(My fellow dork optimist, Sue Heck)
Here’s where I’ll confess that I wrote this almost a month ago and was just about to post it when something unexpected and quite unpleasant happened to us that on the face of it should have been a simple matter but turned (through no fault of ours) into a grueling and draining situation that really put the sense of hope and optimism I wrote about below to the test. I was feeling so discouraged and disheartened that it seemed almost disingenuous to write about my sense of hope and optimism when I was feeling quite the opposite. It’s important to me to write true and honest here, and so far, I have. And, truth be told, I’m still feeling a bit cranky. But I realized that maybe the Thirty Days of Grateful Praise exercise I mention might be the very thing to pull me out of my funk. So here goes…
I really don’t watch much television, but there’s one show about an average, ordinary middle-class family that I love. It comes on right in the middle of the week (Wednesday nights), is set right in the middle of the U.S.A. (Indiana), and is called (perhaps not surprisingly) “Middle.”
I love it because it’s so real. Although the lives of the Heck family are often messy and far from perfect, almost always in the end, love and hope prevail. (Not unlike the Blue Ridge Blue Collar family, I guess). I find all the characters on the show compelling (though I often want to throttle Axl, the arrogant oldest son), but I really, really love Axl’s younger sister, Sue.
It’s an odd thing perhaps for a middle-aged woman to choose as her role model a barely-out-of-middle school teenage girl (who’s just a television character, at that), but I have. Sue Heck is my role model.
Sue has an enduring (and completely endearing) optimism that remains steadfast no matter how many times life knocks her down. And life knocks her down a lot. Although she almost never makes the cut, she continues to try out for everything at school. Although the “popular” crowd in high school rejects her, she cheerfully continues to be herself. And although her brother Axl belittles her, too, she continues to love him as he is. Sure, sometimes she has moments of despair and discouragement, but she always bounces back; she is always steadfastly resilient. (In fact, I think Sue’s picture should be beside the word “resilient” in the dictionary.)
In one episode, when Axl was continuously disparaging of Sue (in the way that older brothers can be), Sue was so persistently sunny and hopeful in the face of it that even Axl finally had to show a grudging admiration. “You’re like this…dork optimist,” he said to Sue.
Benjamin happened to see that show with us, and afterward, laughing, he said to me, “That’s who you are, Mama…you’re a dork optimist.”
Now I suppose not everyone would be happy to be called a dork optimist, but I was honored. And I guess it’s true. The “dork” part, I suppose, applies since that’s the way the world often regards those of us who don’t conform to the norm and insist on being ourselves. And I’ve always been blessed with the ability to find humor and hope in bleak situations and to find joy in the smallest pleasures. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I was like that as a child, and I’m like that now. So often, I still find the greatest delight in the very things that others dismiss or overlook.
So, in honor of Sue Heck and dork optimists everywhere, I’m going to do something a little different from my usual long, rambling, occasional posts. I’m going to write (starting sometime soon) a little post every day for at least thirty days, naming thirty things big or small that I’m thankful for—thirty things that give me joy. We’ll call it “Thirty Days of Grateful Praise.” Of course, I don’t expect anyone to comment every day, but I’d be pleased to hear from you during that period about what makes you happy. What delights you—big or small, silly or serious, shallow or deep? I’d really love to know your simple pleasures, too.
After all, we dork optimists need to stick together, right?