Shelly Hickman

Ramblings and Whatnot


The Case for Stubborn Optimism

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​These last few years have been difficult for our country, and the emergence of COVID has made the last year and a half a difficult time for the entire world. For a brief period, it seemed like we were seeing an end to the darkness of 2020. We masked up and stayed in, and infection rates were finally coming down. Vaccines became available and for many of us came a sigh of relief because we now had some protection against this deadly virus. But just as we were beginning to take a step forward, it seems we’re now taking three steps back and finding ourselves right back where we started.I’ve lately found myself letting a feeling of hopelessness grip me more often than I’d like to admit, as I’m sure many of us have. I normally consider myself an optimist who keeps watch over the types of thoughts that occupy my mind, but current events can make staying optimistic awfully hard. Even if we’re not consciously aware of it, our stress and worry have a way of festering below the surface. I’ve limited my media exposure for the sake of my mental health, but there’s a delicate balance between staying informed and burying your head in the sand. When you begin to feel like nothing you do has a positive impact, that the world has become a never-ending shit show, burying head in sand and erecting walls becomes more and more enticing. 

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Anxieties persist about COVID, the worsening climate crisis, dangerous and illogical policy changes implemented by my school district this year, concerns my students or grandkids will get sick because they’re still unprotected and everything is opening back up because, well, it needs to. Some days it just feels like… a lot. And for all the books, audiobooks, and podcasts I’ve consumed throughout my life that wisely advised me not to spend precious time worrying over things that are beyond my control, there are far too many days I am horrible at putting that piece of advice into practice.On top of all that, I was not doing all that great in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of my dad’s death, I think in large part because I knew that date was coming up and I was missing him more than usual. I needed to hear him say, “You just gotta be stoic about these things,” like he often did. I believe departed loved ones do send us signs, but I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like Dad checked in with me. Let’s just say a long time. However, in times past it’s almost always been through music. 

​About a week before the anniversary, a song that I hadn’t heard for some time was stuck in my head for two solid days. I didn’t give it much thought at first, just figured it was your standard earworm. I can be quite slow on the uptake when it comes these things, so towards the middle of day two I thought to myself, “Huh. Maybe I ought to pay attention to this.” The song was Howard Jones’ “Hide and Seek”. The song expresses ideas about how and why we are here (I’ve included the lyrics on the YouTube page), but after paying attention and considering the negative mindset I’d been fighting, I felt strongly that it had an additional meaning for me – that it was a message from Dad saying there’s no need to keep seeking him when he’s always here with me.

Though this first sign brought me some comfort, two days later I was still fighting this nagging hopelessness due to world affairs when something else came through.I was watching Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and at the end of this particular episode, Martin Sheen’s character sang “The Impossible Dream”. As I listened to the words, I recalled it was a favorite of Dad’s. 

The Impossible Dream
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right, without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star

PictureI’ve been reading the book The Future We Choose, and the authors discuss the importance of stubborn optimism when tackling the climate crisis, so why shouldn’t we adopt this mindset for all the challenges our world faces?

I believe the message in “The Impossible Dream” was Dad once again nudging me out of my funk, reminding me that together we’re capable of great things. Humankind has gone through many dark times, but our stubborn optimism for something better keeps us pushing forward and out of those dark times, no matter how shit showy things get. Because really, what choice do we have when we ask ourselves what kind of future we want for our kids and grandkids?

It makes me think of the following passage that circulated online last year, author unknown.


Imagine you were born in 1900.
When you’re 14, World War I begins and ends when you’re 18 with 22 million dead.
Soon after a global pandemic, the Spanish Flu, appears, killing 50 million people. And you’re alive and 20 years old.
When you’re 29 you survive the global economic crisis that started with the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange, causing inflation, unemployment and famine.
When you’re 33 years old, the Nazis come to power.
When you’re 39, World War II begins and ends when you’re 45 years old with a 60 million dead. In the Holocaust 6 million Jews die.
When you’re 52, the Korean War begins.
When you’re 64, the Vietnam War begins and ends when you’re 75.
A child born in 1985 thinks his grandparents have no idea how difficult life is, but they have survived several wars and catastrophes.
Today we have all the comforts in a new world, amid a new pandemic. But we complain because we need to wear masks. We complain because we must stay confined to our homes where we have food, electricity, running water, wifi, even Netflix! None of that existed back in the day. But humanity survived those circumstances and never lost their joy of living.
A small change in our perspective can generate miracles. We should be thankful that we are alive. We should do everything we need to do to protect and help each other.


We can effect change if we keep pushing forward, keep caring for each other, and keep caring for our planet. Thankfully, there are hella brilliant people in this world who can help us get there – we just have to determine and  commit to individual actions that can make a difference… and remain stubbornly optimistic. 



5 responses to “The Case for Stubborn Optimism”

  1. Martha Reynolds Avatar
    Martha Reynolds

    What a great and important post, Shelly – thank you. I’ve been the same – I want to stay current, I want to be aware, but it’s exhausting. Depressing. Anger-inducing. But after 5-10 minutes of consuming news, I need to let it go. Take a walk. Listen to music (two excellent songs there, btw!). Cook. CARE, as you said – for ourselves, for each other, for our planet. Thank you, my friend. xxx

    Like

    1. Shelly Hickman Avatar
      Shelly Hickman

      It’s exhausting all right! I’m happy you are finding ways to practice self-care. Probably an overused term right now, but so important nonetheless. 😊
      Thank you, Martha!

      Like

  2. Mr. Manuel Pierce Avatar
    Mr. Manuel Pierce

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  3. Kristopher Boyd Avatar
    Kristopher Boyd

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  4. Our death isnt TheEnd, dear.
    I certainly know. I’m a NDEr.

    ‘Dream your dreams about what YOU
    want to do in Heaven; dare to ask for
    the impossible and all the gifts YOU
    have ever wanted from Me. Expect Me
    to hear YOU and fulfill your every desire’
    -Jesus •(from ‘Lui et Moi’ [He and I] by
    Gabrielle Bossi, trænslatêd)•

    Follow us to the Wedding Feast:
    ☆ en.gravatar.com/MatteBlk ☆

    Like

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About Me

Las Vegas native, Computer Science teacher, and writer (when the mood strikes). Author of five novels – mostly romantic comedies – available on Amazon and Audible.

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