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Optimism, South Pacific, Baseball and Book Publishing

August 13, 2009

This morning, our official first morning of vacation (when you wake up where you’re supposed to be), my husband offered me his cheek to kiss.  “What’s up?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “I’m concerned that I might’ve  gotten strep from Jared.” “But,” I countered, “if we were going to get sick, we’ve been exposed for 10 days.  Does it really change anything that his test came back positive yesterday?”  My husband smiled, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and said, “You’re just a pop-eyed octopus.”

Instantly I was transported to my early childhood, where I sat transfixed in the movie theatre, watching South Pacific with my parents and older sister. The plot was lost on me, but I loved the music, though some lyrics were confusing. As Nellie sang “I’m just a cock-eyed optimist,” I confabulated those lyrics into a young child’s construction, and “a pop-eyed octopus” was born.

There’s a lot to be said for being an optimist, pop-eyed, or otherwise.  Psychology in the name of sports has shown that baseball teams that score higher on optimism, tend to win more often.  In the rock, scissors, paper game of life, optimism beats pessimism, and it also beats realism. With my older son with strep, and my younger son, nursing a bad fall on his tail bone, my husband recovering from a call that the builder at home had discovered rotted roof joists, I ventured, “Well, at least we’re getting all the bad news out of the way on our first day of vacation.” My eldest, taking in the lake view from our perch on a granite ledge, tamped down the optimistic forecast with, “Mom, knock wood.”

And yet, optimistic thinking has taken me far. This is the first vacation in 4 years that I haven’t worked on my recently published book. I didn’t let the long odds deter me from my goal of getting a self-help book for couples published by a major publisher. Long odds for a first-time author, writing to popularize a brilliant, if obscure theory of relational ethics—the “what’s fair” and how to solve it problem for partners, parents and children alike and across the ages. That theory had transformed my life and made me a better, fairer person.  Ignoring the 2% odds of acceptance, I wrote for a year, sent in a 40 page book proposal and 3 chapters to agents, and on a steamy July day met with three agents in New York City, and held out for the agent and agency I thought would best represent the book.  Priscilla “got” it.  The rest, as they say, is history, or the result of pop-eyed octopism—and the tune is catchy.

Comments and your stories are welcome, and then follow me on

One Comment leave one →
  1. jane permalink
    August 17, 2009 4:53 pm

    let’s hear it for that quality of you, my dear…….pop eyed optimism……. hope the rest of the vacation is going swimmingly……..sorry there are always glitches……….c’est la vie, c’est vrai……….or something like that……….
    all’s ok here. xoj

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