I have a confession (though for those of you who know me well, this will not come as a surprise). I am a pessimist. I am a naturally born cynic- a hole poker, a candle snuffer, a downer. Most days I am heavily surrounded by optimists, so I like to think of myself as the “realist” of the bunch. I’m an expert at taking your dreams and knocking them down a peg.This is my face when Kari tells me for the 100th time to “look at the beautiful view”
I personally find it easy to take this attitude because the world can generally suck (just watch the news for 5 minutes). Am I really being that negative when when all I am doing is pointing out the inevitable failure that is almost guaranteed to take place? (answer: yes I am). I am sure that God made me this way for a reason and it has some great function in His Kingdom, but I do enjoy the moments I can take a break from raining on everyone’s parades.
I have found that the most sure-fire way to turn me into a sunshine-farting, happy-go-lucky, glad-game-playing Pollyanna optimist is to hang out for a minute with someone as cynical as I am. This is particularly true when my normally optimistic wife, Kari, is having a bad day.
You should see me then.
The transformation is amazing. I start seeing every problem as easily solvable, every bad characteristic as a potential tool for usefulness. It’s insufferable really. I become this guy practically bursting with optimism!
The point of all this is the reminder that we all have things in our life to gripe about. Even the most optimistic among us have bad days when we are convinced that things aren’t going to workout. Attitude really is everything. So, in this moment of positivity, I want to write about 3 things in life here that are normally easy for me to complain about here in the DR but instead, I want to tell you why they are actually pretty awesome. We’ll start with everyone’s favorite:
1)People are always late
It can be hard to come up with plans and set meetings when you aren’t sure when people are actually going to show and it is painfully frustrating when you arrive at a big event “on time” only to find no one else coming for at least 2 more hours. But in 6 years I have never been berated, questioned or judged for arriving late somewhere. I’ve shown up late many times, many places, for many reasons, but no one has ever made me feel badly about it. In fact, people here tend to be less critical in general. There seems to be an understanding that life can get out of hand at times, unexpected things come up, kids don’t always cooperate with schedules and when that happens- what a sweet relief it is to know that you will be met and received with grace.
2) Crazy driving
I know the statistics and have seen first-hand the tragedies. The lack of road “rules” here is confusing at best and dangerous at it’s worst. It seems like the overpacked roads through towns are skinnier than a 14 year-old’s fashion jeans. Yet somehow we make it work- trucks, motos, horses, semi’s, goats, pedestrians and all. Somehow we have figured out how to fit 4 lanes of traffic onto a 2 lane road. And as I bend in my sideview mirror, so I don’t hit the truck double parked on my left and still leave room for the moto passing me on my right, I realize that all of this closeness on the road actually creates a strange sense of community. Road rage is all but non-existent here. When I’m not sure if I can make a tight turn, I’ve got 3 guys on the sidewalk signaling in my mirrors to help me. When someone inevitably bumps my fender, we shrug, smile sheepishly and shake hands. And when people break down there is always a crowd that arrives to offer to help push.
3) Bad Electricity
So our power goes off all the time here. It is NOT my favorite thing. Most of the time this “quirk” of DR life seems to fit pretty clearly in the “this bites” column. At the guesthouse it keeps us fiddling with broken inverters, buying expensive fuel for the generator and never knowing which light sockets will or won’t charge your phone at any given moment. Recently Kari and moved away for the guesthouse and have our own place with no back-up power. Regularly the power goes off while I’m using my desktop computer or in the middle of the night when I need fans to sleep. It is easy to be angry and frustrated. Yet I’ve noticed that, pretty consistently, it brings us closer together and forces us to be uncomfortable- which usually points us to God. How often do we get those “retreat” moments where we can step away from our computers, phones and tv’s? Once you’ve gotten past the frustration, aren’t those some of your favorite moments? Lots of life happens in those moments. We were with our friends the other night when the power went out. As the candles came out and the lanterns around the room were lit, it changed the conversations too. There is something sacred about candlelit room. Conversations feel more important and prayers together feel more intimate.
You might feel I am reaching with these. Maybe now you’re the cynic thinking to yourself “Whatever Dan. Nice thoughts, but I still choose electricity, punctuality and sane driving.” And my cynic-self agrees with you. But there’s that hidden optimist in me that is learning to love some of these uncomfortable things about living here in the DR. Maybe it’s even the challenge I love of trying to see an unideal glass as half-full.