Giddy Up

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado

How is your mood/mindset today? Is it intentional, or did it just happen? What word would you choose for it?

For a couple months now I have practiced setting an intention for the day before getting out of bed, encapsulated in one word. I try to make it aspirational, but often I land on something to counter some heaviness or negativity I feel upon waking. It’s like self-reassurance or something, a DIY pat on the back. On 12/15 I awoke mopey, apathetic, and unmotivated. Thursdays are my busiest days at work, so I had to 打起精神來 (da qi jin shen lai), as Ma always says–literally ‘hit rise energy come’–something akin to ‘get moving’ in English. So my mantra for that day became “Giddy up.” I don’t remember the last time these words even occurred to me, but they apparated that day and carried me through.

The next day I started listening to now Senator John Hickenlooper‘s memoir, The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics. Somewhere in the middle of the book, someone attended a psychology class wherein the professor asked a series of questions along the lines of: What is the opposite of joy? Sadness. What is the opposite of X-emotion? Y-emotion. What is the opposite of woe? And a student stood up and said, “I believe that would be Giddy Up.” HA!! It took me a second… 😉 Henceforth Hickenlooper calls up the phrase in his own self-motivating moments.

So now I feel cosmically connected to “Hick” junior (read this Twitter homage to his dad–I dare you to not be moved). My senior year of high school, I was invited by girls I admired to attend an Amnesty International event at the Wynkoop Brewery, which Hickenlooper had opened with some partners only a couple of years before. I will always remember that day fondly, feeling so included. The stories of that restaurant venture, the first ever brewpub in Colorado, and his life in general, are told with moving poignance and good humor in the book, which I highly recommend. Sometime during his tenure as governor of Colorado, I started following him from afar. These last 10ish years, I have always found him to be down to earth, smiling, and approachable in interviews and public appearances. And I absolutely love that he has always refused to run negative ads during any of his political campaigns. His Facebook posts share good work done in Colorado and Congress alike, and help me feel connected to my home state through someone I admire and feel proud to ‘represent’ me.

Throughout the book he tells engaging stories of his meandering life paths, personal and professional intertwined. He owns his flaws as well as his strengths, neither over- nor underplaying either. His ex-wife has surmised that due to emotional losses early in life, he became a pragmatic, rational-dominant thinker and doer, which served him well in business and then politics. Along the way he also had opportunities and support for self-reflection, including marriage counseling. He has done the inner work of developing his emotional mind, which I also very much admire. Today, working in such a polarized governing body as the US Senate, I hope he can set a dialectical example of respect, pragmatism, and collaboration that others will follow.

I know many of my people in Colorado have mixed feelings and opinions about Uncle Hick, as I will now think of him. Of course that is to be expected, and he himself respects it. He recognizes that in government, trade offs are the norm–if nobody is 100% happy with your work, then you’re probably doing it right. Hearing his perspective, both seriously committed and self-depricatingly lighthearted, as a scientist (English major turned geologist who took 10 years to finish college)-entrepreneur-politician, gives me such hope. He discusses the importance of public-private collaboration and the need to update or eliminate obsolete regulations. He embraces an evidence-based, team approach to novel problem solving (eg inventing effective and accountable recreational cannabis policy in the first state to make it legal). He keeps his compass pointed toward the core value of helping people, while leveraging business tactics to grow economies, and not wasting resources. He describes how he chooses battles worthy of fighting, all in good time. After study and deliberation, he is willing to change his mind on important issues, out loud and without shame (eg capital punishment).

I know I must be severely biased toward Uncle Hick just because he is from Colorado. Often during this book, I recalled feeling a similar admiration while listening to Neil Gorsuch’s memoir; he is another Coloradan. I imagine these two men differ greatly in ideology and politics. I also imagine that they respect each other and would engage in healthy dialogue around their differences if given the chance. Colorado is a big place, with a vastly diverse geography and population. It’s also one of the healthiest, most desirable places to live, by any metric. People there are consistently the friendliest folks I ever meet, compared to anywhere else in the world. There is just an ethos, something ineffable and yet palpable, that allows differences to be acknowledged and overcome, and things to get done. One day I will get back there and participate in person. Cannot. Wait.

Giddy up, indeed.