Clarity Beyond the Rose Colored Glasses

Everyone has that friend who is positive to a fault.  You know the one I’m talking about; the one who won’t just let you vent without pointing out all the silver linings in your thunder clouds.  Everything is always going to get better.  Hell, it’s not even that bad right now.  Some days the boundless optimism is helpful, and other times you want to rip those horrible pink tinted glasses right off his face and tell him “No!  It really is that bad!  Why won’t you let me wallow in my own misery?”

I’ve got a confession.  I am that friend, and I’m sorry. . . kind of.  The thing is, as someone who has built much of his life outlook around self-love, focusing on solutions instead of problems, and always finding the positive, it’s really hard to turn it off.

But once in a while the universe offers me a gentle reminder:

When you only look at the world in monochrome, you’re missing all the true and vibrant colors.  Sometimes, for a little while, it’s best to take the rose colored glasses off.

I’ve needed to take my bike in to the shop for a while now.  Unless it’s raining or the temperature at night is going to be below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, I ride it to and from work every day.  That’s sixteen miles daily, up to five times a week.  I probably manage to ride upwards of thirty weeks a year, so conservatively I pedal about 2000 miles per trip around the sun.

I’m no novice at bike maintenance—I can oil a chain, adjust my brakes, change a tube in the tire—but I depend on this vehicle, and once a year it’s worth taking it to the professionals to get a real work-up done.  After dragging my feet for a few weeks and noticing the bike’s sub-par performance, I finally went to the local shop yesterday on my way in to work.

When I pick it up today it’s basically going to be a whole new bike.  I needed new brake pads, and a back tire, a new chain and cassette.  Suffice it to say I was a little floored; it’s a huge expense I wasn’t expecting.  It won’t break the bank but, well, I didn’t see it coming.

As I walked slowly out of the bike shop and across the street to the bus stop, I still had my rose colored glasses on.  Okay, big bill, but now I’m going to have a much more efficient, safer bike, and the peace of mind that comes with, right?  I looked at my watch.  Over an hour to get to work.  Today was going to be alright.

And I waited and waited.  I live about four miles beyond the end of the subway system in Boston.  In the 80’s, the last time my line of the subway was extended, it was supposed to go all the way to where I currently live.  However, a group of closed-minded activists stopped the extension short because they were afraid the train would bring all sorts of riffraff to their pristine town alongside the culture, higher property values, and easy commutes.  The compromise was getting a bus line with busses every eight to twelve minutes.  A great idea in theory. . .

I waited twenty-seven minutes, bike helmet in hand, looking frantically at my watch.  When the bus finally arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I could still make it to work on time, and the bus was virtually empty.  I sat down in my usual seat, the bus went one stop, and then. . .

A middle aged man with a very distinctive odor climbed happily on through the front door, walked right up and sat in the seat directly next to me, blocking me in.  As he spread his knees apart, forcing me farther into a corner, he smiled at me and said “This is my very favorite seat.  I just love sitting here.  Hey, do you know about those new parking meters?”

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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . . 

I threw quite the little tantrum in my head.  Suffice it to say, I was seeing red, and it had nothing to do with the figurative pink lenses I was still somehow wearing.  The bus went on, I turned up the music through my earbuds, and cringed a little as the bus pulled over at every single one of the twenty-seven stops between the bike shop and the train station.

By Pi.1415926535 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Then the train took forever to arrive.  Once I was on, it did that horrible thing where it stopped inexplicably for minutes in the middle of the tunnel.  Though I love public transportation, sometimes it brings me dangerously close to panic attacks.  I finally arrived at my station, flew up the stair into the daylight and called my husband.

He barely answered the phone before I launched into my barrage of complaints and frustrations.  I realized suddenly that I was tired and stressed—I’ve been happily working myself to the bone—and between the bike and the terrible commute and the fact that I was speeding down the sidewalk with five minutes left to get to work on time, I was overwhelmed.  My voice cracked and my eyes were wet and. . . what the hell?

Through my rose-colored glasses none of this would have been a big deal, but I’d lost them somewhere along the way, and the world was so vibrant and full of color it took my breath away.  I felt in every fiber of myself that the world sucked right now, and yet somehow the green of the new leaves and the blue of the sky seemed brighter than I’ve seen them in a while.

Charmed life, right?  I recovered quickly and remembered that my minor grievances today didn’t mean much.  People have real problems.  And yet, even the minor hiccup in my undaunted positivity gave me some clarity for what would come next.

A Quiet Compassion

In the short twenty-odd hours since my nasty commute a couple of things have happened.  Late last night I got in touch with a friend who days ago suffered the loss of an ex she was still very much in love with.  I’ll not share her story as that would be an abuse of my blogging powers, but I was compelled to reach out to her.

When I was nineteen I lost someone very close to me without warning.  It was devastating.  It changed my entire life, and in large part inspired the book I’m self-publishing this summer.  Seeing the parallels in my friend’s situation, how could I not reach out and offer her support.  She graciously responded and, idiot me, the first thing I tried to do was reassure her that all this pain was only temporary.

I remember people telling me that.  I remember how those words turned my stomach and made me want to scream.  Of course I knew, even when it was all so fresh, that it was going to get better.  That didn’t help in the moment though.  I needed to be sad and angry.  I needed to grieve.

And that is what my friend needs now.  I realized the error of my ways, backed up, and just offered her my ear.  I’m going to check in again in a couple of days.  Whatever she wants to talk about, she can talk about.  I’ll listen.  If she wants my rosy outlook, she’ll ask for it.

Then this morning our very close friends had to put down a beloved pet.  It’s been a while coming, and I think they were prepared, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  My boundless optimism is here if they need it, but I think at the moment my quiet compassion will go a lot farther.

Yesterday I might not have had the same discretion.

Living to the Point of Tears

By Robert Edwards (http://books.atheism.ru/gallery/kamu/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Albert Camus famously said “Live to the point of tears.”  I forget sometimes, when things are going so well, that this is also a part of my personal mantra.  The emotional peaks and bottomless canyons of life are the moments we remember most—the times when we are so happy or so sad; the deviations from the base-line.

I forget, for the sake of my monochromatic glasses, that to feel is human, there is beauty in sadness as in joy, and that every experience should be savored.

My little breakdown yesterday does not compare in any way to the loss of a person or a pet, but it was a gentle reminder to sometimes seek the clarity of a different perspective.

So to those of you feeling something other than happy today, feel free to stop by for a cup of positivity if you’d like it.  Or just stop by for some quiet compassion.  I’ve got both on tap, and you’re welcome to them.

As always, your comments are encouraged and appreciated below.

Thanks for reading,

Gregory

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

pjlazos - May 11, 2017

Beautiful post. I have a tendency to fix things with positivity, too, but sometimes we just need to listen.

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 11, 2017

    Thank you! Yeah, I’m not sure when I FORGOT to listen first, but I’m glad I’ve remembered now. Positivity fixes a lot, but sometimes it just isn’t quite appropriate.

    Reply
Stef - May 11, 2017

Positive people are great, and I truly admire them, as optimism is a skill I’ve never mastered. But the friends I value most are compassionate and understanding, and even when things suck, they get it….sometimes things just suck and you need someone to stand in the suckiness with you.

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 11, 2017

    Thank you Stef. Whether it’s on a mountain in Maine or in remote solidarity, I’m always pleased to stand by you in suckiness! Thank you as always for reading! ❤️

    Reply
mcpersonalspace54 - May 11, 2017

That was a great post. My sister lives near Boston so it was very easy to imagine your commuting troubles! Your post was great in that it got me to think about whether or not I am an optimist or a pessimist. I think I am somewhat in the middle. I work really hard at seeing the positive in things, but sometimes I just don’t, and maybe that isn’t always a bad thing! I have had a pretty cruddy couple of years and I think it has made me a much stronger person. It also helps me to better understand people’s problems and to be more of an empathetic person since I’ve dealt with things that I never thought I would. Thanks…Michael

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 11, 2017

    Thank you Michael. I’m glad the post got you thinking. A balance between positive and not so is definitely a good thing. It’s hard to fully appreciate the highs if you never experience the lows. Thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment.

    Also, I picked up the bike today, so my commute was a LOT nicer. Now I’ll only be on that pesky bus when it’s raining.

    Reply
Paul Sunstone - May 12, 2017

What a wonderful post! I think you are very wise to recognize that human resilience so often requires one to grieve for a loss. Quite frequently, it’s how we bounce back.

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 12, 2017

    Thank you Paul! Yes. I think it is also possible to get stuck in grief, which may require some intervention, but generally these situations take as long as they take before resolving themselves. Thank you for stopping by!

    Reply
Jodi Payne - May 12, 2017

It’s a tough balance — wanting to lift people up, wanting to lift yourself up, but at the same time knowing that there are some things that don’t require a fix, they just need time to breathe and to dissipate. I absolutely go for the fix first. It’s instinct, or perhaps even a defense mechanism. I do stop myself, but often just in the nick of time. Thanks for dropping that twitter comment about the license plate into my morning, and making me want to click through. This was a great read to go with my coffee.

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 12, 2017

    Thanks for stopping by, Jodi! I think it’s natural to go for the fix first, and yes, it’s quite possibly a defense mechanism. I hate to see people suffer, so my gut reaction is to try to assuage it when I see it. Thinking about it as a defense mechanism, I guess that could be as much for my own benefit as for the sufferer.

    Have a great day!

    Reply
Erin Sabotta - May 12, 2017

How would we know what happiness is if we’re never sad? Love this post, thanks Greg <3

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Wind Kisses - May 12, 2017

Great reminder. And…great minds think alike. You are just much better at writing it out. Boston is “home” for me. Loved this take me back…

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 12, 2017

    Thank you! You are very kind. And it looks like we both induced a little nostalgia. . . for me the desert and for you New England. Thank you for reading!

    Reply
A.S. Akkalon - May 12, 2017

Great post. I’m generally a pretty positive person myself, but I think as writers (as well as humans) we have to experience and accept the whole range of emotions, bad as well as good. And feeling the bad makes the good feel so much sweeter.

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    Gregory Josephs - May 12, 2017

    I absolutely agree. To be totally honest with you writer to writer, I was surprised at where this post went when I wrote it. The live to the point of tears bit is something I’ve really tried to make a centerpiece of my personal philosophy, and I’ve realized in the last couple days how far I’ve drifted from it in the name of constant positivity. 😊

    I’m glad I’ve reminded myself again, and the gracious comments in this thread have reinforced my memory.

    Thanks for reading!

    Reply
Get in My Head - May 16, 2017

I am a couple posts behind because of my laptop problems.. but I love this post. And.. I’m going to make my husband read it.. 😉 He is the epitome of rose colored glasses. I love that about him though. Before the craziness of the last couple of years, I was generally a positive person too(melancholy, but happy and content). I’m sure people thought that my husband and I were the most annoying couple on the planet because we were always happy and up beat.
Now, being on the other side of that in this season of life.. I miss it, I appreciate people like you and my husband-you remind me of the joy that is still floating around and that there are still good people.
But, I have to be honest, it can be both a great comfort to live with someone who always sees the silver lining and it can cause a lot of tension at times… You pointed out something important: ‘my quiet compassion will go a lot farther.’ I love that line so much I want to print it out and post it all over my house… it’s an important reminder for all of us.
Thank you so much for sharing. What a wonderful way to start my Tuesday morning. 😉

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 16, 2017

    And reading this lovely comment is a wonderful way to start MY Tuesday morning! Thank you!

    Exercising quiet compassion is tough for me sometimes because my default is to approach every situation like it’s a problem that can be solved. Sometimes that just isn’t the case though (I don’t need to tell you). Time and understanding are the only remedies.

    I’m really touched that you liked this post. I think I learned some things about myself writing it that I only half-knew before. 😊

    Good luck with the computer! One way or another that nightmare will be over soon. I hope you have a great rest of your day!

    Reply
cracTpot - May 25, 2017

I always feel uncomfortable when people compliment me on my rose coloured glasses because I’m quite aware that they can be a rather selfish accessory. I simply cannot imagine the stress of finding myself lost and feeling miserable without the guilty pleasure of being able to turn it into an adventure and an opportunity to try out a restaurant on the other side of town. I HAVE to be able to see the bright side of a situation mostly because I don’t like the idea of facing the darkness without a night light…and maybe a unicorn onesie…because those things are comfy as heck!

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - May 25, 2017

    I love and mostly share your outlook! I’m not sure I could take myself seriously in a onesie though. . . they are comfortable, but I’m not sure I could go there. 😉

    Reply
      cracTpot - May 25, 2017

      Honestly, it belonged to my teen daughter and I wore it ONE time when I wasn’t feeling well and I was addicted…
      Hi, my name is Cractpot, and I’m a hot pink Pegasus unicorn 🙂

      Reply
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