stumbling toward optimism

Stumbling Toward Optimism

Heather and I naturally gravitate toward the bleak. Optimism has traditionally been anathema to our shared world view.

We’re not proud of our glass half empty –  more like glass-broke-and-hope-leaked-all-over-the-counter – outlook. But it’s become ingrained. Brush teeth, shower, think about how we are going to die one day and how it has all been for naught.

Twenty-five years ago in a single weekend I went to see Glengarry Glen Ross and Waterland, and rented the John Cassavettes’ classic A Woman Under the Influence. If you’ve never seen those films, don’t. At least not without a bottle of Prozac and the local suicide hotline on speed dial. These are three of the most depressing films ever made. Yet, a quarter century later, I still refer to this as the most enjoyable film viewing weekend of my life.

Our version of Optimism
Our version of optimism. Image by Kurt Bauschardt

Heather, in turn, would dominate a game show called “What’s the Worst that Can Happen?”. No one can identify how everything might go to hell better than Heather. When an ambiguous situation arises with a range of possible outcomes, it’s like watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar.  She’s a virtuoso of pessimism. WebMD is bookmarked on her laptop. “I think it’s a tumor” is her most common utterance following a symptom search.

I understand this description of our personalities has assured none of you will be messaging us to grab a beer. However, despite our dearth of optimism, we do know how to laugh and have fun. We poke fun at ourselves and everyone else that lives and breathes, and laugh more than most couples I know.

Herein lies our goal for life in general and for our poker pilgrimage specifically. We need to spend more time dawdling in the land of optimism and less doing the dance macabre in the bottomless void of nihilism. Life has much to offer. We each have two children from previous marriages, and all four are healthy, great kids. Although parenting teenagers is a daily spin on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, we always count ourselves fortunate that these are the kids we got.

Yeah, we have each other, feel like soul mates, deserve each other (our exes might agree with that as well), etc. No one wants to hear that loving, mushy stuff. But, at minimum, it appears that “mutual restraining order” is not in our future.

glass-broke-and-hope-leaked-all-over-the-counter outlookClick To Tweet

Nonetheless, we want to infuse our lives with more meaning and enjoyment. Our pilgrimage is as much about our individual and collective soul searching as it is about travelling around the country enjoying poker venues. Poker may seem an odd mechanism on the path to enlightenment: the Dalai Lama probably isn’t bluff 4-betting the other monks at the monastery. But for two people who love games, enjoy the interpersonal, strategy, and math skills that poker requires, are stimulated by creativity and competition, and are compelled by the personalities that inhabit card rooms, poker feeds much of what drives us.

This journey will hopefully serve to actualize our poker avocation while offering the opportunity to find new ways to experience and view the world. A change in perspective is in order. We want to see what the people of Oklahoma, Florida, California, and Indiana can show us about how they live and think. Hopefully the journey will add new dimensions to the way we interact with the world at large and those close to us.

But mostly, it’s optimism we hope to cull from these travels; a future outlook that sees more good than bad in the world. When it is all over we hope to have found a path that takes us by the former more often than the latter.

Perhaps someday one of us will even see that glass as half full!

 

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