Sometimes it pays to be a pessimist. Bet you never thought you’d hear someone say that! I am a pessimist. I know this, and I will never deny it. Normally, it’s not a good thing, and other people tend not to like to be around pessimistic people. But I discovered once that it can have its benefits.
Awhile back, I had a dentist appointment at noon. My ex-husband (we were still married then), who worked close to home, said he would come home early for lunch to watch our son while I went to the dentist’s. Quarter to, he hadn’t gotten home yet. I decided to call him just in case, but he didn’t answer. I didn’t panic because he often didn’t pick up his phone. But after a few minutes had gone by and he still wasn’t home, I got anxious. I called again. No answer. Heat rose in my stomach. I assumed he had forgotten because it wasn’t uncommon for him to forget things. The reason I was upset was because we had had a conversation/argument about it the week before. I’d told him I understood that he was forgetful—so was I, which is why I took steps to help myself remember, like setting alarms all the time. I’d hoped it would make a difference to him, but now it seemed as if it hadn’t.
Ten to twelve and I needed to leave for my appointment. I called him again. Went to voicemail. So I left a rather angry message about how I had to leave and would now have to take our five-year-old with me.
When I was almost there he finally called and said he was coming home. I told him he was too late. He said he would come pick up our son at the dentist’s office. Okay, whatever. A few minutes after I’d been taken back to get my teeth cleaned, he showed up and took our son home with him.
By the time I got home, some of my annoyance had worn off, but I still asked him what had happened. He said he was in a meeting that went longer than expected. “I set an alarm on my phone,” he said, “but left it at my desk.”
Okay, so he had learned something from our conversation, but it still hadn’t done any good.
“What’s the point of using the alarm on your phone if you’re not going to keep your phone near you?” I asked.
“I didn’t know the meeting would go so long. They usually don’t last that long.”
And that’s when I realized that sometimes it’s good to be a pessimist. As a pessimist, you assume that everything is going to go wrong. This is the way my life has rolled for so long that I’ve learned to plan accordingly. If I had been in his shoes, I would have assumed that something would go wrong with the meeting or something would have interfered with what I was supposed to do, so I would have absolutely kept my phone with me to be sure I heard the alarm go off.
Being a pessimist is one of the things that has driven me to be a preparedness freak. I admit that sometimes this can get annoying. Like when we go on vacations I always overpack—just to be safe. Even when we go on day trips or hour-long trips I pack the car full of stuff (jackets and coats, shorts and pants, tons of snacks and water) because I assume the weather is going to change on us or the kids are going to get hungry or thirsty and complain up a storm. That’s not to say that optimists don’t know how to prepare, but when you assume everything is going to be just fine, you don’t need to over-prepare. And let me tell you, there have been so many times that I’ve been grateful for my over-preparedness! So, here’s to all you other self-proclaimed pessimists—or perhaps I should just call us realists. Carry on, my friends. Carry on!