Giving Thanks, On Optimism, Courage, and Candor



On Optimism:

As a cancer survivor, I can assure youthat the only

thing that saved mewas a small voiceinside of methat

suddenly started screaming,”Life is worth the effort!”

I wanted to live for granddaughter Morgan’s wedding. I

wanted to be at all our grandkids’ weddings, too.

Her little hands, smiling face and voice gave me strength

when there was none. Only my optimism remained

during daunting times and a life beyond what I could

endure.My natural optimistic spirit shone through when

I thought there was nothing left but hope. I gave up.

Find one thing today to focus on, see its beauty, savor

the energy and I promise you that commitment makes

the difference in a gracious life worth living, no matter


Rita Wirtz

October 12, 2018

On Optimism, Lost and Found.

Simply Too Much Going On To Keep Up With. Overwhelming.

I only write when I have something to say, or something to share. Lately, I am writing in my head, constantly. I’m barely sleeping. If I watch any news, or read the news on my phone, that’s it for me.

Boing, I’m awake and fretting, restless, wandering around cleaning my closet or drawers and making notes for my book in progress, on little scraps of paper and pads left around.

What should I be focusing on? Where’s my balance? Endless lists of to-do, overdue. My health worries, medical bills, paperwork piles, that sort of stuff. Add the fact I need to get my Oregon Drivers’ License in a month, and I am already freaking out and test phobic about not passing.

Add more to Strega Nona’s pot, too many Big Anthony people running around messing up for others, not really listening and certainly not caring. The restless and not so restless winds of change in our country and political process, lack of civility and no seeming knowledge how to get to yes anymore.

The enormous tragic losses of people from a myriad of causes. Floods, the storms, the horrendous fires, the relentless din of angry people and seemingly unsolvable problems. Shootings, homelessness, drug addiction, etc. etc. How in the world do we stay optimistic in a turbulent time?

No way to begin to categorize my distresses, and likely in some cases, yours, too. One either has some information, too much information or like me, sometimes just turning everything off, which doesn’t solve anything, but helps our mental health, for sure. The roar of anger uncorked, venomous conflict over things we should be able to agree upon. It still makes no sense to me, the continual big news, not so big news and distractions.

Daily challenges of life, swirling events surrounding us. Hold tight.

I am the first to admit I lost my best, most optimistic self this past year. At least for a lot of the time, with some glimpses, maybe of the best me. On November 15, ’17, my late husband’s milestone birthday, I got the dreaded doctor phone call. I was leaving preschool. Littles were napping, I had said “good-bye, see you tomorrow”, gathered my book bags, disappeared in the art room with Teacher Cheryl, and cried, in shock and disbelief.

Other than a few visits, I was unable to return to teaching until last May, a month before the end of school. But yes, I did finish strong and it was a great way to celebrate my survival, hopefully make a difference in the learning lives of the littles I was privileged to teach.

And then, most unhappily I didn’t return to every day teaching in September, instead planning to write a couple books, including my Memoirs, because I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it. Rebuilding my health became my only goal, in my most optimistic moments. Not very optimistic, though. Until very recently I had a myriad of complications, like peeling the onion, and truly was not sure what it meant to be a survivor, even though I said it a lot.

Passion, Purpose, Courage, Hope. Optimism means family first.

I have a large extended family, but everyone is spread out now, which is not what I envisioned. Because I moved several times to make this happen, first from California, then a couple times here in Oregon, I am now about ten minutes from my Eugene family.

I wish I lived by all our kids and their kids. I notice our grown children each living lives of passion, purpose, courage and hope. We raised them to be optimistic, to see only the good, do only the good and be the best possible in life, in whatever chosen path.

What Is An Optimist? How Do We Stay Optimistic? Those defining moments.

For me, family and teaching provide the defining moments I savor and crave, too. I look for the people around us making a difference, standing up for beliefs, showing courage, fortitude, overlapping with tenacity. No matter what happens, the optimist finds the silver lining. Turns those proverbial lemons into lemonade. Makes those boulders to climb over or get around seem like little pebbles.

What purpose, passion, courage drives us to fruition when we feel we are beyond endurance? Servant leaders are often pushed to the limits, but courage shines through. What if we reframe the tragic events to a culture of coming together, opportunity, rebirth and renewal? I see this happening already. People are resilient, do not give up.Talk about optimism.

What if we come together as famiies, friends, communities and the larger world to solve prolems we regard as vital opportunities? If we can’t fix everything, what can we fix? What, as our most optimistic selves can we do to effect change, growth and transformation in ourselves and others?

I do believe we all have defining moments in our lives, whether joyous, such as rituals and celebrations, sudden illness, loss and other commonalities to the human condition. We are all one, sharing our hopes, dreams, aspirations and managing or hopefully beginning to find a balance between hard and not so hard, more beautiful vistas in our lives.

It is imperative we remain optimistic and not give in to fear, to share our moral courage and recognize together is better. Love is better than hate, surely, when all is said and done. We can certainly spread kindness and love.

I know I should, but even after all these years I still don’t have that many answers about a lot of truly important things. I know I am an imperfect person, but I give my all, and have, my whole life. I never thought I would lose my optimism even for a second.

I have many lists of beautiful personal affirmations I hold dear, but I think sometimes, even with the best of intentions, our better selves go awry under constant bombardment, maybe seemingly from all sides. I stayed pretty much in a dark hole for awhile, but coming back into the light is a really genuine expression of love and joy, which I am hopefully spreading to others.

By sharing and celebrating all the good we see every day, taking time to be in nature, forgiving those who have hurt us, and finding our depths of humility and gratitude, our grace and dignity shine through, and our most optimistic, souls.

Giving Thanks Tonight, My Gift to You, The Optimist Creed:

Promise Yourself—

“To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. To think only of the best, to work only for the best and expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile. To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be so large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” (Optimist International)

Closing Thoughts from my dear friend, Author Robert Ward:

“Let’s continue to move forward with:

Faith- a deep trust in our own strength and an optimism that everything is going to work out great.

Grace- experiencing all things (good and bad) with calm, composure and dignity.

Gratitude- focusing on the good and the positive all around us and turning our gratitude into acts of appreciation (paying things forward).”

From my head, heart and soul tonight,

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita


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