Musings of a Hopeless Romantic Idealist  

Posted by Heidi

I am bitter about only one thing in life: the fact that I never found that perfect hairstyle (you know, the one that, if you can only find it, will surely make you out-right gorgeous?) before my medium-to-good looks peaked. (I am NOT happy about the defection of half of each, once lush, eyebrow, either.) Except for the lack of that perfect hairstyle, I can see the good in all lemons that have been tossed along my path (also excepting that eyebrow thing---something I consider to be pure wanton destruction with no upside whatsoever).

As a teenager, I had a powerful dream in which I and my husband and children were forced to leave the home that I loved (one can glean details from the house in the photo above which, I was surprised to learn, is the gardener’s cottage on the grounds of an enormous manor house I toured in Wales many years later) due to an earth-shattering event (in this case, a literal earthquake that destroyed our home) to live out our days in a dark, damp, but not entirely comfortless (again—surprised!) cave. The fact that this dream ended up being representative of my actual life (I was scared to death it would be and hoping it was not. Again—surprised!!!) says a lot about me, especially in light of my one (and a half) circumstance(s) over which I am bitter.

Clearly, it says that I am vain.

It also says that I am a hopeless romantic idealist. This idealism has gotten me into much trouble over the years and has made the people around me mighty uncomfortable, as well.

It is probably tempting for the uncomfortable ones to evaluate me and determine that it is “all my fault” for thinking the way I do. It’s not an entirely false statement; I can’t help that I was born an idealist yet, in spite of everything, I choose to remain one: I suspect I wouldn’t have had the courage to believe in the best, most true things in life if it weren’t for my endless optimism. Nor would I have had the strength to forge ahead along my path when things seemed most bleak without plain, old, romantic idealism.

Never having been truly cynical, I doubt I can accurately determine the truth of my feelings but I am pretty darn sure I would rather be an idealist who gets her heart broken again and again (and again) than a bitter, old, cynic (surely a cynic would have quailed at the sight of my future and the challenges it held—still holds) or one who protects oneself from any and all pain whatsoever--and at any cost. I would rather see the very best in people for as long as it takes for them to prove me wrong than assume the worst of everyone from the get-go. I am so willing to give all people every corner of my heart--even now when it is cram-full of scars and little of it left whole. Even to those who, together with my unrealistic expectations, made each painful cut.

This is why: I feel very strongly that if I had not been so over-the-top optimistic, I would have been utterly undone by the challenges of my life. Instead, in my old age, I am settling into balanced realism. As painful as it is, I am grateful. Grateful--even when I think about how the house in my dream represented options, choices—heavenly and rare ideal ones—and how most of my adult life has offered, at best, a choice between two evils.

As I trudge through my cave, one that seems to become narrower and narrower with each passing year, I. Am. Grateful.

And yet . . . sometimes, when the light and the sounds and the scent on the breeze are just right, the memory of a girl is brought to mind--one who believed all things were possible--and I cry salty tears of sorrow for the shattering loss of her dreams. (And her eyebrows---one half each.)

Read about our stay in a real castle--in California!--HERE

This entry was posted on Monday, June 14, 2010 at Monday, June 14, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

19 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I've always wondered what makes the difference between older women who turn cynical (and mean) and those who stay optimistic.
I think I've figured out that it's a choice. And not an easy one, some days.
Good for you for making the choice. I completely applaud you!!

June 14, 2010 at 12:21 PM

I think I am innately optimistic, with a healthy dose of realism. I work with a coworker who has a permanent set of rose colored glasses. Which, for a social worker, working with teenagers who will take advantage of you in a heartbeat, doesn't really bode well.

June 14, 2010 at 12:23 PM

I prefer to look on the bright side. It helps you get through life a lot easier.

June 14, 2010 at 12:47 PM

First of all, your opening paragraphs were thoroughly entertaining. Like a puzzle or a riddle. With plenty of parentheses. I love those. Funny stuff.

You're totally right about being an idealist being better than being cynical. My husband is quite cynical (although I mentioned it ONCE and he thought it was soooo rude of me to say, but it's really very true) and refuses to allow people to hurt him, because he is easily hurt. I on the other hand don't think people owe me very much, so they can't really hurt me, as I mostly don't expect a lot, I guess, and I just like people and want to get to know them and not try to hide things about myself or anything.

I'll bet as you get older you will return to those happier days. It will be different, but you will definitely have fewer cares. And if I haven't said it before, I'll say it now. I KNOW you will find it all worthwhile one day (I'm sure there are days that you do already, but I mean REALLY worthwhile). I'll bet Someone is watching you through every trial and adding new pretty furniture and knick knacks to your mansion with each one you pass.

June 14, 2010 at 12:54 PM

I remember standing on the sidewalk in Trenton, NJ holding a crying baby after I had just been knocked to the ground and had my bag stolen by two young men and remembering a talk given by Boyd K. Packer in which he said he would rather be taken advantage of by some people than go through life not trusting anyone.

June 14, 2010 at 1:02 PM

It would be nice if the world were full of more idealists. You're still positive and wonderful to be around---and you're not moping about expecting handouts. It's refreshing to read and hear about:)

June 14, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Beauteous. What a lovely perspective to have arrived at. Worth the trip indeed.

June 14, 2010 at 1:31 PM

I think you are really right. I am a recovering pessimist. Being an optimist and idealist is much, much better-much healthier. Oddly enough, I'm not disappointed as much as I would think I would be. Yes, it happens, but not as often as the pessimist says.

June 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM

I can't say if I'm an optimist or a pessimist, but I am forgetful which saves me a lot of heartache because I can't remember if I've been offended or not. I can't even remember if I have any childhood fantasies that have been thwarted by life.

Except for maybe I can't believe I married someone who can't dance.....

But his other unexpected talents are so much better!

June 14, 2010 at 6:47 PM

What a beautiful post. I loved the little saying at the end. We HAVE to somehow hold with all our might that glimmer of "romantic idealism" or we could be destroyed.
Better to believe....better to love.....better to trust....better to give people that benefit of doubt.....Much BETTER then being a cranky cynical old lady who thinks Nothing has brought her joy.
I'd rather be stepped on....then surrender my dreams and idealism.

I have been know to be a bit of a Pollyanna in my day.
so hang tough girl...don't let go, not completely

June 14, 2010 at 6:50 PM

I am killing myself here trying my darndest to remember your lovely eyebrows, but...

Somethings are just not going to change just because we sit around and fuss about them. I like your optimism, and the way you write about it.

June 14, 2010 at 9:36 PM

I like that image of your house. Since it's home, a dwelling place, a reflection of's very apt.

I started life with great caution. I hoarded and prepared and expected the worst - just in case. And then far too late in life (but you know - it's never too late), I somehow got past that and just hoped. My heart gets broken far too easily and disappointment is more frequent than I'd like - but the moments of pleasant surprise and every once in a while, flat out triumph? They are only possible with that risk - and all the sweeter for it.

June 14, 2010 at 10:44 PM

That last part made me weepy. Letting go of that idealism and having it creep up in a longing sort of way...well, it's just hard.

And you. Are inspiring.

June 15, 2010 at 8:18 AM

I'm mostly optimistic... but some days it's harder to be that way then others!

Beautiful house... I need one of those.

June 15, 2010 at 10:45 AM

I loved this!

I have my pessimistic days, but mostly it's not in my nature. But the older I get, I do feel that bit of realism creeping right in, and it's okay. I'm okay with life, even if it isn't quite what I had envisioned for myself.

And my hair? We wont' even talk about it.

June 15, 2010 at 7:34 PM

Heidi, this was so beautifully put. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Better to like Anne of Green Gables than the snooty neighbor lady (whose name I can't remember right now).

June 16, 2010 at 6:54 PM

I agree with JustRandi's quote: choice is what is the difference between cynics and optimists.

That said, at my ripe age of not quite 40 but nearer to that than 30, I consider myself an optimistic realist, which is probably kin to your balanced realism.

It is a good place to be, I think. And the hopeless romantic of my youth still hasn't died yet. She surfaces in my dreams and writing, as does my hopeless vanity.

Heidi, are you sure we're not somehow related? :)

June 18, 2010 at 11:46 PM

PS: I think your hair is great! From your blog avatar/photo, it suits you well.

PPS: Have you ever tried hot rollers? Or spiral rolling your hair with a flat iron (my latest flirtation with vanity). Ten minute rocket to awesomesauce locks. Beware though, it's addicting...

June 18, 2010 at 11:47 PM

I adore you. You are so amazing. I'm so very grateful to know you.

June 30, 2010 at 5:18 PM

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