Dan Wonders If Being Hopeful is a Habit that Can Be Learned

Hannah and I get the New York Times most every Sunday.  For me, it was a tradition started by my parents back in the 1950s in New Jersey.  My Sunday morning begins with a cup of joe, one of Hannah’s biscuits, and the Sunday Sports section; next, before I try to decipher the Sunday Crossword with my trusty iPhone, I read the Sunday Styles section.

NYT sunday styles 2

The Sunday Styles section has the weekly Modern Love column which has folks writing about their relationships (e.g. For last Sunday (4.28.2019), the titled piece was It’s Not You, It’s Men: I re-evaluated my life after two long-term girlfriends broke up with me while coming out).

I then move on to Social Q’s by Philip Galanes who gives advice about, again, relationships.  (e.g. My good friend, who is white, is raising her young biracial daughter as a single mother.  She is a loving mom, but in my opinion, she has not given enough thought to helping her daughter form a healthy self-image as a person of color…)

I then move on to the wedding stories, and this is where I get to my point.  Cheese and rice, Dan, it’s about time!

NYT Small Victories anne lamott

Under the Vows heading, the piece is titled A Writer Finally Gets to That Happily-Ever-After Part.  It’s about Anne Lamott!  I have been a fanboy since the 1990s when she wrote the popular guide for writers, Bird by Bird.  She gives Ted Talks with humor and insight.  Click here for here for her entertaining 15-minute talk on 12 Truths.

In the review of her wedding to Neal Allen, Lois Smith Brady offers background on each one and how they met.  Married at 65, Anne says, Never give up, no matter how things look or how long they take.  Don’t quit before the miracle.

NYT Neil and Anne

Anne with Neil at their wedding

What caught my eye was this paragraph.  In some ways, they are opposites.  She [Anne] is afraid of almost everything, whereas he’s [Neil] afraid of almost nothing.  ‘It never occurs to me that anything will go wrong,’ he said.

That makes me think , could being fearful be a choice, not part of one’s DNA.  Many of us learn to be fearful at a young age and hone that “skill” over a lifetime.  But could it be that with some self-talk, or what some would call prayer, we can “reprogram” ourselves from looking for the possible pitfalls, the dangers, and the roadblocks to being hopeful.  I’m not suggesting the transition would be easy, but it seems feasible if one has the “want to” to transform from fearful to hopeful.

NYT choose hope 2

Case in point.  Hannah and I have water issues in our upstairs bathroom.  The stains on the plaster walls are disgusting.  With a  contractor coming in the weeks ahead, I am hopeful that any damage can be dealt with successfully.  I’ll not go down the path of what could go wrong.

Being hopeful, like getting to Carnegie Hall, takes practice, practice, practice.

6 thoughts on “Dan Wonders If Being Hopeful is a Habit that Can Be Learned

  1. I love Anne Lamott and her wonderful books. I will look forward to reading the one you cited. This was a very interesting column that you wrote. It is a true challenge to remain hopeful these days, especially in light of the political challenges we as a nation are facing. I think so often of the wonderful example that the Obama family set when they occupied the White House. And they are doing important work now. I have been reading Michelle’s book Becoming, and have slowed down as I am approaching the end of the book, for it brings me comfort to know that the Obama organization is doing so much to create a bright future for the world.



    • Always good to get your two cents. As Obama folk, Hannah and I feel hopeful about the future in a “darkest hour is just before the dawn” kind of way. We have Becoming on order from the library. Inspiring folks in a time that needs inspiration.

  2. I always recommended Lamott’s Bird by Bird to my writing students after overhearing an English teacher gushing about it and then reading it myself — which shows how word of mouth is still the best way to sell books. I follow Lamott on Twitter just for the insightful little tidbits she occasionally posts. And yes, I also read the Times Sunday Styles article (my fave section, along with the crossword) and so enjoyed hearing how she finally found love. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Dan. Damn the repairs — full steam ahead!

    • Jackie, great to hear from you and to know you are Sunday Styles woman! I read the Social Q’s to Hannah and we both try to guess what the brilliant Philip Galanes would say. Tell me more about the kind of writing teacher you are. I taught writing to middle schoolers and then to practicing teachers and, too, preservice teachers who would in turn teaching writing to their students. I began the teaching of writing to preservice teachers by have all my students and me participate in a writing workshop with peer conferences, drafting, and a day of celebration reading their final pieces. Have you heard her Ted Talk? Anne Lamott at her best!

  3. This is a great, reflective post, Dan! I love Anne Lamott and enjoyed your thoughts about making a habit of hopefulness. I’m pretty sure I’m genetically wired for “worst case scenario”, but your words have me reconsidering that view. Best of luck with the home repairs!

  4. Thanks, Molly. I used to go right to worst case scenario and through practice, I am much less that way. One thing Hannah says when people are stuck in some self-defeating behavior or another, “How is that working for you?” Another podcast for your drives to school to consider is “Ten % Happier with Dan Harris.” This past week he interviewed the amazing Brene Brown on vulnerability and raising healthy teenagers.

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