Staying positive in 2017: Why I still feel #blessed in a mixed up world

My, but it's wonderful to be alive.

Today in Australia, a gentle breeze is wafting across an impossibly beautiful blue sky and I'm amazed at my sheer luck to be here, enjoying the extraordinary privilege of living in arguably the best country on the planet, in this tiny glittering slice of human history.

I consider the chances of my consciousness being inside a toothless, louse-ridden beggar in Paris in 1823, or a fur-clad Neanderthal, sincerely hoping my lunch doesn't eat me first, and shudder.

Perhaps it's important to remind ourselves of this, sometimes. I don't necessarily mean some sort of Pollyanna "glad game" … actually you know what, I do. Young Pollyanna was on to something.

Be grateful to breathe

On Australia Day in Perth, Peter Lynch, a guy exactly the same age as me, was flying his twin-engined seaplane, with his partner, Endah Cakrawati, on board, for a celebration called Skyworks.

There, too, was a beautiful day, glorious and hot. Peter texted a friend he had some concerns about the wind and heat, but imagine how Peter and Endah felt as they took off into the blue, the things they said to each other, their excitement and joy to be together, doing this amazing thing on this gorgeous day.

For some as yet unknown reason, the plane crashed into the river in front of 60,000 onlookers on the foreshore. Peter and Endah died.

The event was cancelled. Perth's lord mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, cut to the heart of it with a blunt message to those disappointed the fireworks show was cancelled. Be grateful you are "still breathing," she said.

Chance encounters

Two people died in that moment. But consider the very high chances of the plane ploughing into the thousands of onlookers, a motorway or a building.


Last year I worked a big event in Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall, so the chilling images of a stolen Commodore doing burnouts before intentionally mowing down pedestrians, killing five and injuring more than 20, are all the more powerful because of the familiarity of their context.

Yesterday morning, after what is known in the trade as "a big night out" I was walking, dehydrated in the early heat, to retrieve my car from the scene of the debauchery. My addled brain was busy making a list of all the things that were wrong, ruminating on a number of admittedly annoying first-world problems like an over-thinking teenaged girl (I can discuss this demographic's thought processes with authority because I am the father of one).

But, consider this. Out there in the world, right now, there are people grieving, starving, stumbling through deserts looking for lost children, hoping the next bomb isn't for them or staring with dead eyes through the detention centre wire.

I could even be Donald Trump's press secretary.

Trumped up

But if we are not one of these people, then how #blessed are we?

I will get to smell garlic and onion hitting hot oil again. There's the indescribable joy of a beautiful woman who loves you kissing your neck. I will finish my re-read of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and thank the absurdly talented nut-job for giving me the gift of his words and a disturbing wander through his beautiful mind.

I will get a text from my child, overseas, filling her own life with new experiences. I will pour a beer this evening, after working in a hot garden.

I don't know how long this beautiful life will last. None of us do. So it's good to appreciate these moments for the rare gifts they are.

Call me Pollyanna. I really don't mind.

How are you staying positive this year? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is owner of a creative events and activations agency and is a regular commentator on the life and style of Australian men.

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