Saturday, December 17, 2011

There Must Be a Pony!

In Piper's nursery, we have a chalkboard wall, with some hand drawn "art" (various scribbles by me, not sure they count as art exactly...) but in one of the frames I put a print of a book cover- "There Must Be a Pony"

A while back I bought a set of Penguin postcards, and I've framed some of my favorites. (you can see a few more here). I chose them strictly based on colors or illustrations I liked, not on the actual books (out of all of the titles, I don't think I've ever read any of them!) so I didn't think much about including this one in Piper's room- I just thought it sounded funny, I liked the pink, and the horse's goofy little grin.

But then my mom told me the origin of the title. In case you don't know it, I'll share it with you:

It's a joke about twin boys about five or six years old. 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!"

I typically consider myself an optimist, but this takes it to an inspiring extreme. Because while I do try to see the bright side of things, my personality includes a hefty dose of realism. When I am presented with life's "piles of horse manure", more often than not, my response is to get aggravated and disappointed, complain, and generally do whatever I can to get out of that situation. The optimist kid, on the other hand, saw beyond the crap (literally), and was open to...and hopeful for...the possibility of something good.

Though this story can easily led to a trite and cliche lesson, it still stuck with me as an interesting illustration of a powerful concept. Life as a new mom (or a worker, or a student, or a...anything really) is full of piles of manure at times, and it's easy to get bogged down in it, and jump to the negative. It's much harder to look past it, or even deeper into
it to find the pony. And I know it's not always that simple- maybe not every bad thing we encounter is created by something beautiful. But I believe that there is some truth to the idea that there is always something good to be found if you have the right attitude.

But beyond just encouraging me to adopt a Pollyanna outlook, I think the most striking part of the story is that the boy not only believed there must be a pony- he was willing to jump into the pile, and dig through the poo to find it. He didn't stand idly by, spouting off platitudes about how "everything happens for a reason" or my personal least favorite: "...God opens a window". He believed in the possibility of something positive, and he set out to find it, even if that meant wading through the muck for a bit. I'm certain he wasn't immune to the smell, or the dirt, and I imagine he wasn't any more enthusiastic about the amount of work the endeavor would entail than the average person. I bet he's like the rest of us that think poop is gross, and digging through it is even grosser. The difference is his attitude, and his choice in spite
of his common belief. If all of us were confronted with the same problem, some of us would end up isolated in the corner, attempting to shield ourselves from the negative, ultimately missing out on any experience at all. Many of us would end up angry, frustrated, wallowing in self pity. And the unavoidable fact is that regardless of our choices, just by being in the room, all of us would end up covered in stink, despite our efforts to avoid it. The boy embraced that fact, dove in, and- I believe in the unwritten ending- ends up riding off on a pony.

There is some irony to the fact that this picture is hanging above Piper's changing table. A spot where ten times a day I actually do have to scoop my way through poop. But
hopefully I can emulate that second little boy, and my story will include me embracing my pony- the stinky, but beautiful little girl that created all that mess.

So what are your piles of poo? What are the ponies that are potentially hiding within them?
And what are you willing to go through to find them?


  1. Great food for thought, Courtney! I'm not exactly sure what my piles of poo are at the moment, but I'm sure that I have one or two...I just need some time to think about them.

    I was wondering though, if I could copy cat your "Wouldn't It Be Nice" idea for 2012. I could or might call it something different and I most definetely would link back to your original post and give credit where its due for the idea. I just like it. I like how it lets you tackle one goal/project/habit in a month vs. making a slew of New Years resolutions that are inevitably not kept. Let me know and if you'd ratherI not, I can go a different direction. Thanks!

  2. Happy- You are more than welcome to use the resolutions idea....after all- it was barely mine to begin with! (is anything original on blogs anymore? Not since pinterest!) Happy New Year, Happy!