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The Upside Down Devil On My Shoulder

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D‘oh… I woke up last night with a Pessimist Devil on my shoulder.

WTH? Where did YOU come from?

I’ve had an Optimist Angel on my other shoulder for a long time, but this new little Satan is gnawing at me… *SHOO!*

I’m living in a world of confusion… I’m more befuddled today than I’ve been in my entire dinosaur-aged life.

More befuddled than when I first saw race walkers in the Olympics and wondered… “WHY?” Are they racing to the bathroom but don’t want to run and cause an explosion?

More befuddled than a peephole placed on the edge of a glass door.

More befuddled than a golf ball decked out with camouflage paint.

I want to be an optimist.

I really really REALLY want to be an optimist.

I look at major components of our world and see a HUGE wave of historic hope and cheer.

There are a number of reputable reports telling us that humans are living a far better and safer life than they have in our entire history. What’s not to love? Optimists should be jumping for joy. And yet… it’s hard not to see…

… the Upside Down (see Stranger Things for explanation) in our world… and it’s becoming more and more evident in the past 5-10 years that this alternate dimension is inhospitable to humans and life of all kinds, and should be avoided at all costs.

Here’s the Upside Down shortlist:

Greenhouse gases and climate change

nuclear weapons at the ready in the trigger fingers of demented despots

super-killer guns in kids’ cereal boxes *only a slight exaggeration*

huge swaths of people with “science hatred”

widespread disbelief in clear and obvious facts

xenophobia

expanding wealth gap

viruses

inflation

healthcare inadequacy

Bill Gates

So, is Bill wrong?

Longer-term I don’t think so.

These concerns and worries I’m experiencing are like a pesky mosquito that hums around me in my bedroom darkness… it irritates incessantly but is astonishingly resistant to the “squish”.

I know that modern technology, ubiquitous internet, and social networks are both a panacea and deadly virus wrapped tightly in a single package… we love all the “wonder drug” good they bring us, the angelic positives… communication and education at our fingertips. *Why aren’t you TikTok’ing to me?*

But the devilish negatives, the “Monkeypox” side effects are pressing a colossal thumb on the weigh scales of civilization. Our degrees of humanity are becoming less human and more neanderthal.

Who would have predicted 25 years ago that with greater education, we’d become more stupid in many ways?

As worried as I might seem, I know that humanity (like investments) doesn’t follow a straight-line upwards graph of human progress and happiness. There are tumultuous and painful bumps along the road. Dreadful storms need to be weathered to reach Shangri-La.

The antidote to my pint-sized “shoulder demon”, and my optimistic message to you and me both in these uncertain times, is to take a deep yoga breath and reflect on the “angelic” positives.

Here are just 8 global “angels” to brighten the world:

OK… while it’s pretty clear that the manure of life will never smell like roses…

… we can remind ourselves of the little boy who, upon receiving a pile of horsesh*t for his birthday, immediately began digging through it with glee and excitement… “yippee, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!“”

Repelling the Age Demons for One More Year …

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only-young-once

I was young once. Of course I’m still immature.

There are halcyon visions of my little toddler kids doing upside-down twirls while hanging from the swing set in the backyard on bright summer mornings.

Gasping, I watched helplessly when my 3 year-old son Will fell from a head-down position and landed hard on his crown on the sparse grassy ground underneath; when the momentary shock subsided, he burst into wails of tears from the stun and pain.

I laughed when they twittered (NO… not THAT Twitter) their excitement over red wiggly worms or chirping hens.

I fumed when they bickered and argued with each other about Fisher Price toys.

Those days were exhausting, but I miss them.

In those earlier days I would wake up at 5 am and throw on my running shoes and run 8 or 10 hard, fast (for me) miles before breakfast. Weather be damned… rain, shine, frigid temps or blistering hot. It didn’t matter. I was young and nothing would stop me.

A few years have passed and now my birth certificate claims I’m not so young.

I still canter around the block in my high tech New Balance runners, absorbing the sights, sounds and scents of cherry and Ambrosia apple trees. But it’s just at a canter pace, no galloping any more.

And weather? Well, it had better be mild and at least moderately sunny or I’m gonna stay indoors and find my stride on a comfy, dry treadmill.

Running Van Half Marathon 2015

This is what “experienced” runners look like at the end of a Half Marathon…

 

………………..

Life is a beautiful, precarious, frustrating, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, soul-satisfying wonder.

We’re all given one and some of us – the optimists – appreciate it and thrive and glory in everything, even the bad parts.

And others of us – the pessimists – find pig shit in the sunniest of days.

It’s all a matter of approach and viewpoint and self-talk .

I called myself an optimistic-pessimist for many years. The thinking in my head was that if I had low expectations, then anything that somehow rose above those depressed levels would make me a happy, contented soul.

Dawson

C’mon Dawson … Always Look on the Bright Side of Life …

 

But I’ve changed.

I try to look at all things in life now from an optimist’s perspective. I expect the best and if it doesn’t pan out, oh well, this too shall pass, and tomorrow or the tomorrow after that will bring a sunnier day that I can enjoy thoroughly.

Today, as in life, I’m approaching my runs from an optimist’s POV.

I used to enter running races and triathlons feeling enormous internal pressure to meet my goals for time. I needed the affirmation that I had trained hard enough and had sufficient strength to push myself just a bit more, a bit more.

I needed my internal Mommy to tell me I was a good boy. I wouldn’t kick myself if I didn’t reach my goals, but I felt let down. There was an intense pressure to succeed.

When I enter a race now, I have a goal time in mind. but I don’t invest myself so thoroughly in achieving it the way I used to. My laissez-faire stance just says to me, “I’ll do my best and if I make it, fantastic… if not, fantastic still” .

Just two weekends ago I ran alongside about 14,999 others in the Vancouver Marathon/Half Marathon (I ran the half marathon section). It was a gorgeous sunny Vancouver day that would make anyone wonder why the heck they didn’t move to Vancouver long ago (aside from $1 million dollar average home prices). Mountains, oceans and sunshine are human seductive candy.

Running inside bucolic Stanley Park on a bright day while looking over Burrard Inlet, cruise ships in the harbour, is the definition of modern-day heaven.

Sun-Run

My mind was in “runner’s peace” for the first time as I glided, almost effortlessly along the forested roads through the park. I crossed the finish line over two minutes sooner than last year, but it didn’t really matter.

I’ve silenced my inner Mommy.

Why?

Because I’m still doing it. Just doing it. Like Nike.

I’ve been a pallbearer enough times … I’ve been to ample funerals and Celebrations of Life to love and appreciate the rise and fall of my chest, the beat of my heart.

And how many of my friends and acquaintances stopped running years ago because of knee issues and hip issues and age issues and and and.

The body we’re assigned either holds up or it resigns.  I’m fortunate in knowing that my runner’s resignation is still somewhere, someday, further along in the future, and for that I’m content and happy.

I’m still doing it and feeling like I’m a little kid myself hanging upside down on the playset.

The aging demons in my head have gone silent and I’m just a running fool for one more year.

forrest-gump