Just smile already

Originally Posted on August 31, 2011

Hindsight is quite a thing. Of course I appreciated Janie when she was here, but never to this degree. You see, Janie was just good at everything she set her hand to. She never seemed to break a sweat, she was just good at so many different things. If she struggled, she kept at it until she got it. She was the best kind of persistent. There is something in that of which I am learning.

But that’s not the most valuable thing I learned from her. They say opposites attract. Janie was very different from me in a number of key areas. The most obvious of these in our relationship was in the area of outlook: whether positive or negative.

I’m an odd mix. I am very sanguine, very outgoing and lively in social situations. Normally, sanguines are fairly upbeat, positive people. I am most definitely not wired that way. We had this joke running between us: my glass was not half empty. It was not half full. There was no glass. In fact, the glass had been stolen from me at a young age and I carried around massive “glass” issues that required deep introspection, perhaps counseling.

All said in jest, but so true. Janie wanted to open businesses, climb mountains, travel places, be adventurous. I mean, the girl took hang gliding whilst in university. I was the one who tied her down in those regards. It was always “we don’t have the money” or “we’re gonna fail miserably” or “we can’t take time off to do that.” Funnily enough, there was always enough money for my next iPod, my next stab at pulling together a band, or for me to take a day off of work because I was unhappy to be stuck in a dead end job. Wah, wah, wah. That was me.

Intrepid Janie the fearless. Sophie gets her chutzpah from her mom. I’m not going to choke it out in her. That’s my goal with Sophie.

But I digress… Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Phil beating up on Phil. This is really just a confessional. And I’m using the past tense here: I was that way. The negativity still lurks in me like the stink from a truck stop bathroom. But the cleaning lady is coming.

An amazing thing about someone like Janie: she still does her best work even in her absence. She was just phenomenal. I am so swollen with gratitude tonight. That girl of 18 I met in the Colorado wilderness taught me that the glass is there to be full, to empty it and then to fill it again. The emptiness is transitory, it passes. She never lost sight of the fact that a positive outlook on life is half the battle.

Where did she gain this incredible insight? Why, from mom and dad Spence, of course. Where else? Anyone who has had the privilege of their acquaintance knows this about them. They are can-do people. They never look at the downside of things. Every problem has a solution. If it doesn’t, there’s always family there to hold everyone together. I love this about them. Things in life come along that can knock the wind right out of them, but they just get back up, dust themselves off and keep on going. Janie did this over and over again. She was just relentless in her positivity.

I used to growl at her about her glass-half-fulledness. What’s so great about this situation? This is a perfect time to lose hope, to despair, to throw in the towel. No matter what I said, she just set her jaw, narrowed her eyes and forged ahead. Nothing would stop her when she set her mind to something.

Some people call this stubbornness. I certainly accused her of being stubborn more than once. She’d retort that I was a pessimist. I’d always say that no, I am a realist. Nonsense. Every pessimist says that, and every pessimist is full of crap. Seriously. If this is you, time to change.


I hate the fact that Janie is gone. I know that she is in a perfect place, in perfect peace, perfectly joyful and better off than she ever was on this side. I’m the kind of selfish that would wrench her from that bliss to have her back. Most people if not all would do the same. But that’s wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking, daydreaming about ideal situations is characteristic of pessimists. We dream up the kind of life we’d love to have but never have the stones to actually go out there and make it happen. It’s always “oh, there’s no money” or “I’ll just screw it up” or whatever. But our imaginations, oh, those are active. But what good is an imagination if you don’t actually act upon it?

Janie knew I was good at so many things: a good writer, singer, cook, etc. She always had a plan for me to take it to the next level, to stretch me. Always me with the excuses… What a waste.

But as I said earlier, her best work is still being achieved in her absence. Little by little, I am taking the steps necessary to actualize my dreams. The courage and wherewithal to do this was sowed into me by her. That is her greatest and most enduring gift to me: the confidence, even faith to stick my neck out.

So as I said, tonight I’m full of gratitude. I wish she were here so I could tell her how thankful I am for this. She saw it in me and believed she could call it out with enough love and patience. Love is, after all, patient and kind. She was that in spades. She learned that from her magnificent parents. And I am learning it from her and them, now. I’d still have her back, but I wonder if I wouldn’t just snap back into the old me if she were back on the scene. Who can know these things? Wishful thinking that, in the end.

What are the people who love you the most teaching you? What are you refusing to learn? Remember folks, time is short.


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