Yup. My life is a joke.

Not just any joke. A very particular joke that my stepfather, Larry, used to tell.

He was a child psychologist and I’ll use his official terminology – perfected in child-psychology seminars, no doubt.

So here’s the joke:

A team of child psychologists chooses two kids for an experiment: an optimist kid and a pessimist kid. The kids are the same age, same socio-economic background – same race, ethnic background, gender.

They put the pessimist kid in a room with hundreds of new toys, all wrapped beautifully, in a pile in the middle of the room.

They put the optimist kid in a room with a pile of horse-shit* (technical term).

Two hours later, the psychologists come back.

The pessimist kid is morosely kicking the toys around  and complaining they’re just going to break anyway.

The optimist kid is running hell-bent-for-leather* (technical term) around the pile, slapping her thigh and singing joyously at the top of her lungs.

“Wha … wha …. What are you so happy about?” one of the researchers asks, dumbfounded.

And the optimist kid yells, “Hey, with all this horse-shit there’s got to be a pony somewhere!”

End of joke.

But not really.

Larry seemed to pointedly tell me this joke – as if it were a personal life lesson – and that was strange enough that I’ve been chewing on it for decades.

And then yesterday I thought, “Criminey! (technical term) I’ve been living with that kid in the room with all the presents!”  I stopped in my tracks, walked to the door in my mind and stepped into the other room  – and joined the kid running around the horse-shit.

Then I went out for a run, which was glorious, exhausting and sweaty.

Back home, standing in the kitchen after my run, I had a moment of frightening clarity. “Crap!’ I thought, “What if life really IS a glorious pile of horse-shit?”

And then I started thinking about the pony.

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