”There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life – whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
We’ve all had days when things don’t seem to go our way. A lot of the time we let it impact our moods and attitudes, continue our day in an agitated state, and blame it all on bad luck or external factors. However, I think that life is too short to allow trivial annoyances wreck an entire day. As a matter of fact, life is also too short to let significant setbacks totally ruin our spirits. But how can we minimize the days when we’re feeling mad at the world, and live as many days as possible filled with happiness and joy? One word: attitude.
Yesterday morning started off feeling like one of those days when things are off. I woke up not feeling well, but decided to begin my day going to a nearby park with Harley to hike a trail. I realized I had parked my car about 10 minutes down the street to give my hubby the extra parking spot when he came home late last night.
While walking to the car, Harley did her pooping business. This may seem like a weird detail, but go with me here. I get to my car, turn on my ignition, and see that my gas tank is low… strike that, now on E. I look in my rearview mirror to see what turns out to be ketchup spattered all over my back window. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of college kids who party a lot, and then apparently smear ketchup on random cars.
I clean up the ketchup and get back in my car, thinking I smell poop. I look back to see Harley kicking her paws around like a lunatic, as she does after she poops. Scratch that, I really do smell shit.
Why my 2-year old dog felt the need to poop in my car 2 minutes after she had pooped outside is beyond my comprehension. She only pooped a little, but managed to then step in it and kick it around all over my backseat, including my car door. I hastily wipe the crap off my car and begin to feel annoyed at her still exuberant mood.
While driving to the park, Harley, as usual, wants the window down so she can stick her head and half her body out of the car. It’s a cool morning and I’m already chilly, so I ignore her whining. As she continually presses her paw on the locked window button to open it to no avail, I feel the aggravation inside of me mounting.
When we get to the park, my dog is overly excited, pulling on her leash, yanking my arm as I yell, ”HEEL!” at her. A few minutes into our walk, I realize that I’m in a cranky mood. I feel tense and annoyed, and it’s not even 8 AM yet.
I decide that I’m going to give myself an attitude adjustment, and so I follow the steps I do when I want to reclaim a good mood:
First, I take deep breaths. The act of just being mindful of my breath helps me to relax a bit.
Next, I focus on my surroundings. It’s a beautiful, brisk morning. The trees and shrubbery around me have some unusual color to them, due to the rare days of rain we’ve just gotten. There’s barely anyone around, and it seems so peaceful at the park. I look down at Harley, who gazes up at me with her typical smiling face, looking at me like she’s thinking it’s the best day in the world. She’s still pulling on me as we walk, and I don’t see a person in sight, so I let her off the leash to get some of her energy out. As she sprints around me nonstop for probably 5 minutes, I can’t help but smile.
I ask myself if what has put me in a bad mood is important in the overall scheme of things. If it’s not something that I’ll feel mad about in a week or month, it’s not worth spending my energy on it now. Is the ketchup surprise on my car a big deal? Definitely not. The empty gas tank? Completely my fault for procrastinating paying $4.25 a gallon at the pump. I’ll stop at the next gas station to prevent myself from completely running out and getting stranded. Harley’s antics? That’s just my crazy dog. I remind myself that her nuttiness is one of the qualities I really love about her, and that this is pretty much her first poop accident of 2012. Not bad for my little nut job puppy. My not feeling well? I think I’ll survive, and I tell myself I’m lucky to be alive and healthy.
I start thinking about what I’m thankful for. I note all of the great people in my life and all I’ve got going for me. The longer my mental checklist gets, the better my mood gets.
We’re making our way through the trail as I’m pondering all of this, when all of a sudden I stop dead in my tracks…. because there’s a bobcat standing in front of us.
The bobcat, Harley, and me have a standoff, for what felt like an hour but was probably 10 seconds. I have never seen one in my life, and I totally froze. We all did actually. I put my hand on my taser, as the thought of him/her doing this ran through my head…
…though I’m not sure how well that would have turned out. The bobcat finally bolts into the forest, and is gone just like that. A minute later, I passed a man who saw the bobcat in the distance. He told me he’s been coming to the park for 50 years, and this was the first one he’s seen.
Now, cranky me would have thought, ”Of course, I almost get attacked by a damn bobcat at the park today!” but the refocused, more pleasant version of myself instead thought, ”How scary, but how awesome was that?!”
And so, when we take the time to evaluate why we think we’re having a shaky day, reassess our outlook on things, and remind ourselves of all the wonderful things around us and in our lives, a lot of the time a bad day isn’t really bad at all. What’s unfortunate is that we tend to let a few minor annoyances negatively effect our attitudes, making the rest of our day seemed doomed when it probably isn’t so. I have a quote written on a post-it hanging in my bathroom that reads, ”Your attitude is a secret power, working 24 hours a day, for good or for bad.” It reminds me of the major impact that my attitude has on my life, how it shapes every aspect of my world. Moving forward in your life, ask yourself if your attitude is impacting your life in a positive light, or if it’s holding you back. Life is short, but it’s never too late to alter your thinking and make the very most of all the living you’ve got left.