Hope vs. the worst-case-scenario

I love the feeling of being hopeful and excited and anticipating good things. It’s a rush. The future is wide open and bright and great things are comin’ around the mountain. In contrast, when things take a disappointing turn, which they often do, it’s like a punch in the gut. Sometimes being let down hurts so much that I can’t catch my breath.

I have to ask myself: are the hopeful moments worth the disappointment that often follows? Is it better to not allow yourself to believe good things will happen in the first place so that you have less distance to fall when things come crashing down?

I posed a question on the Meredith Schorr, Author page on Facebook asking people if they allowed themselves to get excited and hopeful about things or if they were always focused on the worst case scenario and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under them. I got mixed responses. I’m somewhere in between.

I do allow myself to get keyed up about things. I try to be cautious and stay in the moment, but I do find myself getting revved up about the “possibilities” and I have to consciously reign myself in. But no matter how many times reality does not meet my expectations and I swear to never allow myself to believe the best case scenario is within my grasp, I find myself living that high again at some point.

On the flip side, even when things are looking good and there is no reason to suspect anything bad will happen, I automatically assume the worst is just around the corner and the slightest suggestion that something *might* be off sets me into a panic and a whirlwind of self-doubt. Even though I allow myself to get excited for a period of time, part of me is always waiting for things to fall to shit. Probably because they usually do. And usually, it is the precise moment when I allow myself to consider that maybe my doubts are in my head—a result of bad past experiences—that disappointment sets in. And when, through no fault of own and with the best of intentions, I find myself defeated and beaten down, I  insist I’ll never be able to pick myself up and begin again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my sister that I can’t do it anymore—I can’t keep dusting myself off and starting from scratch when failure is imminent.

But it feels so good to be hopeful. When I’m in positive spirits, it’s contagious as I am better able to talk my friends off the ledge too. I smile more. I have more patience. I go to sleep with a sense of peace and look forward to the days ahead of me. Each day I have faith is a day I enjoy living. That’s not to say I never engage in a pity-party of one. When the shit undoubtedly hits the fan, I cry. I sulk. I curl on my couch watching mindless television. I text my sister insisting nothing will ever work out for me. I enlist my friends to go out with me for a drink (or three). And I scream at my best friend Alan for dying and leaving me without his guidance and unflagging certainty that someone as special as me should always have hope because I, more than anyone else he knows, deserves to be happy. But then I wake up, dust myself off and start all over again. I don’t really have a choice.

So, at the end of the day, I guess I believe the hopeful moments, however fleeting sometimes, are well worth the subsequent crash and burn. And even if I didn’t believe it, it’s who I am and if the past is any indication of the future, it’s who I will always be.

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Comments

  1. What a lovely, honest, post, Meredith. I admit to often being a pessimist when I really hope something good will happen for me. I hate getting my feelings hurt, so it’s so much easier sometimes to pretend I have no chance. On the other hand, so many of my friends truly believe in the power of positive thinking, and visualizing success, and all of that. And I’ve got to say, they’ve had some really good things happen to them.

  2. paulinewiles says:

    I wish I were more optimistic but the sad truth is, I’m cautious and often let small things make me glum. That said, you got me thinking about how things usually turn out better than I expected, and perhaps I could learn to trust the universe a bit more. The only area where I’m an eternal optimist is how much I can get done in any given hour/day/week: on that front, I launch into life with blissful self-delusion about productive outcomes 🙂
    I was so sorry to read about your friend Alan. But I enjoyed your poignant and simple words about waking up and dusting off. Beautifully said.

    • Thanks, Pauline. I think there is definitely a balance between having faith and being realistic or at least cautious. There have just been too many times when I’ve been so taken aback by something bad happening when I wasn’t expecting it, and I wished I could have allowed myself to consider the possibility. For instance, I never allowed myself to believe Alan would die despite the fact that he had cancer, and when he did, I was not at all prepared. And then there is my love life…

  3. I have this conversation with one of my friends at work all the time. We both wish we could be a little more like the other. She is so optimistic and I am a realist bordering on a pessimist…

  4. I, too, have been struggling with a series of let-downs lately, which tempted me to say, “Screw it! I’m never going to make plans or get my hopes up again.” However, it’s been scientifically proven that setting low expectations doesn’t lead to less disappointment or more happiness. Rather, it’s important for us to hope, even if things don’t always (or even rarely) turn out the way we dream. So you’re right to keep on hopin’, and *I* hope the next exciting thing is just around the corner and that you allow yourself to fully embrace and enjoy it.

    • Thanks, Brea. That’s what I keep telling myself. I rarely have any control over the eventual outcome so I might as well enjoy the periods of hope and happiness. It’s always nice to read it in someone else’s words so thank you for the reminder.

  5. It’s difficult to remain hopeful when past experiences have made you cynical and guarded. I can definitely relate. I am no longer the optimist I once was, but at the same time, I believe it’s much healthier for my psyche to try and remain optimistic and hopeful, no matter how many times I’m let down. The last thing I want to become is a bitter, Debbie-downer. I would always rather try to find the bright side of things, but I know it’s hard sometimes, Meredith. Chin up! 🙂

    • I agree, Shelly. I don’t want to be a negative person and I do believe that negative breeds negative (like a self-fulfilling prophesy). But sometimes I feel very foolish for allowing myself to be positive about certain things…Like “Duh, Meri. You should know better!” Thanks for commenting!!

  6. Well said! Don’t we all have times like that. I remember a point in my life when I felt like I was in an ocean and every wave was coming at me knocking me down time and time again. And when I felt like I could stand up and be strong there was another, stronger wave around the corner ready to knock me under again. I just got so tired of it and it seemed like there would always be another wave, and never any peaceful waters. And then one day it all stopped.

    It’s so hard to be positive on the down days. But this too shall pass and one day hope good things will not only come they will stay 🙂

  7. Your honesty is contagious, Meredith. I find myself wanting to spill all after reading one of your posts. Like you, I can sink into the depths and pull myself out on the strength of hope and persistence in the belief that it WILL get better. It always does. Or usually does. Eventually. Keep on keeping on. And remember, there’s always the beach 🙂

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