“Happy New Year!” I said to a member of our writing community. “How are things? How are you doing?” I asked, knowing she is primary caretaker for several of her family members.

“Okay,” she said, “though nothing has really changed. I drive them to doctors’ appointments and keep track of questions and answers. Healthcare can be baffling, let alone my family. Sometimes the only thing I can do is just keep showing up. That’s what I tell myself: ‘Keep showing up.’”

I nodded. “I call it ‘stay in the story,’ which is hard when things don’t go the way I want them to. Sometimes it’s hard to find the optimism.”

We both nodded.


My readers know I struggle with optimism. Though upbeat in my professional life, I often fall short personally. Little mishaps can send me spiraling into pessimism, my default.

Last year’s mishaps paled compared to the challenges. Keith and I attended several funerals and stayed close to the lonely, the sick or disabled, and their caretakers. As family, neighborhood, and church responsibilities increased, I often needed to draw upon my 2019 resolution: Steadfast.

At year-end, I wondered what my one resolution would be for 2020. Advent messages of hope, faith, joy, and peace offered an answer. Optimism. Not Candide’s rose-colored glasses or Pollyanna’s blind optimism but something worthy of sowing.


narcissusplanting_jan2020Yesterday afternoon, I raked last year’s leaves out of ditches and beds—a on-going, steadfast process for forest-dwellers—and planted one-hundred narcissus bulbs in the hillside at the foot of our property. Scrambling up the steep slope, I thought about how sowing optimism isn’t always easy, especially when flowers don’t bloom according to plan. That’s when I need models of optimism in scripture, prayer, and community—a model like this, which happened last fall.


“How are you doing?” I asked a member of our faith community. She’d lost her son in an accident. Not having experienced this kind of loss myself, I had no idea what she might be feeling.

“Okay,” she said. “We’re grieving, of course. But his death gives us an opportunity to witness to our faith.”

We both nodded, I because I had just witnessed something worthy of sowing. That’s the story I want to stay in. And if nothing else during challenging times, I’ll keep showing up.

Optimism, my 2020 resolution.


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  1. joynealkidney

    Mine seems to be generosity. (Last year turned out to be humbleness.)

    • Carole Duff

      Isn’t it interesting, the guiding messages we receive?

  2. bigskybuckeye

    Carole, your thoughts about “optimism” have me thinking about my own journey into 2020. I am still thinking and praying about what word or words to single out. My 2019 was focused on faith, family, and health. Thank you for sharing this post. God’s peace!

    • Carole Duff

      I would love to know your word or words, if you choose to share what comes to you in prayer. -C.D.

      • bigskybuckeye

        Carole, I appreciate your encouragement. I am looking to emphasize growth in my faith for 2020. I am going to place a phrase to remind me of God’s efforts to reshape and challenge me . . . “Sharpen my focus.”

  3. Laurie

    Sometimes the best thing we can do is to “keep showing up”. Nothing says “optimism” like planting bulbs.



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