My nature is optimistic, hopeful, believing the best of people.

But as I grow older, disappointing people and tragic circumstances eat away my joy like acid on fabric.

Being joyful feels vulnerable, like standing naked, arms wide, as I shout, “I trust you not to take your best shot.”

The world is bemused by joyful people. I picture the worldly-wise around me leaning back, arms crossed, whispering snark… “This’ll be entertaining.”

I find myself ping-ponging between paranoia and Pollyanna.

Sometimes, I waltz through life, oblivious to the cattiness and gossip, dripping innocent thoughtless words that fall hard on others more cunning than I. Being oblivious has its benefits — it keeps you from being sucked into unnecessary drama, it allows you to float above the fray.

But not always.

Wham. Blindside.

When the knife slices especially deep, I wrap a cynicism breastplate around my heart, clap the realism helmet on my head, and trudge forward with bitterness steaming in my mug and my shoulders hunched to keep everyone out.

But despite the pain, I can’t stay there long. It’s miserable, always watching your own back, suspecting ulterior motives of everyone. It’s exhausting. It destroys quality of life. So, almost in spite of myself, I creep back out, every time.

Life experience does seem to be informing my idealism and my faith in people. Little by little, the blindsides are less out-of-the-blue, less unexpected.

Having lived both ways, I want to choose to be surprised by disappointment. I do not want to live in cynicism, surprised when people keep their word and things go well.

Cunning as serpents, innocent as doves.

Hope tempered by wisdom.

That’s the kind of joy I’m working toward. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

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