When Optimism Whispers

Kara Overton essays

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“You’re irritable,” he says, not for the first time this week. “Go write.”

My eyes shift behind him to the kitchen sink, where towers of sticky plates and crusty bowls are one utensil away from tipping. I think of the dirty laundry waiting for me in the bathroom, of the scattered toys calling my name from the playroom. Outside, the oldest shouts for me come join her and her sister in the sprinkler and I push back guilty tears because not even her joyful welcome can make me say yes.

He’s right, I’m irritable – angry and short-tempered and annoyed with the thankless repetition of day-to-day life. The reality – that this life is actually a pretty good one – slips from my grasp like ashen smoke, feeding my misery.

Why can’t I be thankful? I wonder, watching him watch me with expectant eyes. Why is the truth so elusive? Why can’t I capture it?

“Go write,” my husband says again, because he knows it’s the only way.

I try to argue that I have too much to do, that I have too many things to take care of, but the words trickle out like July’s humidity – slow and sluggish, dense and meaningless. Even I can’t deny their inaccuracy.

“Fine,” I say, grabbing my keys. “I’ll be at the library if you need me.”

The gas tank is empty, a sure sign that I shouldn’t go – that my house needs me more than I need myself. I fill it despondently, not without complaint, and make the twelve-minute trek to my destination.

I won’t stay long, I think. Just enough to make him happy.

But it’s a lie, one I’ve told myself many times before.

For two blessed hours, tucked behind rows and rows of fiction novels, I open my computer and play with words. I manipulate them like puzzle pieces, fitting and refitting until my fingers and brain are heavy with peaceful exhaustion. By the end of it, the image in front of me is no longer a jumbled mess but a vivid depiction of the uncontainable truth I’ve been reaching for – a whisper of hopeful optimism.

I am okay.

Irrevocably flawed, but always okay.


About the Author

Kara Overton

Kara Overton is a wife, mother, and teacher who lives in southeast Iowa with her husband and two daughters. You can find her on , and on her blog, .

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