Eye-Opening Moments Podcast

How to be an Optimist (and more)

November 21, 2023 Emily Kay Tan Episode 95
Eye-Opening Moments Podcast
How to be an Optimist (and more)
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Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about How to be an Optimist and What Tolerating Means.

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Hello and welcome to episode #95 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about How to Be an Optimist and What Tolerating Means.

How to be an Optimist
If you ever wish to have minimal to no complaints or stop complaining, you must listen to Fiona. Everyone complains about something at one time or another. There can be something for us to complain about every day. Life is not most enjoyable that way. To avoid such a demise, you must listen to Fiona. After listening to her for hours, you will want to be the most optimistic person you can be. And there is a way to do it and make it a life habit.

Fiona was someone I used to work with; fortunately, I didn’t see her every day. When I did run into her, she would share something that made her unhappy. If something angered her where she was fuming, she’d come looking for me to tell me all about it. It was always about one person or another person. It was frequently about how she didn’t like how things were handled or managed. I don’t want to specify, or she will start complaining about me behind my back!

Sometimes, we would get together for dinner. I would feel glad to have a friend to chat with as I was on my way to meet her. However, after our dinner together, I would frequently regret the meetup. During dinner, she would complain about somebody. Then she would complain about the administration. She complained about every little thing. I didn’t know there were so many things to complain about. Every so often, I would try to change the subject, but each time I did, she would quickly return to her complaints in a matter of seconds. I gave up on trying to change the topic.

I would often give a listening ear and suggest a possible positive view of some situations; she refused to hear it and insisted that her opinion was correct. I would try to see what other topics she could be interested in talking about so that the complaints would not persist, but she would complain for hours and hours. I have even asked, “Do you have anything positive to say?” She’d quickly say, “No,” and continue with her complaints.

Sure, I have complaints of my own too, but I think I can wrap it up in an hour or less. When I hear Fiona complaining for four hours or more, my relaxed head with no tension begins to tense up. After five hours, I have a headache, and my evening is ruined. I end up going home needing to unwind or meditate. After so many times of engaging in conversation with her and trying to give a listening ear, I decided to minimize it. It was not good for my health. I have enough problems of my own and didn’t need more to give me headaches. Though the talks gave me headaches and tension, she reminded me of something fundamental.

I know I don’t want to live life complaining about everything and never finding anything good in people or situations. I was reasonably optimistic before I met her, but I think I have been even more optimistic since I met her. Life is too short to live with such pessimism! 

How could I be more optimistic? Many years ago, I attended a seminar that had an activity we needed to do for thirty days. It was simple and doable. All I had to do was write ten positive things that happened each day. If I couldn’t think of anything positive, I needed to find it and make my ten. Sometimes, I would write I enjoyed a shower, a meal, or a bag of chips, or I cheered up seeing someone smile. It could be as simple as that, and you’d appreciate more things in your life. I did do it for thirty days, and the results were astounding. From that day forward, I could always find positive things in people and situations. Even though I no longer regularly write the daily ten positives, I can easily pick up a pen and write them without difficulty. Further, I look for the positive whenever I am in a bad situation. It could be a lesson to learn, an insight, a new perspective, or something I could improve. 

I don’t want to live life like Fiona. It must be painful for her. Hopefully, one day, she will hear my suggestions and be more optimistic. Hearing her complaints definitely reminds me to stay positive.

It has been more than twenty years since I did the task of the daily ten, and it has stayed with me. I didn’t realize its long-lasting effects until I began to write about my adversities. Friends and strangers who heard my podcast about hardships commented that I had a knack for finding the positives out of challenges and wondered how I could stay positive. It then occurred to me that I had developed another way to overcome challenges: Put on the lenses that help me see the perspectives that will help me move forward. Optimism can only bring you joy in between. As Oscar Wilde stated, “The optimist sees the donut; the pessimist sees the hole.”

What Tolerating Means
Growing up with Grandma Sandy, I hated her constant repetition of the same story about how Mom sacrificed herself to marry my dad so the whole family could come to America for a better life. Grandma Sandy was relentless in repeating the same story over and over. It was as if she thought I didn't understand, so she needed to repeat herself; how could I have tolerated it for over ten years?

I was a quiet girl; I didn't say much, so I didn't know what provoked her to bring up the story of Mom's sacrifice. She probably saw the frowns on my face that said I could care less about Mom, who abandoned me. Grandma Sandy would say, "You need to love your mother. She sacrificed herself for the good of the whole family. Mom had an arranged marriage to Dad because Dad's parents could come to the United States. The union provided a connection or a chance for Grandma's family to immigrate to America. I heard Mom didn't want to marry Dad and already had a boyfriend she liked. I heard Grandpa forced her into marriage at the age of sixteen. Grandma told me all this and expected me to love my mom for it.

Sometimes, I hated spending time with Grandma Sandy because she frequently talked about Mom's sacrifice. It only reminded me of how much I resented Mom. When Grandma moved to America and saw how four kids were a handful for my teenage Mom, she offered to take one off her hands. Mom chose me, the second child who was five years old. I suppose Grandma thought she was helping Mom and was willing to do anything to help Mom with her sacrifice. They never thought about how it would negatively impact my life. Hearing Grandma talk about Mom only made me hate her more. Hate is a strong word and is the correct word to use in my relationship with Mom.

How could I endure such pain while listening to Grandma Sandy go on with the same story? It was like putting a large piece of steel on my heart and pressing it to make blood slowly seep out. Oxygen would also be gradually extracted. Could I survive the pain or live another day like a human being? I didn't know how to tolerate it all, but I knew I had to because I was a kid. I knew I needed Grandma to feed me and give me a home; she was the only willing adult, and I needed to appreciate it.

Day after day, I prayed for the day I could leave and care for myself. I didn't want to hear about Mom; I didn't want to be reminded of feeling abandoned, unwanted and unloved. "Please, dear God, if you exist, will you help relieve my pain? Mom's stories are torturous for me. Why won't Grandma Sandy stop with the stories?" my inner voice would say repeatedly.

Why didn't I take to the streets and be a prostitute, join a gang, steal for food, and do drugs or alcohol? I didn't know. I couldn't stand Grandma Sandy's nagging to love my mother; it was emotional torture. Though Grandma was poor, she gave me a home and food to eat; she taught me how to be a good girl and study hard in school. I had to be thankful for her care and motherly stance. I just hoped I could survive and not take to the streets.

I endured and tolerated over ten years of emotionally painful reminders. I believed that I triumphed and thought my ability to handle it showed my strength in character. And I showed Mom that I didn't need her; I demonstrated that I could live on and be okay without her. I was going to do good things with my life, and she would know that she could not claim any credit. Now I know why I didn't take to the streets! By being a good girl, as Grandma constantly lectured me to be, I was a good girl, and my revenge on Mom was not allowing her to have any credit for it. The dark side of me seeped out without anyone noticing, but I felt the pain of toleration.

I got myself a college degree, a teaching career, and a decent life I worked hard to attain. I tolerated many things along the way, believing tolerance would lead to a better tomorrow. Sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn't. And then I got married.

I tolerated an anal husband and lived life walking on eggshells, not knowing what would trigger his explosive temper. I had escaped enduring Grandma Sandy's stories, which gave me much emotional pain. Now I found myself in another situation that demanded more tolerance. 

I had to tolerate it and find a way to improve it because I didn't believe in divorce. I believed in keeping my word to be married "for better or for worse." When something angered my husband, he would scream and lecture me for two hours each time. It would never be less than two hours. He was very self-righteous, and his words were demeaning. "How could you not know the answer? You call yourself a teacher; how could you be a teacher?" he'd say. It hurt. I put myself through school and prided myself on becoming a teacher; here, he was degrading me. How could it not hurt? 

In another instance, when he wanted to know something or solve a problem, I was the one he turned to for help. He would attack me with a nasty comment if I had no answer. "And you have a Master's degree? How did you get it? You can't even answer my question." He said it many times; it stung. He had parents who paid for his education, so I guess he couldn't understand my struggles of paying for my own education and appreciating my efforts to achieve what I did. How could he be so hurtful? Why did I tolerate his adverse treatment of me?

I asked myself how I could bear him when he got into a rampage. I asked myself what I did to cause him to behave or treat me in such a manner. What could I do to stop him? I tried to reason with him, be silent, and let him have his way, and to no avail. I had a Master's degree; he didn't, so I suppose he needed to attack me to make himself feel better. I was a teacher, and he was an engineer. He attacked the worthiness of my career by boasting about how he made more money than me. I tried to understand his behavior. I suppose he needed to treat me as he did to make himself feel better as a human being, but didn't he know it would cost the marriage?

I tolerated some more as he did have some good qualities, like being a planner and a family man. I was also a planner and cared about having a family. We had similar values, but our personalities clashed. I am a peace lover, and he got thrills out of picking a fight to show his righteousness. He nitpicked, and I didn't feel one could enjoy life with so much fault-finding. I continued to tolerate thinking that no marriage was perfect.

My husband and I both had a career. Besides working, I cooked and cleaned, managed our finances, and did everything inside the house. He washed and maintained the cars, watered the fruit trees we planted in the backyard, mowed the lawn, and did everything outside the home. I thought that the natural division of tasks was agreeable. But I was wrong. He complained that I didn't help him mow the lawn and wash the cars. I explained that I already did everything inside the house, so why did I also have to help with the tasks he could do outside? He responded, "If you don't know how to change the oil and wash the car, you shouldn't be driving a car. If you don't help water the fruit trees, you shouldn't eat them when they ripen." It was disheartening. Not only was I not appreciated for all the tasks I did inside the house, but I also had to assist him with the outdoor tasks. It seemed like no matter what I did, I could not please him enough. How did I end up getting this husband? Even I began to knock myself down. 

I thought my marriage would need to go on for the rest of my life. My efforts did not seem to make things much better, so I sought help. My mother-in-law offered me solace in her home. His older brother didn't know how I could endure the pettiness and anality and had no suggestions. My male friends sympathized with me but had no ideas either. I still had the idea that divorce was not the option I wanted. Last, I decided to take a personal development seminar to help me solve the problems in my marriage that I did not know how to tolerate any longer. 

After taking the class, I realized my happiness and freedom were at stake. I had to choose myself, or I wouldn't be good for anyone. Further, I didn't deserve to be disrespected and demeaned. After seven long years, I finally divorced and ended the pain of tolerating it.

Many years later, the global pandemic of the Covid-19 virus happened. At the same time, I was working to move abroad amid a travel ban. It was one of my biggest challenges in life, but I fought through it with some creativity and overcame the challenge. I finally returned to the land of paradise where I once lived for some years. I thought I would finally enjoy some relief after some significant difficulties, but I was in for a shock. 

Things were no longer the same as before. I was angry that I didn't enjoy a carefree life of travel as I did before because the pandemic travel restrictions were still in place. I was mad that the convenience I enjoyed previously was no longer because I no longer lived where it was most convenient. Location mattered as my primary mode of transportation was my feet. Infuriated with a new generation of wealthy and spoiled students who had an unpleasant and disrespectful attitude to adults, I no longer enjoyed working with children. Enraged that I was deceived by a promise that was given to me and broken, I was livid. All these things combined with having my anger continue to bubble and boil underneath. Maybe you couldn't see it, but smoke was coming out of my head, nose, and ears.

After two long years of anger, the volcano in me erupted and exploded. I confronted, communicated, and addressed the latter two problems, and as for the pandemic, the borders were beginning to open. Suddenly, I felt like a great boulder was lifted off my shoulders. I couldn't believe how much lighter I felt. The tightness to the sides of my head and the pressure on the top of my head dissipated. The rumbling in my throat quieted down. The temperature of my anger was no longer boiling over.

In the next instance, I had an aha moment. I realized what tolerating meant. I tolerated Grandma for over ten years and Hubby for seven years. I thought myself admirable and tough to have endured. Other little tolerances which lasted fewer years were not in the forefront to fuss about in my head. I had a knack for tolerating many things and was proud of it because it was no easy feat! But for the two-plus years of a situation where I was angry for two long years, I got what I did. I created my misery. I disrespected myself by allowing others to treat me in a way that was not acceptable to me. I did not stand up for myself and exercise my freedom of speech which was entirely in my power. It was an eye-opening moment.

I tortured myself, made myself suffer, and inflicted pain upon myself by tolerating so long. I had blamed others for my misery, but now I realized I was the one who tormented myself. The longer I tolerated something, the more I made myself suffer and hurt. Recognizing the self-induced pain or what I had done to myself all these years, I, as a result, proclaim to free myself from more toleration. I shall stand up for myself and speak up. I shall not allow myself to suffer much for anything or anyone anymore!

Key Takeaways: Though we can have complaints daily, complaining all the time can only bring us misery. Seeing and writing ten positive things daily can help develop an optimistic mindset. If you don't choose to do it, hear Fiona complain for 4-5 hours and give yourself a headache!

Though I thought the ability to tolerate was a positive trait, I learned it was self-induced pain that I could avoid. Relieving yourself from the pain by standing up for yourself and respecting yourself is crucial.

Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Road Rage and When I Forgot Myself. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!




How to be an Optimist
What Tolerating Means
Key Takeaways