Pinky Pie

Ronald Reagan, a pony, Jean & blithely Me

Posted on: February 18, 2010

An unidentified blithely barbecuer

Jean, my childhood/family friend, linked my blog post, “Putting on my face, Tammy Faye & Me,” to her Facebook page with these words:

“Another great blog entry from Sue Hessel. Has anyone ever written so blithely about breast cancer?”

I think that was a compliment but what exactly did it mean to be writing “so blithely?” Frankly, I felt a need to look up blithely and found these definitions:

1. Carefree and lighthearted.

2. Lacking or showing a lack of due concern; casual: spoke with blithe ignorance of the true situation.

As I wrote on Jean’s Facebook page, “I have been wondering as late what exactly they put in that chemotherapy that I would be so upbeat. I’d say we should bottle it, but you really wouldn’t want that stuff. Frankly, a little “blithe ignorance of the true situation” couldn’t hurt.”

Another of her friends, Alice, wrote about me, “You’re on my short list of people with the gift of finding, seeking, sharing happiness, even in the (clown-nosed) face of adversity. I’m so glad Jean introduced me to you via your blog”

And Jean added, “Well, I meant blithe in the sense of #1 more than #2, but I think to call you “carefree” is pushing it, thanks especially to the demonic insurance companies. And you’re right, blithe ignorance in the face of cancer sounds like just the ticket.”

I looked further and found these other examples on the web of blithe:

  • “Was loved for her blithe spirit” (Sounds a little obit-like description)
  • “A merry blithesome nature” (And boy could she decorate a Christmas tree? :-))
  • “Her lighthearted nature” (Unfortunately, the only light thing about me)
  • “Trilling songs with a lightsome heart” (and I was told to mouth the words in Kindergarten).

I must say that I do not skip along the road in glee over having breast cancer, but I have found myself being, well, blithesome.

Apparently, I am about to quote Ronald Reagan’s favorite joke. But before I do so, I want to mention that my friend, Jean, and I have gone horseback riding together three times or so in our lives – probably a zillion and a half years ago. Each time, as I recall, a near disaster occurred.

Once her horse took off with her on it. Another time we were one horse short at the stables where we were going to ride. Someone either had to stay back or ride a donkey. I volunteered for the ass, of course. Even then I recognized a great story in the making.

What makes it even better is that for some reason Jean got off her horse and the cranky steed would not let her back on. Someone had to go for help and it was my ass on the ass trying to save Jean’s ass (I exaggerate of course and Jean may remember the story differently). Imagine if the U.S. Cavalry rode donkeys in Custer’s time.

It is not in my political nature to quote Ronald Reagan but this joke comes to mind when I think about my attitude adjustment since my cancer diagnosis:

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. 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!”

(Thanks to a website called Phrase Finder, which located the story from CBS News at:

I used to be like the pessimist boy, always worrying about the other shoe falling. As I said to my surgeon Tuesday, the other shoe did drop with breast cancer diagnosis but I picked it up.

Now I’m in search of that pony. It’s gotta be here somewhere.

Here’s hoping there are two ponies in there, Jean, so we can go for a ride again together. This time, I’m sure we’ll ride off into the sunset without incident.

And Jean, I also remember riding with you in North Conway, New Hampshire, before one of your summer stock performances. I believe you had curlers in your hair. What I wouldn’t give for a photo of either of us on a horse from any of these adventures. Next time we ride, we must get Jodhpurs. (Is that the right word?) We’d laugh ourselves off the ponies.


6 Responses to "Ronald Reagan, a pony, Jean & blithely Me"

We’re riding again. You name the time and place. I’m there. And if a mule is available (and it was a mule, not a donkey — the only detail I believe you got wrong) — you’re riding him. Her. It.

I think it’s clear I don’t know my ass from a mule or a donkey.

Blithingly, yours …

Love this, Oh Blithe and VIBRANT Spirit! Wonderful in every way. And please count me in on the next mule/pony ride…. Glad it’s not a donkey (I was bitten by one in Naxos).

We need to find a time to get together – all of us. With horses to pretend we are cowgirls on.

Oh, do make that three ponies!

It may take a lot of shoveling, but we’ll find as many ponies as we need.

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