Hope Springs Eternal (Look for Your Pony)

by Jan 2, 2021Ramblings

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My wife, Stephanie, asked me to write this month’s email for her business’s email list. She asked me to reflect on 2020 and provide a peek ahead to 2021. I really liked what I came up with and wanted to share it here, on my personal blog, as well. She’s a world class fitness instructor so there are some elements of this that allude directly to that.

I hope you read something that makes you smile, that encourages you, and hopefully inspires you to move forward into 2021 with excitement and hope.

Andy and Red against a wall, talking

“Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” – Red to Andy Dufresne in the film, The Shawshank Redemption

But first…a little levity

I tend to be the eternal optimist. (I have to be. I’m a long-time UGA, Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Atlanta sports fan!) So much so that at times, I may have chosen to ignore reality. I’m often reminded of the pony joke, though. Surely you’ve heard it. It was apparently a favorite of President Ronald Reagan and one that he told often. It goes like this:

A family had twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,’”the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”
Next, the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

A Brief Aside, aka Following a Rabbit Trail and Spoiler Alert

The film I mentioned above, with the quote, The Shawshank Redemption, was adapted from a novella written by Stephen King. The original story was titled, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption – Hope Springs Eternal. Apparently, the subtitle, Hope Springs Eternal, is a phrase from the Alexander Pope poem, An Essay of Man, written around 1733 and popularized optimistic philosophy throughout England and the rest of Europe, according to Wikipedia. I have a few other quotes from the movie sprinkled throughout. **If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s possible there might be a spoiler in these quotes. And, if you haven’t seen it, you really need to.

The Year That Was

I know, I know. It would be easy just to say, “2020 sucked!” And in a lot of ways, it did. Pandemic, quarantines, digital learning, the untimely death of a number of beloved celebrities, family, and friends adversely affected due to COVID, or due to economic woes because of the lockdowns. Oh, and that always enjoyable election season. Ad after ad after ad after…and that was just what would show up in our mailboxes. Add to those ads the radio and TV ads and it all adds up to, “These people are ALL annoying! Will it ever end???” And for those of us here in Georgia, we’re still waiting for the end of election season. Tuesday can’t come quickly enough!

I was so proud of Steph and the post she made in which she pointed out so many positive things that happened in 2020. We celebrated birthdays, we got a little snow, we read some great books, we STARTED A BUSINESS (Thank YOU very much!!), we worked out from home, we enjoyed more time with family, learned some new skills, saw our business grow (Thank YOU very much!), had school both digitally and in-person, started teaching a teen to drive, enjoyed Halloween trick-or-treating, VOTED, saw the business grow a little more (Have we said, Thank YOU??), made some cupcakes with a bunch of you, and had a peaceful, merry Christmas. It wasn’t all bad. In fact, much of it was quite good.

So, as we think about 2020, maybe, we just need to yelp with excitement and look for our pony.

Andy Dufresne, Arms outstretched, standing in the rain

“Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.” – Red, narrating

The Year to Come

There’s something about a new year that always brings a little extra dose of hope along with it. Am I right? I’m willing to bet that we all feel that extra measure of anticipation, too, as 2021 begins. After all, “hope springs eternal” right?

After the success of last year’s sugar fast challenge that Steph led, we wanted to take it up a notch this year and hence the Crazy Loon Challenge was born. We’re really excited to have so many of you joining in and taking on this hard, but doable, challenge with us. I know I’m doing it because I want to make some changes that will give me every opportunity to be around for a long time for Steph and our boys. Having my father pass away because of cancer just a few months before Neal was born is still one of the hardest things to experience and I want to take care of my body so that I can be around for a long time.

I encourage you to look for, find, and focus on your “why” as you set goals, as you do hard things this year. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and philosopher, who is best known as the founder of logotherapy and the author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, said this, “When you know your WHY, you can endure any HOW.” This concept came from his own experience during the Holocaust and his work with survivors.

I encourage you to set some audacious health goals for 2021. But, I also encourage you not to focus on the goal itself. Losing weight is great. Toning and improving your body composition is worthwhile, also. Spending time with other people who are on a similar journey and experiencing community and accountability is something worth working toward, too. But none of it will matter if you don’t truly connect with why those things are important. Why does it matter? To be healthier? Ok, but why? To live longer? Ok, but why? To be the best you, you can be? Ok, but why? For me, it’s because I want to be there for my sons as they need me for many years to come. To be able to love them, guide them, teach them, celebrate with them. To show them what it means to love your wife. To instill in them the values that I believe will help them make this world a better place. That’s why. There’s meaning in that for me far beyond losing 25 pounds or running a 5k in 30 minutes.

The Choice is Yours

The truth is, 2020 did suck for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. But, if you’re willing to wade through the crap, there was plenty of good to be found as well. The other truth is that there’s no guarantee 2021 is going to be drastically different. But that shouldn’t cause us to hesitate, or to fear the worst.

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne to Red, in a letter

I’ve referenced this movie, The Shawshank Redemption (Did you know IMDB.com (Internet Movie Database) ranks it as the best movie of all time?) several times now – ok a lot – via quotes, but I’m not quite done. It really is one of the best movies ever.

Probably the most famous quote from the movie is this:

Andy and Red playing checkers

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne to Red

And that’s really it, isn’t it? We can choose to live, despite the doom and gloom all around us or, we can find the good and focus on our why and live life to the fullest, in spite of the bad things that may come.

So, I’ll end this longer-than-normal blog post just like I ended the longer-than-normal monthly email update, with, you guessed it, another line from the movie. It sums up my feelings for 2021.

“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” – Red

So, I hope you hope as we enter 2021. And remember, when you find yourself surrounded by crap, look for the pony.

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