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Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
The third week of December, 2017
Winter seems to be cowering far away.

One last story/essay out of my recent trip to the Czech Republic.
Between the lines this is about the mood I find myself in as Christmas approaches, but you won’t know that until the last sentence.

YES!

While exploring the back streets of the city of Olomouc in the Czech Republic,
I stopped on a corner to get my bearings.
A young woman slowly crossed the street in my direction.
Dressed all in black, as if in preparation for a Goth funeral –
Eyes downcast, she didn’t notice me.
But I noticed her – because her black T-shirt bore this message in large white letters in English: REALITY SUCKS!

At the end of my evening presentations in the Czech Republic this fall, I mentioned the girl and the words on her shirt.
The audience smiled – but their laughter was modest.
Too much of modern Czech history underlines the young woman’s conclusion.

When I arrived home in Moab, Utah, I went shopping downtown and passed a store specializing in T-shirts. Prominently displayed in the front window was a black shirt with big white letters – REALITY SUCKS!
I inquired inside the shop – “Do you sell many of those shirts in the window?”
“Oh, yes – lots – it’s one of our most popular items.”

It’s not that there is no truth in the message – sometimes real life is bitterly harsh – and one despairs of the daily grind and the negative forces of one’s Fate.
But as one’s message to the world?
To consciously buy the shirt, decide to wear it, and go out among other people, knowing that the statement will be read – well, that puzzles me.

Is it a cry for help?
A conclusive judgment on life?
An announcement, in case anybody doesn’t know?
A desire to bring other people down?
Or just an attention-getting device?

It’s one thing to think that Reality Sucks, but to wear the memo in public?
Ah, well, the woman was young – I’ve been there – young and in deep despair.
I hope she changes her mind.
I have.

I asked the clerk in the store if she had a T-shirt with a message that could serve as an antidote to REALITY SUCKS.
“Oh sure – what size are you – XXL – extra-extra-large, I suppose?”
She produced a red T-shirt with these words printed on it:
EMBRACE THE SUCK – DEAL WITH IT – KEEP GOING.

The clerk said it’s a slogan out of the military services – and a lot of soldiers and veterans buy the shirts – and even wear them out of the store.
And she said ex-Marines buy one that’s similar –|
SEMPER FIDELIS – SEMPER GUMBY.
It combines the Marine Corps motto – Always Faithful – with a realistic variation meaning Always Flexible.

I didn’t buy either shirt. Not my style to be a walking billboard – never worn a T-shirt bearing social commentary.
But I agree with the sentiment on both shirts reflecting the military mind.

Yes, reality sucks – sometimes. Yes, indeed.
But, as I said to my Czech audiences,
“However, sometimes Reality Shines, as it has been in this companionable hour we have spent together, telling stories and laughing in what, for a short time, is our living room – our Reality. I want to notice that and rejoice when that happens.”

My attitude is that life works out best for those who make the best of the way life works out. The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the most of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
Life works out best for those who make the best of the way life works out.

There’s no meaning to life except what you give it – what you decide to make it.
It’s an attitude of resilience, knowing that every situation has opportunities in it,
and you are free to find and use those opportunities.

I’ll finish this essay with the eloquent words of two men – one, a Viennese – a Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

And, since I am writing out of my recent Czech experiences, these words from Franz Kafka:
“If we knew we were on the right road, having to leave it would mean endless despair. But we are on a road that only leads to a second one, and then to a third one and so forth. And the real highway will not be sighted for a long, long time, perhaps never. So we drift in doubt. But also in an unbelievable, beautiful diversity. Thus the accomplishment of hope remains an always unexpected miracle. But in compensation, the miracle remains forever possible.”

If I did decide to wear a T-shirt with a message on it, it would bear one word:
YES!
And that sums up my mood as Christmas comes this year – I choose Yes – choose to make the reality of these next two week shine.

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