Pessimists are such a drag, always expecting disaster with their half empty glasses. Being around them is worse than standing in a queue all night in the rain with a sore leg and baby that’s not your own. Optimists are much easier to be with. Being glass half full makes everything hopeful and happy ever after.
Or I used to think.
Lately I’ve been thinking that’s a load of bollocks.
Lately I’ve been thinking it’s better to expect the worse and be pleasantly surprised, and maybe the pessimists already figured this out.
In a fit of optimistic spontaneity I agreed to do a 50km Oxfam charity walk this year as part of a team. I thought it might be a chance to go away with some girlfriends and have a jolly nice stroll, and some champagne in a hot tub afterwards.
I didn’t realise that would mean training for hours. My family complained about how long I was out of the house for which got me on my high horse. I told them the people in Fiji, who we were raising money for, didn’t even houses. Or horses.
People told me nightmare stories about toenails coming off, blisters the size of saucers and hips that never healed.
Then my brother, who tramps and writes about tramping for a living, told me even he hadn’t walked 50km in one day. So I ignored him.
Optimists don’t need boring facts to drag them down.
Three days out, my friend, who is always glass half empty, helpfully looked up the weather forecast for me.
“The bad news is there’s a storm coming,” he said. I waited for the good news but being Nigel Negative there was no good news.
He showed me little lightening bolts on his phone also, helpfully.
The night before we left I told my family about the ensuing storm and they said, “but think of the people in Fiji with no horses?”
That was annoying as I had taught them to be positive.
And then I got my period. My glass drained faster than my uterus.
On the three-hour drive to the start line the storm hit the headlines and I confessed my thunderous concerns to my walking buddy, Lisa. She confessed the same feelings.
We didn’t know if we could walk 50km in sunshine let alone a storm. We hadn’t actually walked 50km. Like, ever. We had only trained to 33! Who walks 50km in one day? What were we doing? A storm would bring rain, which would bring blisters, which would bring misery. We would be on our feet and in ghastly active wear for over 14 hours, starting in the dark and finishing in the dark. And people kept calling it a race, like it was a sports event. It was going to be horrendous: worse than standing in a queue all night in the rain with a sore leg and baby that’s not your own.
“Screw the poor people in Fiji!” we yelled.
Yup we said that.
We were screwed.
But there was no going back; our team members were depending on us and all our friends had helpfully sponsored us because they thought we could do it.
And then it started to rain. All night.
I didn’t sleep well because I was dreading it because I am not a full on sporty person. The last time I had done an endurance event was back in 1996 when I attempted a half marathon and there was a storm then and I vowed never ever again. And here I was doing it again and I didn’t want to let the team down but I didn’t want to walk all day in the rain. I didn’t want to get blisters the size of saucers. Or leave in the dark and get back in the dark. Ug.
However, dreading it turned out to be a good strategy.
When it bucketed down in the second (16km) beach leg I kept imagining the Fijians. If only they could see us, they would wonder why we weren’t just flying a plane of fresh water over instead of walking in the thundering water ourselves. And it made me laugh. It was ridiculous. We were ridiculous. But at least it hadn’t rained in the first leg.
When I took my stinking socks off after our lunch break I expected to find leprosy. But there wasn’t. My feet looked like two old people down there, shrivelled and purple and squinting up at me but they were OK. They didn’t fall off.
When we left for the final leg (7km) at 6.30pm, after having already walked for 12 hours, I expected to never make it to the hot tub. But the electrolytes and chicken sandwiches and share excitement that we were coming to the end lifted us up. We fair strutted that last leg and over the finishing line by 8pm. With plenty of time for champagne.
We had expected to run out of things to say to each other and had back up podcasts at the ready. But we didn’t. We had so much to say we stayed up talking, after walking 50km, to say some more stuff.
I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life. It was one of the hardest but we all felt like we did something that day.
And we did. We raised $3300 for Fiji and the whole event raised over $900,000.
So I’ve got a new strategy. I’m lowering that glass level, it doesn’t have to be half full. I might put some mud in the bottom, maybe some cold vomit with a hair in it and then things can only improve.
The glass might even turn into champagne.
Big thanks to Lisa Coleman, Tina McLaren and Adele McNutt my perfect team members (we called ourselves Team Perfect as a joke). And to Mark Mitchinson, Rachel Cooper, Gloria Strawhan, Daisy-Rose and Louis for being our terrific support team, making miso soup in torrential rain and not fainting over our socks.
And an equally big thanks to everyone who sponsored us: Jenny & Glen Clafferty, Tracy Street, Justin Harwood, Justine Ross, Vivienne & David Boyens, Chris Morrison, Mihaljevich, Karen & Grant Barnett, Paula Gosney, Vanessa Clarke, Suzanne McNamara, Lance Hipkins, Karl Zohrab, Phil, Matt, Peter & Tracy, Shelley & Joost, Kristine Chamberlain, Carmie, Penelope Pitstop, Perfect Pete, Mutly, Francene, Steph Cooper, Harriet, Anne Bilek, Jimmy James, Flavia, Bivouac, Thomas & Suze, JB, Nicola Campbell, Kate & Christopher, Carolina, Kathleen & Phil, some lovely anonymous peeps, and somebody called Iron Manson (we needed you on our team!)
To add to the thanks yous… Our wonderfully fabulous support crew Rachael Cooper, Gloria Strawn, Mark, Daisy and Louis Mitchinson. We would not have finished with joy in our hearts, silly things on our heads or a belly-full of miso without you guys.
Yes exactly my friend. I can’t believe I left them off our list – just added with terrificness and thankfulness and gratefulness.
WOW LADY; amazing job! There needs to be an acceptance of being neither one nor the other. I’ve been “accused” of being a pessimist (why is it so bad anyway) and I usually correct them by saying I’m a realist. I make the best of things when they get shitty but I don’t assume things will go well. I assume things will go wrong, and that they will be the different things than I can predict or prepare for so I might as well not worry. But seriously, couldn’t you all agree to skip out on the walk and just mail the donations? It’s like when they light up the world’s busiest bridge (outside my apt) pink for breast cancer. It costs tons of extra money and it frustrates me that they won’t just donate that money and write a lovely press release. Congrats on karma points!
I’m gunning for realist too, but I think I need to be less gullible to pull it off. Next year we know what we’re doing…. a quick walk to the airport and we can deliver the water ourselves.
Thank you. :)