Posted by: gaylejervis | June 7, 2010


Is it possible to be too optimistic for your own good?  During my last appointment with my doctor in May, he encouraged me by saying that by June my body would be more fully recovered from surgery and would be  reacting less to the environmental inhalants that are prevalent until the first of June.  What I ignored was that this information prefaced his main point of recommending that in June I could therefore begin his full treatment protocol. Now I am not a fool so I understood I had a long journey toward wholeness but I still believed that June would be the beginning of walks and occasional socializing.   Therefore, as I continued to feel quite ill in May, I still began making plans for June since I SHOULD be starting to feel better by then.

I decided that a drive to Invermere could be manageable and that it would be a warm place to start taking regular walks.  I also thought it would be enjoyable to rent a condo in Canmore on the weekend that my daughter-in-law participates in a relay run so that Greg and I could show our support and so that our entire family could enjoy the rest of the weekend together.   I also became excited about the prospect of purchasing a trailer and renting a camp site at our church camp in order to spend some time with my sister-in-law, my family and with church members that I haven’t seen in awhile since I haven’t been able to attend church.

By Saturday morning on June 5th, reality over rode my optimism as I acknowledged that my body is not showing any real indications that June will be  the magical month.  All of our plans were canceled.  That same morning, I called my sister to cancel our going to theatre together – oh, did I forget to mention that I thought ideally I would be ready to socialize and go to a play on June 5th?  I also told her we weren’t leaving for Invermere on Sunday.  She was very empathetic but commented, “I did wonder when you said yesterday that you weren’t going to decide whether you had to cancel going to Invermere for another 24 hours.”  During that conversation I had confidently said,  “sometimes you can just wake up and all of your cold symptoms have disappeared.  And then maybe I’ll be strong enough to go.”  Of course, I was ignoring all of the symptoms that had also developed due to the high humidity as well as the original symptoms that were already going to be challenging,.  Before we ended our conversation on Saturday, I jokingly commented,  “Well, you can’t say I’m not optimistic.”  Gloria laughed and said, “Definitely not!”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines optimism as having “hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favorable or hopeful view.”  I know that my optimism has enabled me from succumbing to a lot of  negative emotions.  Yet   I wonder if it is that same optimism that actually throws me into a temporary emotional tailspin as I recover from canceling my optimistic plans!  I can’t help think of a particularly tough “melt down” on May 9:  I knew that most people return to work within 6 weeks after their hysterectomies and I was dumbfounded that I still felt so miserable.  It didn’t matter to me that I had had a radical hysterectomy and that I had a lot of other health problems, I was indignant that I didn’t feel considerably healthier!   When Greg came into the bathroom hearing me crying, he held me in his arms as I blubbered, “My optimism is killing me!”

This cycle of reckoning with how to balance optimism and realism is not new to me.  If I see some small signs of improvement, I am convinced that we are on the cusp of experiencing real health.  Then a setback occurs and I must attempt to accept a more realistic position.  The worldnetweb defines realism as the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth .

Actually, I view myself as very practical and yet when it comes to my health, I resist focusing completely on the facts since that might precipitate despair.  I prefer to focus on how I trust my doctor’s diagnosis and his confidence that he can heal me.  I remember learning in school that when an object is supported in such a way that there is equal weight on both sides of the support, the object is said to be balanced.  In the same way, I think I must learn how to develop some sort of equilibrium between optimism and realism.  However, I’m not entirely sure how to achieve that balance.  Is it by filtering my realism  through the lenses of my optimism, or is it filtering  my optimism  through the lenses of my realism?

I stopped writing this post when Greg came home for lunch.  He mentioned that he would still like to take a few days off when the weather warms up.  Immediately, I am telling him that as soon as I recover from this cold and start getting a few hours of sleep, we could plan a mini-holiday by going to a show, playing a board game, going for a few short walks and inviting another couple over one evening.  Of course we both know that I haven’t even started the medication that generally puts a tailspin on any progress I might be making.  However, we both still smiled at each other always a little energized by planning something in the future.  But here’s the question:  were my suggestions balanced with realism and optimism? Or is this whole debate unnecessary if  my doctor  merely  miscalculated the date in June and I just need a few more days for a more significant recovery!



  1. An interesting coincidence is that your explorations in this posting are during the week when the internationally renowned psychologist, Albert Bandura, is in Edmonton to receive an honourary doctorate from the U of A. He has done ground breaking work in self-efficacy which you might find interesting. There is an article about him in today’s Journal, and a web article by him on self-efficacy is easily found online. Other things you’ve written, such as the example set by your mom, relate to his theories as well. I’m attending a celebratory dinner for Dr. Bandura tonight and a conversation hour with him at the College tomorrow. If you’re interested, I’ll share my thoughts with you after the events.

  2. In response to your question: “Were my suggestions balanced with realism and optimism?” I would simply respond that your attitude towards life in general encompasses both! Never mind the niggly fact that your health is in question. You are quick to “move on”’ as needed to the next issue or obstacle at hand.

    In response to Lori’s comments this morning, I googled the word ‘self efficacy’ and got ‘Albert Bandura’. I read quite a lot of it but specifically picked out this one paragraph from his ‘Sources of Self Efficacy which I feel you embrace and practise and which may answer your question!

    One way – Albert Bandura – Stanford University: Sources of self-efficacy

    “If people experience only easy successes they come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure. A resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort. Some setbacks and difficulties in human pursuits serve a useful purpose in teaching that success usually requires sustained effort. After people become convinced they have what it takes to succeed, they persevere in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks. By sticking it out through tough times, they emerge stronger from adversity.”

    I know you will go and read the rest but that stood out for me and I feel it generally describes YOU.

    I have spoken to a number of people this morning on the phone. All have said they are ‘down’ due to the weather. The ups and downs of sun and rain have gotten to us all. We are looking for some consistent warmth and this ‘back and forth’ is playing havoc with even the healthiest of us!

    Therefore, keep doing what you are doing. You are amazing and if even one positive comment can be your needed encouragement – I give it freely.

    A happy heart makes the face cheerful. Proverbs 15:13 NIV

  3. Many folks have sped up their recovery, as well as overcome chronic disease such as diabetes and chronic fatigue by eating a very healthy raw food diet. I wish you good health and recovery.


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