To most five-year-olds in Brisbane they’re known as Peebo and Dagwood – the 40 something identical twins who surprise and delight their young audience with song, comedy and magic during their 30-minute clown show. As professional clowns they do what they love and love what they do and the proof is always in the magic pudding – the kids surround them in droves. But away from their loud wigs, oversized turned-up shoes and painted-on smiles they are Peter and David, avid photographers, comic connoisseurs and……double lung recipients.
Born eight weeks premature with life-threatening cystic fibrosis, David was first hospitalised at 15 and Peter at 19. Two-hundred hospital admissions latter, they underwent lifesaving surgery in 2005 to replace their scarred and damaged lungs. After his transplant Peter suffered major complications. He lost 24 kilograms in intensive care over four weeks and at one stage was given 48 hours to live.
Years of recuperation followed with physio treatment and the never-ending pill-popping of anti-rejection drugs. They began clowning as a way of giving back to the hospital which was by now their second home. Despite their momentous hardships Peter and David don’t know the meaning of a life half-lived. They don’t proclaim gratitude – they live it – in every waking moment.
During their clowning act you can almost feel the sparkle in their eyes, hear the wonder in their voice and see the slight tremble in their hands….every gig is as energetic as the last. They joke that five years is all you get out of ‘second-hand’ lungs – that was almost 10 years ago…..but that’s their shtick, seeing the humour in everything.
There’s a lot to learn from Peter and David – the important lesson of celebrating gratitude and appreciating the moment. Yes, life gets busy and crazy and complicated – but sometimes we need to pause and reboot our thinking.
Case in point: a 2014 survey by News Ltd of 50,000 Aussies found that 53 per cent of people earning $200,000 a year felt either ‘angry’ or ‘frustrated’ at their cost of living. What the? Let’s get some perspective on this. The average wage in Australia is $78,832 according to the ABS. If you plug that figure into www.globalrichlist.com it shows that you’re in the top 0.28 per cent of the richest people in the world by income. That’s right, even on an average wage you’re better off than 99.72 per cent of the global population. Ever tried to get hospital treatment in a third world country? I bet you’ve never, ever gone even two days without food (fasting aside) in a country where food is everywhere and every-when. Even in retirement, our Government will give us up to $35,000 per year (for couples) in age pension until the day we die!
However, these bigger things often take precedent over my simpler gratitudes: living without emotional or physical pain, the love of my wife and kids, the roof over my head, a hot shower, flannelette sheets, freedom…..hell, I don’t even mind paying taxes. Why? because that’s my contribution by virtue of living in the greatest country on Earth.
Being grateful requires a temporary pairing-down of your emotional state to live in the moment and focus on THE NOW. Being grateful is my meditation. I don’t sit cross-legged on the floor, rock back and forth or chant. But I will recognise the sun’s warmth on my back on a cold day, the buzz of a good workout or the tranquil tone of an ‘Asus2’ chord on my guitar. I rarely write my gratitudes down either (as often prescribed by gratitude gurus). I have a more casual approach. I like to deposit in other people’s emotional bank accounts. Here’s what I do: throughout the day, I focus on two separate people – it maybe someone sitting opposite me on the train, someone at work or even someone passing me in the street. As I focus on them I say to myself “I wish for you to be happy”. That’s it. Letting off these daily ‘happy bombs’ never fails to bring a smile to my dial. I know that if I deposit happiness in others the law of the universe will reciprocate.
What are you grateful for?
I guarantee when practicing gratitude your outer world will match the fabric of your inner world and things will seem a little less rushed and a little less important. That’s the message I get each time I meet Peebo and Dagwood. Their worries are ‘on-hold’ and if anything, they teach me how to breathe easier… and I’m grateful those lungs are mine.