Thoughts and musings

In defence of optimism!

Sometimes I need to get things off my chest and this is one of those days!  I am an unashamed optimist. That’s how I see myself, I had an interesting and spirited discussion in the pub recently with a friend of mine, who stated that optimism is a dangerous indulgence which should be actively discouraged. He believes it plays a large part (if not being actually to blame) for most of the world ills.  He has come to the conclusion that looking on the bright side and seeing the positive prevents us from seeing how bad things really are and taking appropriate action, and that’s why the world is in the state it is.  This is an interesting concept to me, as one who had always tried to see the upside where ever possible. I found it fascinating and a little scary, but in a good way!  He was basically saying the same thing as a poster I saw in one of those tourist shops that said… ‘If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs – you obviously don’t understand the problem!’  Pessimists (or realists, depending on your point of view) work on the principal that they do understand the problem.  Maybe I don’t understand the problem?  Could that be true? Actually I don’t think so.  It’s necessary to have a healthy charge of optimism; it helps with your energy, your vision, your creativity and your self esteem.


Humans on the whole (I have read) are hard wired to be ultimately basically optimistic. It’s how we survive!  We believe in better!  But for a reason; we believe in ourselves and our ability to change things, and that ability to adapt has been the key to our survival.  To see beyond the immediate apparent gloom to a better time keeps us motivated to go on, without it we simply couldn’t survive.  Of course we don’t always get it right.  Often we get it wrong but we’re constantly questioning and that gives me hope.

Now I’m perfectly aware that the other thing that is in the core nature of humans is to look after themselves first and foremost.  To build a secure and comfortable place to live is a major drive and so when people have the opportunity to earn or acquire money at the expense of others that instinct can take over, until from the outside it looks a lot like greed.  Then it’s every man for himself and that’s where the problems start.  We’re often torn between our desire to be good, nice, decent people and to look after our own best interests and those of our family.

The constant flow of negative news and of disaster predications keep us scared, defensive and fatalist. It undermines our determination and our sense of power over our own lives.  We start to pull up our drawbridges and build walls rather than be inclusive and to take rather than give.  We get scared, and when we’re scared we see danger everywhere which means we’re more likely to attack first.  Of course it’s important to keep an eye on the world, but actually it’s more important to keep an eye on ourselves and how that information is affecting us and our communities.  Of course, one has to take care of business, pay bills, do tax returns and get the car fixed. But if we could all just determinedly build the world we want to live in from our own back yards, in spite of what we’re repeated told about the world outside, how much difference would that make?

It seems to me that humans have a need to be kind and generous in their personal lives.  It makes us happy to be nice!  It’s actually our core nature, and it’s on that basis I remain an optimist.

I’ll leave you with a nice story.  A little while ago (a couple of months I think) an old chap was walking outside past the gallery. The door was open and my son and I could hear him making really strange noises.  We both looked at each other and questioned if he was OK.  My son went to the door to check on him further but by the time he’d got to the door the old man had collapsed on the kerb side outside ASK pizza.  It was raining heavily but within minutes of him falling he was surrounded and protected by strangers.  The staff at ASK came out, a woman jumped off a bus, ambulances were called, we took out blankets and a pillow and two business men who happened to be passing, without saying a word, stopped and held their umbrellas over him until the ambulance arrived.  People stood around him like guardians, no-one questioned it, no-one thought twice, they just did what was right and it was an amazing sight!

People are basically good and there’s enough for everyone is my maxim for life!  Look for it and you’ll see it everywhere, really you will.  And guess what?  In spite of the terrible weather forecast, the sun is still shining!  Still might take my umbrella though, you never know when it might come in useful!

Janis xx




Big Scary Birthday!  - Janis’s 50th Birthday skydive video

Thursday 8th of March – The Date!   Having had no problem with any of the ‘big’ birthdays to date, it was a big of a shock to realise that there was the distinct possibility I might have a tiny issue with this one!  50…what is the big deal with 50!    I simply refused to discuss celebrations, even with family, so much to do planning the next show here at the gallery of course!  Then suddenly I couldn’t avoid it any longer and I had to make a decision – having seriously considered the option of drawing the curtains and waiting for the next day when we could all go about our business with no conversation necessary about how ‘age’ is all in the mind and how marvellous one looks for one’s age – eek!  I made the decision to mark the occasion of my half century by jumping out of a plane!  Suddenly I felt much better!

When I think about it, I feel better about myself now than I ever had.  I know my strengths and weaknesses and I am learning to make the best of both of them, but it’s taken me this long to figure out how.  The good news is, creatively there’s no reason why things shouldn’t just get better and better.  One of my main drives as an artist is the fact I love to play,  just as I used to when I was little, many artist say the same.  It’s still almost impossible for me to remain clean and tidy for a whole day.  I’m grateful now for the part of me that’s still 8 years old, I still sit on the floor, I still like getting my hands (and often everything else around me) dirty!   Age does not take our creativity from us, how we think does.  The decline in creativity does not start when we are 40 or 50. It starts around about the age when start school and have to think how we’re told to think.   At about 5 years old, we are constantly living in a self created world, we invent constantly and naturally but by the age of 12, our creative output has declined to about 2% of our potential.   It’s all well meaning, we have to live in this world and those of us whose heads are busy creating other possibilities find it hard at first as we try to conform.  As we get older, we learn to stop trying and to just be ourselves, it can take a lifetime to learn this one lesson.  I thank goodness for the part of myself that simply refuses to ‘grow up’ and ‘get real’ and accept reality – I hate that more than I can say and I’ve been told it’s time I did, more times than I can remember, thank goodness I never listen – hee hee!    That doesn’t mean that I’m are irresponsible (well OK, hands up sometimes!), it means that I’ve have held on to the knack of pulling things out of thin air and playing with them, I know the strangest things can happen if you can imagine them clearly enough!

So in turning 50, I see the future not the past, I have enough faith in myself to know I can create what lies ahead. My jump from a plane was a metaphor, a message to myself not to be afraid; of my age, of the signs I can clearly see that I am no longer ‘young’, of failure (chickening out), of pain (hitting the ground), of sadness (actually dying).  I’ve experienced them all, believe me, I’ve hit the ground painfully more times than I can count but hey I’m still here, still punching!

Now I know, it’s OK to let go!   Leave behind what needs leaving, put your head back, look into an abyss and jump (OK it’s easier strapped to a big strong chap :-) but you know what..I could do that jump without him with a little training!   The fact remains, it’s all just a big leap of faith!   50? Huh – eeezy peezy lemon squeezy!

At the top of this post is a link to  the video my lovely son James made for me, I think it’s brilliant and I’d like to share it, hope you find a minute to watch it.  Makes me laugh anyway!

The soundtrack is one of my favourite songs.  Hope you enjoy it!

Happy Birthday y’all!

Janis xx

PS  Trust me to get the tallest guy( 6ft 4″ ) to jump with!  Sigh! me  not in the most glamourous of outfits either, get thee behind me vanity!  :-) xxx