The Three Legged Horse

I recently reminded my good friend Peter Gillespie of the adage “quitters never win”.

He was in a bit of a bleak landscape at the time but I thought his rather erudite reply was worth sharing:


For the record Martin, I’m more of a Spartans Last Stand at Thermopylae guy, than a quitter.  Sometimes calling it quits is a wise move, but I never learned how to make detached assessments. So I have a long career as last man standing. Not all human stories have happy endings and I remind myself that I have done a lot better in the past than I have recently. Why? Probably just odds on. Not all human stories end happy ever after.” 

 Why you still out there racing that 3-legged horse PG?

 “Well, it was a great horse, it loves to race and it still wants to race and I’d feel like I let it down if I stopped now. So eventually it breaks another leg and they must shoot it and there you are again still on your own two legs, wondering about the justice of it all that a horse couldn’t make it on two. Next trick is to not just back any old horse just cos you miss that one.  No sir. But I never learned the trick of that either.”

 Ok PG you got yourself another horse. Did you count the legs on it this time?

 “Aww shit…. “




This week one of my best friends died.

Waves of darkness kept dimming my optimism and energy.

They tell me gratitude, along with exercise, is one of the keys to escaping despair and depression.

That makes sense to me. After all, thinking about things that we are grateful for is a one-way ticket to our happy places.

But hell, what is to be grateful for about death?

It isn’t fair, is it?

Fairness doesn’t get to play here, although it does remain a recurring conundrum for me. What does work for me is reversing the perspective and realising that I am very grateful for the good times I shared with, and the person my friend was.

I am grateful for being best man at her wedding, for the shared houses and travels, for her beauty of spirit, generosity of self and extraordinary empathy and kindness. I am grateful that she didn’t suffer any more than she did and how she remained unflaggingly optimistic until the end. I am grateful I knew her as long as I did.

As my friend was dying she was constantly saying how lucky she was. Lucky that the diagnosis was early, lucky that a new medication was available, lucky that she could get to her favourite location to finally leave us.

My friend was a giver and a carer. She always saw the good in people and was discreet with the bad. If gratitude is truly exemplified in the readiness to show appreciation and return and give kindness, then my friend was a master.

JFK famously said “as we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them”, that was my friend.

Reciprocation is the key. Not the writing of or lip service to some morning or evening affirmation, although here is no harm in that practise, it’s the giving back.

To make that your default setting is one of the noblest goals.

As Elaine St James said,  “the more gratitude you have the more you have to be grateful for”