven’t changed, so it’s not that. Or is it just that life is sunnier, so I don’t get as depressed?
I’d love some feedback on this. What’s your opinion? What is your experience? Is optimism a magnet for success, health, and long life? Or does it just seem that way?