“There’ll be days like this” the song by Van Morrison says. Unlike the usual perspective after saying that phrase, the song goes on to talk about all the right things that happen in a day, like “when the pieces of the puzzle come together” and you make sense of life’s situations.
It’s a positive spin. The song turns the usual phrase of complaint that “maybe the full moon was out” on “days like this’ into the lesson to look for the days when nothing is there to harm you…all’s right with the world. Evidently Morrison’s mom told him that there would be these blissful days: ”My Momma told me there’d be days like this.”
So this morning, talking to my mom on the phone, because she’s in Chicago and I’m in Portland, Oregon, I worked on my optimism muscle. She’s 90 and slipping into dementia. Mom and I still track though, and have a great connection. She’s always suffered from depression and also was quite a rageful person in the middle years of her life when her marriage to my father became more and more unbearable to her. She experienced sexual abuse by her brothers as a very young little girl and her mother was a pretty dark and dower woman. So it makes sense that my mother uses a fearful, angry and pessimistic strategy to navigate life even now. Happy thoughts are not her forte…just sayin’.
Optimism is one of the seven emotional intelligence muscles that I have to work hard to build and will for the rest of my life (as with all the emotional intelligence muscles). This is not a muscle that got a lot of workout for most of my life so it’s naturally weaker than say my resilience muscle. I have to really focus on it and give it some extra reps to keep it toned and actually build it up to keep a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Most mothers want the best for their children and want to protect them from the hurts that they experienced in life. They want to save their kids as much pain as they can and teach them everything they can to avoid the pitfalls that have caused them great discomfort. So they teach lessons of readiness.
Often these lessons of readiness are to be ready for the worst to happen. And these lessons are certainly necessary and critical for a child to face the world and what can be dangerous circumstances. My mom is certainly one of those shield-you-from-the-pain moms.
Readiness is also really a good lesson in the other direction, too. Be ready for the good days. Savor them.
Like many mother/daughter switches in roles later in life, Mom and I have switched, too. When I called Mom this morning, it was also to help her build her optimism muscle and think some happy thoughts. (Sometimes you need a personal trainer in this emotional intelligence muscle building.) Kinda late for my mom to develop these muscles and no one can build them for someone else, but as I build mine I can’t help but hope there’s a little pain relief for Mom.
Being aware of the optimism muscle and deciding to exercise it is the start for me. Like sensing the right position for proper physical muscle exercise and paying attention to the feeling as you do reps, consciousness about optimism makes all the difference in getting the most from the routine.
Intending to enjoy my conversation with mom was helpful today. Picking the positive memories to talk about and sprinkling the “I love you’s” liberally, bathed both of our brains in the bright side of life. The smile on my face infected both of us even though we are 1000 miles apart.
My optimism building routine continued after saying goodbye to Mom. I continued smiling and immediately said “I’m grateful that I could hear her voice today.”
Language is so important in the optimism muscle building. Focused words are the universal gym of emotional intelligence building. Positive words and phrases and sentences build the optimism muscle. Rep after rep after rep.
Doing loved activities with optimism glasses on is another part of the optimism muscle building routine. After talking to Mom with a smile on my face, I hiked for an hour on the path around our farm. With my iPod blaring my favorite songs I "trudged the road of happy destiny” in the morning sun.
My optimism-building exercise routine continued. Opening a daily-thought, email subscription reinforced that Van Morrison is not the only songwriter that has something to say about the benefits of building the optimism muscle…
“You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face,
And show the world all the love in your heart,
Then people gonna treat you better.
You're gonna find, yes, you will,
That you're beautiful as you feel.”-Carole King
I also noticed and appreciated the double benefit of exercising my physical muscles as part of exercising my optimism muscle on the hike. I can eat today and still fit into the ballgown I’m wearing tomorrow night at a very gala wedding reception. There’s another happy thought put into explicit words! Good job, Val!
"There'll be days like this!" My momma didn't tell me this like Van Morrison's mom but I'm teaching myself to notice and apply this optimism muscle every day!