1. something honest

Today, Tomorrow, Then Forevermore.

What does the text suggest to you about an individual’s response to constraints of convention or circumstance?

. . .

A personal Response to James Lasdun’s “To a Pessimist“.


“It’s true” – It’s all because of You that I have been trapped, lost, constrained. Like a leech, you’ve taken all that I can give and I don’t know if it’s desperation or if your touch has grown unsettling, but I won’t have it anymore. The nights when I let you hold me as I sobbed felt needed – cathartic; but now, now I know better. I know better than to let your darkness into my home. I know better than to let you drag me so far into your cobwebbed caverns.  I know better than to let you you force me to sense of direction, lose all sense of hope. I may not know who I am, but I know you – my love – you are a cruel partner: you have  never been good for me. My dearest Pessimism, I’m sorry – but it is time for you to go.

When faced with suffocating expectations to be a strong woman, I’m forced to realize just how weak I am. It pains me to admit that I’ll never live up to the legacy of my mother, grandmother, and the many women before them. In these regretful moments of realization, of my fragility, of my fragmentation, I let Pessimism in. Like an old friend, the comfort and relief comes quickly and everything else seems unimportant, but then his hold on me tightens and, just as soon, I’m in his caged clutches of constraint. James Lasdun in his poem “To a Pessimist” outlines this very meticulous, but brutal, exchange. By starting the poem “It’s true”, the rest of the stanza seems very matter of fact reflecting just how calming and almost reassuring Pessimism can be. Further, the play on colloquial phrases, “the grass is basically ashes” and “half-full or empty” depicts how sly and manipulatively toxic pessimism can be. The literal changes made to the phrases were minimal but their meanings were greatly altered; just like the sly influence Pessimism has. The familiar grows strange and unsettling in his hands.

I have come to realize just how familiar the feeling of hopelessness and self-pity Pessimism’s manipulation has become. As he continues to manipulate my circumstances with his version of my reality, he skews my perception of the truth, so I begin to believe I’m too sensitive to be strong and, ergo, too weak to be the ideal woman I desire – the one expected of me from the conventions of my matriarchal lineage.  My family is ruled by such honourable warrior women – but I am not such a woman and the only warring is my internal dishonourable battle. This is to say, when I fail to meet the standards I believe that have been set for me, a sense of self-loathing is further affirmed.

My dear Pessimism, what do You know of love anyway? You always said you would teach me, but your fingers felt like death on my skin and that is not the kind of companionship I need. I cannot die to satiate your hunger. I can no longer lay in desperate despair.

I am coming to realize my light and dream that there is splendour in my existence. In my blood is the  amalgamation of dreams my warrior women always knew could be realized – I am miraculous. So, please, do pack of your things. I would like the company only of myself to revel in God’s own handiwork.

In Lasdun’s poem, the second shift in the second and third stanza, explores the wonder of life itself. Most masterfully outlined as he writes, “if not to aspire/ to outright happiness, then at least to resist/ abject despair/”, the speaker has clearly had a change of heart. Though the underlying pessimism – rather resistance to optimism – is still present, there is consideration regarding the validity of life and living it in spite of the “invariably smash[ed]” grass.

Regardless of how familiar I get with abject despair, a circumstance I’ve grown too comfortable with, I – too – can see the light. This is to say, my optimistic side always pulls through somehow. It feels like a constant battle between Pessimism – my disloyal companion – and optimism – the core of who I am; my mind and soul are left to manage the collateral damage. The feeling of inadequacy I associate with being unconventional is due, in part, to lengthy trains of thought with severe and unfounded association. That being said, I’ve realized in order to get myself out of the wilderness of my mind I have to use the same devices that got me there in the first place – overthinking. With this, I am able to reconstruct my self-worth and progress as I seek redemption. I may never live up to the legacy of my grandmother’s grace or my mother’s entrepreneurial success but I can create one just as magnificent.

Pessimism, my toxic love, there is no hope for us. This isn’t to say I won’t miss you or that I won’t see you again – because I will – but that I just can’t live with you anymore. You have overstayed your welcome and I am just now finding the courage within myself to tell you this: I allowed you to make me feel so small, so insignificant that I forgot just how impactful my voice is. Give me enough reason and I can make music in your ears, but please don’t forget the sound of thunder is nothing but a clap of my hands. Today, my voice will move mountains. Today, you will hear me when I say get out of my life.

Something so beautifully crafted in the image of God gone to waste; it is about time that I change the look in my mirror.

The last shift of the poem outlines the speaker’s attempt at redemption, just like I seek my redemption and freedom from Pessimism’s constraints. Though the speaker remains acutely aware of just how hopeless life can be, they have faith that tomorrow may not be the worst one yet. Further, they refer to their experience with the gods and their ability to “bless as well as… punish” to emphasize that life will ebb and flow according to the circumstantial and conventional powers greater than us. The acceptance of the inconsistency of life is where they are able to finally find their redemption.

Much like the speaker, when I am able to push past pessimism and find some good in the world, only then am I able to have faith in things getting better. I will never be the ideal vision of the strong Nigerian woman from my lineage, but that simply has to be okay – I have far too much life to live. Furthermore, I have experienced God’s mercy in abundance, who am I to be overwhelmed or submit to fatigue when I am punished now and then? Like Lasdun indicates, there is bound to be circumstances of hardship, but there also will be blessings – the issue of Pessimism’s power over me arises when my perspective allows for only hardship to be recognized.

My old Pessimism,  go find your next victim: stroke their hair, hold them with those frigid fingers of yours, and once they get comfortable, pull them in like you did me. I hope they’re stronger than I was and have the courage to push you away sooner. But now I rise courageously because I want to experience all life has to offer me – something you could never really understand and wanted to deny me.  But I will no longer let you do so.

Goodbye for now, old friend.

My lowest regards,



Featured image was taken from https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/361484307575735348/. All rights to original owners.

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