I like to live my live with PMA-Positive Mental Attitude. It’s not that I’m an optimist, necessarily, because I don’t necessarily think everybody’s lives are going to have a happy ending. It’s more that I take the view that there’s only so much we can control in this world, and we ought to try to focus on the good things along the way. Of course that’s easy for me to say, given that I’ve never known true hardship.
Some days, though, it’s tough to get that PMA. Maybe a bridge collapses, or a war with no rhyme or reason goes on, with ominous stirrings of other wars to come with exciting new boogeymen. Or maybe a credit crunch you don’t understand happens, which rocks the financial sector you don’t understand, and you listen to too many stories about doomsday scenarios you don’t understand, which normally wouldn’t bring you down except your financial future and the future of practically everybody you know is in some way tied up with these little-understood events. Or maybe it’s one of the three out of every four years when the entire country is in a partisan spasm of political dogmatism, which also wouldn’t get you down except there are too many people who don’t see things the way you do.
One of the hard parts about having kids is figuring out how not to squash their hopes under a mountain of temporal pessimism, while also not making them into pollyannas who don’t see the world for what it sometimes is. At some point as a parent you realize that no matter how you try to present the world, your view of it at that particular time is going to come through. The best you can do is figure out which days might not be the best ones to explain certain things. What may be a bad day for you when you say things you don’t really mean might be the only time they remember you talking about a certain subject.
Sometimes I think it’s all going to collapse–all of it. The economy, the political structure, the environment, all of it. It seems so clear that we are Rome for the 21st century. On days like that I think about selling everything we have, learning basic sustenance techniques, and moving to a remote area of Montana or somewhere else off the beaten path. Not exactly PMA, is it?
But I never tell my kids I sometimes want to head for the hills. For them there is only the opportunity to make the world better, to blaze their own trail of friendships, accomplishments and discoveries. Pessimism isn’t for the young, so I’m keeping my mouth shut for now. Oh, I’ll tell them things are wrong when appropriate. I don’t shelter them. But I’ll keep my mountain retreat fantasy to myself for a few more years, I think.