A love letter to the fiercely optimistic

It’s not easy to be optimistic these days. If you’re awake, if you’re paying attention at all, it’s hard to find beauty in the midst of so much violence, ugliness, intolerance, and apathy. It’s hard to believe in the goodness of humanity when so much badness is on display. But some of you do, every day, and not by sticking your head in the sand. Instead you wade through all the bullshit and meanness with your eyes wide open because you know if you close them, you’ll never see the good stuff, the everyday acts of kindness, the crazy beautiful of ordinary life.

This letter is for you, the fiercely optimistic, because I know that’s what optimism takes, a certain kind of fierceness and daring, a certain kind of faith. This letter is for the guy who wrote on his Facebook wall that the only thing he believed in was “everybody,” and then didn’t back down even when his friends jumped on right after to tell him to “stop it.” (At least he didn’t back down while I was watching, but I admit it only took a couple of minutes for me to turn off notifications because the onslaught of super cool cynicism was wearing me down.)

This letter is for you, the radically sincere ones, the ones who walk around with your hearts wide open, despite the obvious dangers. Your raw, honest, searching, hurting, angry, sweet, anti-ironic, anti-hipster, anti-glib-snarky-sarcastic updates are always welcome in my feeds. I love you for reaching out when you’re grieving, when you’re confused, when injustice or cruelty leaves you shaking with rage. I recognize you; I reach back. Without you and your messy, neurotic, sad, joyous humanity, I would surely die on the social networking vine.

This letter is for you, the unapologetically grateful ones who end each day in your gratitude journals or on Facebook or on Twitter, chronicling the things you’re thankful for because it keeps you from getting mired in your fears and doubts and the world’s unrelenting nonsense. And here’s what I know: sometimes, staying un-mired is, all by itself, an act of heroism. I read your lists and I am truly, unapologetically, grateful for you.

This letter is for all the huggers (and the non-huggers too, because I get that; I used to be one). It’s for the cheerleaders and maybe even the naysayers, who remind me daily of the kind of person I don’t want to be. It’s for the creatives who keep making stuff even when it’s hard and scary and no one seems to care, and it’s for the people who love them because that is its own kind of challenge, I know.

This unabashedly mushy love letter is for all the people I see every day being real and vulnerable and hopeful in a world that doesn’t value those traits nearly enough.

Because I do. And I’m grateful.

All my love,



  1. Eileen Lebowitz on February 14, 2014 at 4:57 am

    I am not a total optimist,but, I love your piece.

    Always With Hope

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 8:55 am

      Thank you, Eileen. I’m not as fierce an optimist as I’d like to be either, which is why I’m grateful for the people who regularly (and sometimes unknowingly) pluck me from the depths and remind me that what we focus on (beauty, kindness, gratitude) expands.

    • jo miller (@millejoa) on February 14, 2014 at 9:17 am

      This fine expression of love and appreciation make me cry , as my heart opened that much more ~invoking a readiness to accept and allow more love in all its forms in.
      This is truly a gift. Please keep sharing. xo

      • j on February 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

        Thank you, Jo. You are one of the ones I thought of as I wrote this piece. Much gratitude to you for your diligent daily gratitude. xox

  2. Nina Badzin on February 14, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Boom! You covered everyone and all the gratitude seeps through. I loved this. Perfect for Valentine’s Day.

    • Robyn Hayes on February 14, 2014 at 8:55 am

      You got me. You’ve had me for years 🙂 I love you and your fierce, love warrior ways <3

      • j on February 14, 2014 at 9:00 am

        I love yours right back, Robyn. xo

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Thank you, Nina. I am not normally a Valentine’s Day fan, but this year I figured out a way I can participate.

  3. Karin on February 14, 2014 at 8:56 am

    I always think that Valentine’s is very much a Hallmark holiday and that you don’t need a special holiday forced on you to celebrate your life. Love should be celebrated every day, in all sorts of ways.

    But I love your love letter — there are so many different kinds of love, and all the things you describe are the best qualities of love: optimism, hope, peace, gratefulness.

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 9:01 am

      Me too! But when I started writing this letter, I felt my first ever kinship to this holiday. I just needed to broaden the love I’m celebrating.

  4. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) on February 14, 2014 at 8:58 am

    This made me tear up. So beautiful. I’m grateful for you, j!

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 9:02 am

      Thank you, Annie. The gratitude is absolutely mutual. <3

  5. Anna Em Dash (@helgagrace) on February 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

    xo GIANT HUG

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 9:59 am

      GIANT smile! Happy Valentine’s Day, Anna. xo

  6. Pam on February 14, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Beautiful letter! Open-hearted people are wonderful.

    I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day–even when I was single. (I just sent Valentine cards to friends and family!) Maybe I like hearts too much, or holidays that feature the color red. 🙂

    (My score on this quiz falls in the neighborhood of cavalcade-of-wonder and get-a-grip, just so you know.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-handler/are-you-a-romantic-quiz_b_4769288.html

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Ha! I love Daniel Handler! I lied on the test to make people believe that I am more or less on an even keel (but, actually, I DO think life is a cavalcade of wonder and I AM often late for appointments.)

      Thank you for sharing that!

  7. jb on February 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

    And here’s to you, our champion bad-ass love warrior, j – who sees us and supports us – in the real world and the virtual world, every day. Much gratitude for you, always. <3

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Aw, thanks, jb! Love you big!

  8. ownyourawesome on February 14, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Oh my gosh, I’m sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face. Thank you. Thank you for writing this. Just thank you J. You are love. xo

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Thank YOU, Rita! You are one of people I wrote this to. xoxo

  9. ownyourawesome on February 14, 2014 at 11:16 am

    PS…I don’t know how I’m logged in as ownyourawesome but I guess i am…but it’s rita. xo

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Ha! I knew it was you, but now I know it’s all right that I outed you in my last reply!

  10. Christie on February 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    That was truly beautiful!

    As someone who tends to be a chicken-little-the-sky-is-falling waiting for the other shoe to drop kinda gal but is now trying to be a sunshiney Pollyanna optimist, this really touched me. It is hard to stay open when there seems to be such pain every where you look. Sometimes it takes looking a little deeper, or off to the side, or up but there is light there, somewhere and if your eyes are closed, as you said, you just might miss the glint.

    Thank you for this love letter. I love that you found a way to connect to this holiday of love. I know you shouldn’t need a holiday to show love but for some people who run around crazy, hectic, unaware that love is out there smiling at them, winking at them, whether they are single or not, it is good to be reminded that love, and let’s add hope, is out there.



    • j on February 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      It is hard to stay open, you’re right. And sometimes I think our culture looks down on optimistic, openhearted, sincere people, as if their sincerity is a reflection of their ignorance, but I find the opposite is often the case. Sometimes it’s the unflinching and smartest people who are most willing to put themselves out there in a totally unarmored, generous way (and they have the scars to prove it). Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) and Brene Brown come to mind.

      There are days when I feel so tired and discouraged by the world that I wonder why I do any of this, and then one of these love warriors will write what she’s grateful for, or a Rumpus writer will confess his faith in humanity on Facebook, and I remember that I’m not alone after all. This was such an easy, absolutely heartfelt, letter to write.

      And yes, yes, yes. Let’s add hope too. xoxo

  11. Julia on February 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Oh good God. Goosebumps all over. This is beyond words beautiful. Just when I thought my love for you couldn’t possibly get any bigger.

    This is by far the best love letter I have ever received.

    You are such a fucking blessing, J.

  12. Julia on February 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    P.S: every word of this made my knees buckle with softness but this line in particular:

    “Instead you wade through all the bullshit and meanness with your eyes wide open because you know if you close them, you’ll never see the good stuff, the everyday acts of kindness, the crazy beautiful of ordinary life.”

    Yes .

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Julia, you are everything I’m grateful for and in love with on this Valentine’s Day. Thank you for being the magnificent, openhearted, radically sincere love warrior you are.

      xo (times a million-zillion)

  13. leah77 on February 14, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Aw. Thank you J. I’m so glad that I stopped in today. I’m a V day cynic, but I love love. Raw, real love. <3

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      I’m so glad you stopped by today too. (I’m always glad when you stop by… in all the places you stop by!) And I’m with you. I am not a Valentine’s Day fan at all, but we all know how I feel about love. xox

  14. Joanne Marie Firth on February 14, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Oh j. This really rocked me. You sure nailed it perfectly in your description of people. I’m in there, I can see where so clearly. Thank you for this. If I had any tears left, they would be dripping out of my eyes right now. Since the last post of yours that I read, and I’m sorry if I missed any, I have made three scarves and drew a picture. I promised you on that day that I would dust off my creativity, and I did. Happy Valentines Day to the most ferociously optomistic person I know.

  15. j on February 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I love the word “ferocious”! Thank you, sweetie. And yay you! Did you post pictures and I missed them? *hops on over to FB to check*

  16. lunajune on February 14, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    As one of the ‘alone’ people, without a partner in my life and truly in 52 years only one valentines day did I even have a boyfriend I still love the day, because it causes people to reach out.
    There were many years when it only made me feel lonelier but back then my heart was closed , because it hurt too much, but the moment I opened my heart and started celebrating all the other kinds of love that there is I realized just how much love there is in my life, hordes and hordes of it and since then not once can ever utter the words ‘ I am unloved’ again !
    so celebrating this day, and everyday the love that’s all around me

    so glad to be apart of the love on your page <3
    for your inspiration to be a fearless warrior of love everyday

    • j on February 14, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      “Hordes and hordes of it” made me smile. That is as it should be, beautiful woman. You are a big ball of wonderful in the world. xoxo

  17. Nancy on February 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Only a beautiful, fierce, baddass openhearted, love warrior can write letters like this. Love you more than I can say. This is the valentine’s day when I remember that love comes in many forms from many people. I’m sniffling, thinking of my mama’s face when I left her last night and we said our “i love you’s” and feeling like I can’t wait to see her face in the morning, when I hope she will break into a denture-less grin and tell me that she missed me today.


    • j on February 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm

      Oh, Nancy, you’re such an incredible soul. Sending big love to you and your mom, and relishing the image of her and her denture-less grin. I hope that too. <3

  18. Estrella Azul on February 16, 2014 at 1:25 am

    j, you are one of my favorite people on this Earth, and your love letters like this one always deepen that feeling!
    I am grateful for you. For your love warrior self who doesn’t back down when nearly everyone else would, for your doodles that brighten my days when I pop by your Etsy shop to feast my eyes, and for your writing which always touches me on a deep level, for making me cry while I read this letter.
    Thank you for being here, for being You!

    • j on February 16, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Aw. I’m a complete mushball now. Thank you so much, Estrella. xo

  19. Chris Edgar on February 19, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Judy — yeah, I think that we optimists might be able to draw more people into the fold if we let them know the perhaps-too-well-kept secret that optimists have more fun, as enjoyable as it might seem to be paranoid and cynical. Anyway, that’s my take from a marketing angle. 🙂

    • j on February 27, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      I am absolutely going to make a doodly art piece that says “Optimists have more fun.” Stay tuned. (I listened to your new songs. You’re wonderful!)

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