Years back, my dear friend Annie gave me the nickname Pollyanna. As our friendship grew the endearment was truncated to Polly. While the moniker was offered with love, I accepted it with some trepidation because, to me, it seemed to come with a modicum of derision. In between the wry smile and tinge of jealousy was the suggestion that maybe I was in deep denial. I bore the chiding with a happy smile, as any good Polly would, but just below the surface was a touch of embarrassment, like maybe I was delusional and everyone knew it but me.
In response to the good-natured mocking, I’d quip, “Yes, I broke my leg and I’m just so happy I didn’t break the other one”. Chuckle, chuckle. The original Pollyanna was an orphan and the title character in Eleanor H. Porter’s best selling children’s books. A paragon of optimism and glad tidings in the face of cold comfort and tragedy, Pollyanna had a glass-is-always-half-full sensibility that, in these cynical times, is perceived as immature and naive. The subtext is that Pollyanna needs to wake up and smell the dysfunction. Could it be that the rose colored glasses I was wear were obscuring a minefield laid out right in front of me? Could it be that I’m a victim without knowing it? Could I have spent my whole life smiling while I had spinach in my teeth?
My understanding of Pollyannaism has deepened over the years since Annie handed me the name tag and I placed it cautiously above my heart. Countless al anon meetings have been logged. Scores of $10 co-pays have been paid to therapists and body workers. And, most importantly, I’ve spent hours upon hours with my eyes closed and mind open in meditation and prayer. After all that searching, the name Pollyanna, now rings with a different timbre.
I’ve never denied my inclination to smile my way through the storm. Seeing the good among the bad comes naturally to me. What has changed is that now I am consciously aware of the gift and know how to harness its power. Today, I’m willing to look at all of life’s eventualities, square in the face, and say, “teach me”. This morning, as I write, I understand the power embedded in the nickname and I embrace it willingly, without hesitation.
Derision is deserved for the unconscious Polly but, the conscious Polly? She’s a girl I will happily follow anywhere.