I seem to spend a lot of time defending myself against charges of being a pessimist. That's because, in America, we worship, along with extroverts, optimists.
For example, the other day, I was talking to the real estate agent we're working with in San Antonio. I said I wanted flood insurance for our house there. She said we didn't need it because our house wasn't in the 100-year flood plain. I said I wanted it anyway.
"Why?" she asked, "the lender doesn't require it."
"No," I said, "but if we ever get water damage, our regular homeowners' insurance won't cover it."
"But that house has never flooded," she said. "Even though we had a 100-year flood several years ago. YOU'RE A REAL PESSIMIST AREN'T YOU?"
I smiled and didn't say anything -- because she is nice -- but I wanted to tell her that in my opinion there is a difference between being a pessimist and being a moron!
And there is a BIG difference between believing something is GOING to happen and acknowledging the possibility that it MIGHT happen. According to floodsafety.com, San Antonio is one of the most flash flood prone areas in North America. I do not BELIEVE my new house is going to flood, but just in case it does, I would like to be insured against financial ruin. Because the house is NOT in a flood plain, the cost will be minimal. To me, that's not being a pessimist, that's simply a smart strategy to protect my investment in my house.
I'm not sure if it's because I grew up in a rural area or what, but I generally tend to plan for taking care of things in a variety of adverse circumstances. That doesn't mean I believe they're going to happen, but just in case they do, I want to be able to deal with them. For example, when I get on a plane, I actually look at the safety card in the seat pocket. And yes; I count the number of rows between me and the exit instead of zoning out. I don't do these things because I'm a pessimist; if I thought my plane was going to crash, I'd never get on it. In fact, in one way, I'm a true optimist, because I believe that even if my plane were to crash, I would survive because I know how to get out!
One interesting thing I've noticed is that to be classed as an optimist, you have to pretend that bad stuff is never going to happen. I think that's great and I wish I could do it. The problem for me is that my dad, the person I loved most in the world, died when I was 21. That pretty much destroyed any chance of me pretending bad stuff couldn't happen and set me on my path to becoming the anti-Pollyanna. The other interesting thing is that I find survival quite satisfying. I have no trouble whatsoever accepting that bad stuff will happen occasionally because I believe I will surmount it.
I generally feel quite positive about the future, in spite of the random bad stuff that will be coming down the pike, because I know that I will have done my best to plan for it. Personal responsibility is the key here rather than pinning my hopes on random good fortune, although good stuff will come too. But that's the thing -- in order to feel the satisfaction, you actually have to THINK about the possibility of a situation in advance, even if it isn't pleasant, and you have to consider the options, and then you have to make a decision and mentally file it away somewhere. It's like counting the seats between you and the exit -- if you wait until the plane is going down, it's too late.
I learned an important lesson about all this during the Hurricane Rita evacuation. You have to help yourself; you can't wait for people in authority to help you or tell when to do it. If we had listened to the police who were guarding that route, we would have run out of gas and our dogs would have died of heatstroke, and maybe we ourselves would have died. It was only when we decided to help ourselves, unlike most of the others who were evacuating, that we were able to get clear of the road.
It isn't easy to break free of the herd, but that's what it takes to protect yourself sometimes. I thought of that when the real estate agent told me that I wasn't required to get flood insurance -- the herd isn't required to have it, even though they live in the flash flood capital of North America. But since it isn't prohibitively expensive, I WILL HAVE IT and if it rains, SO WHAT. If my plane goes down, the herd is welcome to try to count the rows between their seat and the exit, but I will already know, and if it is possible, I WILL MAKE IT OFF THE PLANE.
You can call me Pollyanna.