A Hymn for Optimism
I’m what you might call an “enthusiastic celebrator.” I can’t help it, I just get a kick out of life a lot of the time. I recently sent my friend a funny gif of Will Ferrell in Elf playing hopscotch with the white lines of a New York crosswalk and she immediately texted me back, “Asia… you know that’s you anytime you go to the city, right?!” And I realized… she’s probably right. That’s also me the exact day (December 1st, in my opinion) that it becomes “appropriate” to start playing holiday music. And also when I get into the kitchen to whip up some homemade tea blends, cordials or cookies. And anytime anyone mentions Santa…ever.
I’ll admit it, I’m a rich optimist. I believe in things like miracles and magic, and the good in people. I believe in peace on earth— even if it was never supposed to arrive all at once, but meant to cycle like a constellation, sometimes hidden, sometimes obscured, and sometimes appearing over the horizon just as you thought to look up. A momentary grace that you realize, remarkably, was there all along.I believe that no matter how bleak things appear, somehow there is a greater wave of good moving through it all. Like cinnamon marbled through dense pound cake. Sometimes it just takes a few forkfuls before you can taste it.
After my grandmother died my mom was the one who carefully went through all of her things. There were lots of treasured items, but the most unexpected of all was just a little slip of paper. Written in my grandmother’s hand and tucked into the back of her day planner, the small note card said “everything is always working out for me.” My mom donated many things, but the note became an heirloom. Since then, it’s become a kind of mantra in our family, especially when things seem like they are decidedly not working out for us (try this when you are in the gutter and I promise at the very least it’ll make you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all). And it’s been a beacon for me in a world, and a time, where the news seems to foretell doomsday, everyday.
What if, actually, everything is working out??
I believe that even in the absolute darkest times, there is light. And so did our ancestors. They believed it so fully, that they placed their festivals of light (Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa) directly during the time of the year when the nights were the longest, and the days short and bleak. The reason why we celebrate the myriad of holidays that mark this time across the Northern Hemisphere is because our ancestors were, in truth, wild optimists. Not only did they trust that the light would return, that the soil would warm, that life would continue again, they truly believed that their rituals were an important part of keeping the earth’s magic alive. And maybe it’s true… what if our optimistic engagement with this living planet is an actual part of the sun continuing to rise? I would be surprised. After all, we know already how deeply important it is for our own inner sunshine.
New scientific studies have found that believing in the good things coming feeds something incredibly important inside our beings. “Dispositional optimism,” a mindset where you simply tend to expect positive outcomes for the future, has been shown to have a wide variety of health benefits— reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, infection, and even a longer life span! Optimists literally live longer to see all those positive projections for the future unfold.
Optimism isn’t frivolity or naivety. It’s is a life saving, world saving, sanity saving magic. And I truly believe that it is what will help us rescue the grace of our collective destiny as humans on this miraculous planet. To be able to keep on believing in the possibility of magic, generosity and healing.
I have always loved this time of the year for the rich storytelling and spices simmering on the stove, the twinkle lights and togetherness. But what truly makes this season come alive for me is the way in which, as a collective, we come together to shelve our heavy skepticism (if even for just a few weeks) and invite in a truly altruistic optimism.
No matter how dark things get, I continue to believe. I mean, you’re talking to someone who defended the existence of Santa Claus wayyyy longer than most of my classmates. I mean, I heard their arguments, I just didn’t buy it. (“Thanks for your input Steve Wunderkund, but I’m not convinced!”). Because what’s “real” isn’t always what is physical or tangible. Sometimes the “realest” things— like love and relationship, the interconnectedness of a landscape or the life force of an evergreen tree, can only be experienced.
Real optimism is about trusting that there is more, so much more, than what our limited human eyes can see. And that we can believe, and trust, in all the magic of the unseen.
If you are wanting to reclaim the bright embered light and optimism of this season come join me online for one of my favorite all-time classes: Holiday Magic + Medicine Making. It is seriously chock-full of cheer as well as an exploration of the history and lore surrounding this time. Come meet my favorite holiday herbs and learn how to make a whole host of herbal gifts. Also, sign up now and you’ll receive the *brand new* bonus guide to Stones for Solstice: Minerals, Rituals and Elixirs for the Darkest night of the Year. I’m so excited to see you there.