I have radioactive seeds inside my body zapping a tumor in my eyeball. Nobody wants to be around me! I have had 5 days of solitude and a few more to go. I have had moments of interaction with people, but they are short bouts because I get to wear a lovely lead patch over my eye to protect visitors from the radiation. Needless to say this is not very comfortable, so I spend most of my days and nights alone.
I don’t really recall a time when I have had this much time alone with my thoughts. It is just me, myself and I. I have been thinking about life, thinking about people, and thinking about me.
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my One Year Booze Snooze goal because I am so close to the end. I have not had a drop of alcohol for 313 days. I have been thinking about if there is any connection with that goal to how I am dealing with the pain of my dad’s death and the scary, unknown world of cancer I describe in my Mindset Momma post The Greater Your Storm, The Brighter Your Rainbow. The answer is yes. I think I have been successful with my booze snooze goal because I went into it with a positive attitude that I could 100% make it happen, BUT I was also very realistic and recognized that it would be challenging along the way.
This is called realistic optimism.
We are programmed to focus on positivity. We hear it at school, we hear it at church, we see it every day in those cute motivational quotes I often use in my blog posts, we see it in our friend’s vision boards and in business mission statements. We are told to think about the positive, think about the things that will go right, don’t think about the negative, don’t focus on what could wrong, look at life through a positive lens, and think positive and good things will happen.
But I don’t think we are truly wired that way. I don’t think it is realistic or practical to be positive at all times. But that doesn’t mean we should let pessimism take over. There has to be a balance.
The Optimism Spectrum
Author, Chris Loper, describes the optimism spectrum in his article, Realistic Optimism. The extreme ends of the spectrum include unrealistic pessimism and unrealistic optimism and these two things can be very problematic.
Unrealistic Pessimism is overblown negative thinking. People imagine catastrophes all the time and this is crippling. They see difficulty in every opportunity which keeps them from moving forward in life. Unrealistic pessimists live life in fear.
Unrealistic Optimism is unrestrained positive thinking, when you believe only good things will come because the universe is ensuring you are successful. It is the belief that challenges will magically disappear and goals will be manifested without taking action. People rely on vision boards and the law of attraction, which are great tools for goal setting but might actually discourage hard work. Unrealistic optimists may think that all they have to do is imagine what they want and in order to get it they don’t need to put forth much effort.
Loper describes two healthier approaches that are grounded in reality in the middle of the specturm. This includes realistic pessimism and realistic optimism.
Realistic Pessimism includes an accurate assessment of reality and imagining probable outcomes, but the focus is more on the negative outcomes. This can be helpful when making important decisions in careers where risk-assessment is critical, but it may keep people from trying new things and taking risks. Realistic pessimists can foresee the obstacles, but can’t always find a way around them. They are often stuck in the now, and can’t really imagine what could become. They think if success is unlikely, then why should they even bother trying.
Realistic Optimism is the sweet spot. It includes an accurate assessment of reality and imagining probable outcomes. Realistic optimists foresee themselves finding workarounds to obstacles, believe in capacity for growth, and imagine what could become possible. They believe in hard work, they are resilient, and usually have a growth mindset.
Combine a positive attitude with an honest evaluation of the challenges you may meet along your path – Mara Karpel, Ph.D.
I believe that I have made it 313 days toward my 365 day booze snooze goal because I am a realistic optimist. I believe I have the power to make good things happen, even though rough conditions. I believe in the power of achieving my goal because of my ability to put in the hard work and overcome the challenges.
With the booze snooze I anticipated the challenges early on in my post, I Got This. This encouraged me to do some careful planning, create realistic action steps, to be persistent, and to choose the right strategies along the way. I won’t lie, thinking about those challenges up front made me a little nervous. In my post, Long Road Ahead, I questioned myself and wondered if 365 days was too lofty of a goal. I had just enough healthy pessimism to reflect on how I was setting up my goal, but instead of shooing away my goal out of fear of failure, I thought of steps to overcome roadblocks. I gave serious thoughts to how I will deal with the obstacles in the beginning and this increased my confidence in my ability to get it done. I think I have also worked hard to recognize what I can control along the way and what I cannot control. The main thing I can control is my mindset and attitude, which ultimately impacts my drive and persistence.
Believing that the road to success will be rocky leads to greater success because it forces you to take action. - Heidi Grant, Ph.D.
I think 313 days of practicing realistic optimism with the booze snooze goal has also helped me with my Ocular Melanoma treatment. In my Mindset Momma post , Going In Strong, I talked about going into my surgery with a positive attitude. Looking back, I know I did not go in as an unrealistic optimist. I did not go in just assuming it was going to be fine and I would magically get through the recovery. I definitely had some fears and worries. The difference is that I didn’t let the fears and worries consume me or keep me from moving forward. Instead, the fears were anticipated and I went in prepared. I anticipated potential obstacles and pre-planned how to over come them.
I knew I would experience some pain. I did not fear this because I knew I had my pain medicine near by and a nightstand full of tools to sooth pain like a rice pack that can be heated or cooled, soothing lotions, and medicated eye drops.
I knew I would experience difficulty watching TV and reading and therefor might feel bored. So I downloaded audio books on my phone so I could be entertained while closing my eyes and decorated my bathtub area with bubble bath, lotions and candles so I could pass time with soothing baths.
I knew I would feel lonely at times, so I planned Facetime calls with family and friends, I set up visitor chairs in my bedroom so people can hang out for a while maintaining a safe distance from me, and I planned how I would use voice to text messages to chat with people on my Ocular Melanoma Facebook support groups.
I knew I would feel like I was not pulling my weight as a family member and that Rick would be loaded with parenting responsibilities so I humbly accepted help from family and friends offering a plethora of meals and help driving my kids around.
All the things listed above were prepared ahead of time, which helped me to go in to my surgery relaxed and with a positive attitude. This realistic optimism built my confidence and gave me the strength to find “work a rounds” as new challenges have come up that last couple of days. For example, as my eye is getting less painful and stronger I want to use my eye more often but the vision is extremely distorted. So, I found some medical tape to cover ¾ of the lens of my eyeglasses and this has helped correct the vision enough that I can type this blog, read Facebook and watch movies. Yesterday, I started to feel nauseous so I researched some remedies and I am using ginger chews, peppermint essential oils, and I took a walk late at night when nobody was out and about in the neighborhood to calm my stomach. I was also starting to feel frumpy and did not enjoy looking at my eyeball that looks like mangled hamburger so I styled my hair, and put make up on half my face- wow did I feel good!
I have a couple more days until my next surgery and I “GET” to start all over again with healing when the plaque comes out. I am not scared, but I am realistic. I know I will have pain. I know I will be tired. I know I will get constipated from pain pills and hate the way they make me feel. BUT, I will combine a positive attitude with this honest evaluation, I will expect the unexpected, and I will not stress about the unpleasant events. I will take care of my self with good meals, good sleep, exercise and meditation.