You can choose to be an optimist

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 21, 2008

Most of my columns are about memories, some recent, some far, far back.

The other day I was reading an article that was asking how much memories decide who we are. It came to my mind off and on for several days. Are we made up of what has come before in our lives? Many people claim atrocities occur because of someone’s childhood.

As I thought about how it might apply to my life, I saw several things. It would be so easy in life if we could place the blame for our bad behavior on someone else while taking credit for our good behavior. I just think that is a cop out on responsibility. Our lives are a sum total of our choices. Memories have a definite impact on us but it is mostly in what we choose to dwell on.

If I decide to wallow in the bad things of my life, have bad feelings, blame people for their treatment of me, then my life will probably be one filled with bad things. I will probably be filled with hate and not treat others very well.

This kind of life is disastrous to the person living it. These kinds of feelings eat you up inside, make your life miserable and can eventually cause illnesses and kill you.

How much better to look the bad things in the face forgive people and choose to leave those bad feelings behind. If they pop up from time to time, we can choose to put them away and replace them with happier memories.

You may think I don’t know what I’m talking about. I can assure you that you would be shocked if you knew some of the things that have happened to me in life, but I have survived them and I am happy.

God, of course, has been my mainstay, but I had to choose to dwell on the happy memories of my past and forgive those who are a part of the bad times.

And not only forgive them, but love them. This is not easy to do but it has to be a conscious decision on our part. When you make that decision, God will help you carry it through if you are a believer.

I don’t know how it works if you don’t have His help, but I do know that we have a choice to be an optimist or a pessimist, to be happy or unhappy, to see the good or see the bad, to hold on or turn loose.

We can change the way we handle our lives. I have always been an optimist. There are times I get down and discouraged but it doesn’t last long. I have learned to survive by allowing myself to grieve for whatever has happened, get up, began putting it behind me and build again.

All I can tell you is: we do not have the ability to control what happens to us in life, but we do have the control over what we do with it. We can become unhappy, miserable, taking the bad things that happened to us out on others. Or we can choose to learn from the things that happened to us and make a mental decision to make our life and the life of those around us better because of the things we’ve learned.

I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, choose to be happy and content.

Sylvia Hughes is a retired newspaper editor and a regular contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. She can be reach via email at