These Are The Days For Tragic Optimism.

Viktor Frankl, finding meaning, getting through.

Mindy Stern
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readAug 17, 2023


Photo of me by my half-sister.

I’m sitting on my bed, still groggy, under-rested, over-caffeinated; legs outstretched on crumpled white sheets and a grey blanket sprinkled with dog hair and gluten free pretzel crumbs. I want to be one of those people who never eats in bed, irons their sheets (has them ironed by someone else!) but I’m not, never will be. Whatever.

My back is propped against two soft, malleable pillows, one slips down, lopsided, in the space between wall and bed. Will we ever get a headboard, like real adults? We’ve been together 30 years, married for 27, weathered self-made storms and unforeseen events, paid bills (or not), raised children and canines. We’re real adults, whatever that means.

These days, I feel like the pillow, stuck in the in-between, askew, not exactly where I’m supposed to be, but near. A little lumpy, not meeting expectations. I’m not sure what those expectations are. More money? More work? Fewer wrinkles? Less cellulite?

It’s exhausting, the effort to dissolve expectations, to move beyond romanticizing the past, comparing the present, projecting the future. To be right here, right now. Because I mean, who the hell wants to be right here, right now?

Historic pandemic. Historic heat. Historic wildfires. Historic breach of the Capital. Historic indictments. Historic Hollywood strikes. Historic gun deaths. Historic levels of anxiety. Historic threats to democracy.

That’s a lot of fucking historics and it’s not like mundane life stops as history rolls along.

In a million years, I could not have imagined living though all this and I wish we weren’t but here we are. How do we go about the business of living — full throttled go with gusto god damn it’s good to be alive — amidst the shitstorm?

How do we pay attention to it all without growing numb, without slipping in the cracks, hiding?

Maybe we don’t. Maybe more days we stay slow and steady, one foot in front of the other with less gusto than before, more languishing than we thought possible. Maybe more days are about surviving not thriving.