The Pangloss Life…

Erin Schaden
5 min readFeb 24, 2024

I am an optimist. I don’t love this about myself sometimes. Sometimes I do not want to see the “bright” side. I would rather be morose and dark and twisty. But my forays into the pessimist’s reality, for me, are short lived and infrequent.

I just see that there is always cause to be happy. There is always a bright side even if there is more darkness than light. I can always see the light, even if it is only a pinprick of light in a rather dim and depressing canvas.

So I am, for good or bad, a pangloss.

Sigh.

I know, you are probably thinking, why are you bemoaning this whole positive outlook thing that you possess?

And the only answer I have is: it totally kicks my ass in so many ways in my life. Repeatedly.

It is this positive leaning that causes me to only see good in people who are showing me, often repeatedly, not that they are “bad” but bad for me. It causes me to stay in situations much longer than I should because I can see the positive, the possibility of healing, the possibility of growth and the possibility of something better and greater to come along.. And so I remain, long after I should have left the building, because my head keeps telling me that at any moment, things are going to turn around for the better.

And sometimes I am actually right.

Often I am dead wrong.

Regardless of which way it veers, I remain steadfast to the only thing that I know for sure…that life, is a generally positive experience and being happy, content and of service makes this sometimes weary drudgery of living, exponentially better.

And I would love to claim some personal responsibility in this whole pangloss living situation…but I can’t. It is just how I am. I don’t try to be this way. I do not have to work on seeing the bright side, I just wake up on it every single day almost without fail. No matter what I presented with, I see and it isn’t even hard, that there is, in fact, something positive in everything, even if sometimes it takes me a few moments to see it.

And on those rare days that I wake up angry, pissed and negative, those are very hard days for someone like me. It is like I am on a date with myself and it is not going well. I am chained to this person that I do not like, do not want to be around and really wish to get the fuck away from…but, but I can’t because she is me.

I have learned that nothing is ever all good or all bad. Not even being a pangloss kind of person. As I mentioned above, being bent towards the positive and happy, often makes me somewhat naive about the motives and desires of others. Susceptible to their manipulations and deceits because I just don’t think like that. I am constantly and consistently ascribing good motives when, in fact, there are none.

So I have spent a fair amount of time, actually more than that in recent years, developing this more pessimistic and negative filter than I can overlay over people and situations to better understand that just because I think all is well, doesn’t actually make it so.

I think my tendency towards skepticism, which I credit my mother for instilling in me, has actually saved me from making larger and more life altering mistakes. Because I remain eternally optimistic about the process of life and living, there is a health dose of “um, really?” that I ask with increasing frequency, mostly as an exercise to force my brain to consider things that do not land naturally or habitually.

I guess my final thought about this cheerful positivity that just wells up in me and spills out all over the place, is that it isn’t me created. I don’t do it. I don’t create it. It is just the way I am. And, if I have no merit in this being how I do life and love and living, then it isn’t anyone’s fault who is bent stupendously in the other direction. They are not creating it either, more than likely, they just see the world from a place of fear, or negative or hard, or bad. And they can’t help that anymore than I can help being happy, joyous and positive.

And that is a good lesson for me. I have a person in my life who is not bent toward the positive and upbeat and life affirming. And I find being around this person to be exhausting. It is like I feel like a vein is opened and I am drained of all my positive flowing life blood which then allows the malcontentedness to set in. And then I start believing this person can help it, should help it and I become that which I have previously regarded as something I do not like, do not want and attempt to avoid…very unpangloss.

Interesting.

One cannot go through one’s life seeking only to be happy, positive and cheerful all the time. I mean, I guess one can, but that is not a realistic idea to hold. Life is going to do what it does, bring great fortune and favor and it is going to take those things as well. It will bring joy, love and abundance, and life will take those very same things and dash them on the rocks of living and loving and breathing and the like.

In the end, I think our happiness, contentment and our zest for the life comes in, when the dust settles, how to do we feel? Do we see the things that happen to us as opportunities or punishment? And how often do we see them this way? For me, they are mostly opportunities…but given days when I am not well rested, sick, tired, hungry or just overwrought by the circumstances of being a living human, I too can view all that happens to me as cause for malcontentedness and even, pessimism.

However, my experience, repeatedly has been that nothing bad or good lasts forever. And it is really what I do with the circumstances of my life that matter. I can only manage my attitude and then my attendant actions. My feelings are all over the place. My thoughts are too. But like the Buddha said, be mindful of what you feel because what you feel begets your thoughts, and be mindful of what you think because your thoughts beget your actions and your actions are the only thing upon which we are judged. And more importantly, our actions are the things we will be ultimately responsible for in this life. It is in our actions that accountability begins and ends.

So I remain forever grateful that in the deep recesses of my being, there is a fountain of pangloss positivity that dwells there and that begets a great deal of loveliness in my life…and the lives of others.

Again.

Still.

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Erin Schaden

Who am I? I am all that I write, all that I learn, share and grow. Read and find out? Check out www.nakedrandomthoughts.com for more.