A Cynic's Tale

I used to be the biggest cynic. It’s true. As a child I was always playing and using my imagination, but rarely was I ‘care-free’. I always saw what could go wrong and I expected it. I didn’t call myself ‘cynical’. Seriously, who ever wants to be known as a glass is half empty kind of person? But that’s what I was. I thought it meant that I was smart. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I was in high school there was a skit on Saturday Night Live called ‘Stuart Smalley’. Al Franken would play the main character and made the now famous lines… “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” This caricature is how I viewed all optimists. I had a secret contempt for people who were always positive and chose to see the good in everything. I thought they were blind and a little stupid for not seeing the world for the way it was… a harsh place.

This feeling that everything could fall apart plagued me into adulthood. I was always playing it safe and living life small because I was always looking for what could go wrong and preparing for it as if it was inevitable. Again, I thought I was being smart. I would suppress the adventurous side of myself and rarely take a risk because of all the negative possibilities that I would forecast. Somewhere along the line that forecasting of poor turnouts morphed into a belief that success wasn’t possible. I thought at best I could hope to be mediocre at whatever I applied myself to and learn to be happy with that outcome.

I lived this way long into adulthood. Eventually I became aware that I wasn’t happy. There was something in me that longed for more in my life but I had no idea how to make those changes. I prayed for change within myself for years. I was hoping that the God I believed in would just kind of ‘zap’ me and everything would change for me. That I would just miraculously wake up and find myself living a different life. God didn’t give me what I wanted the way I wanted God to. I’ve discovered that the Divine rarely works that way… and I’m grateful for this now.

I was at my lowest point when I had one of the most remarkable revelations of my life. I was working a job that was crushing my soul and I had two other part time jobs as well. My wife and I were getting ready to move out of the only house we ever owned because it was being foreclosed on. We were seeking legal counsel for bankruptcy. And the only thing I ever gave my all to, my marriage, slipped through my fingers with these six words… “I can’t be with you anymore”. It was the beginning of the end of my marriage and it was a brutal time in my life.

Those inciting incidents stacked up on me like a pile of rubble after the apocalypse… my own personal apocalypse. That’s when something within me broke and I heard these words echo through the empty halls of my life… ‘How’s that working for you?’ It was like the ground opened beneath me and was swallowing me up. I began to see my worldview for what it really was. A finely constructed and risk free structure of long held and carefully formed limiting beliefs glued together with cynicism, negativity and a ‘play it small’ mentality. It wasn’t working for me. My liming beliefs, which felt safe for so long, pervaded my finances, relationships, health, and my ability to make an impact in the world.

I didn’t know how to change them or even where to start, but I knew something had to change. So I made a decision. I chose in those moments to change my thought patterns no matter what the cost. As it were, I had nothing left to lose anyway. It was scary. I had become so comfortable with my old thought patterns. I didn’t know where to start, but I was resolute to make the necessary changes. So I started with someone I trusted.

I had taken a couple courses online from a guy whose wisdom I had grown to trust and appreciate. He saw the world in completely different ways than I did. Yet we shared a common faith and I had always benefited from listening to him and applying his advice. So I made the decision to hire him as my mentor and lifecoach. On many levels it totally freaked me out. My road for the next couple of years was terrifying at times and fraught with discomfort and uncertainty. Yet every day I was feeling more and more alive and fulfilled. I was spending what felt like a large amount of money for life coaching with no guarantees. I wouldn’t even tell anyone about it at the time because I was afraid people would chastise me for ‘throwing my money away’.

Today I have the kind of freedom that I had only dreamed of in the past. I have my own business that I find rewarding and love waking up to everyday. I feel like I add value to the world through my work. I no longer have to worry about how I’m going to make ends meet. I have learned to be happy with who I am and to take the calculated risks which are necessary to live a higher quality of life. I have a deeper understanding of my relationship with the Divine and I allow myself to love more and to be loved more. I thought the end of my marriage was going to be the end of me. Instead, I chose to see it as a new beginning. The best part is that my story isn’t finished. It’s more like the beginning of an incredible sequel. And my glass is no longer half empty. It’s running over.

Are you a cynic? How’s that working for you? Do you have limiting beliefs that you don’t know how to change? Change can be as simple as a choice; a moment in time that can affect you for eternity. Make a choice. Trust that you will find a way and your new path will appear before you with each step. You won’t regret it.

“Most cynics are really crushed romantics: they've been hurt, they're sensitive, and their cynicism is a shell that's protecting this tiny, dear part in them that's still alive.” – Jeff Bridges

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” – Viktor Frankl

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself.” – Walter Anderson