There are days that I am just looking for trouble and yesterday was one of them.
I could feel it brewing inside me early in the morning, but it became crystal clear during my morning walk. I was in the park. It was about 9:00 a.m. There were all the regular dog walkers with all their regular dogs, most of them running freely around the grass. In the morning, this park seems to be the unofficial off-leash haven for canines. Normally, I don’t mind it. What I mean by “normally” is, I walk through this park five out of seven days a week and it never bothers me that people have their dogs off-leash. But today, I was appalled.
I did a lap and silently counted the number of off-leash dogs. Six. That doesn’t seem like a lot, perhaps, but there were only seven dogs in total.
As I was passing the school, I noticed a group of kids making their way from the school house to the park. Sometimes they have gym class in the park. There was a gym teacher and a long line of 6- or 7-year-olds crossing the road, heading toward the field. I looked around at the dog-walkers. Most had called their dogs to heel, but none had yet attached a leash. I left the park in a silent huff, knowing full well that I would continue to seethe if the dog owners did not do the right thing.
My iPod wasn’t working properly and no matter how I fiddled with the settings it continued to play the same song over and over. I cursed the iPod – all iTechnology really – and when I wasn’t busy doing that I was playing the monologue in my head of what I would say to the guy with the black lab who couldn’t be bothered to leash his dog when there’s a park full of small children at play.
A small part of me was proud of myself that I’d left the park and not spent my morning walking up to people and berating them. But soon the time came for me to head home and the only two routes were through the neighborhood or back through the park.
Even as I reentered the park I chastised myself. “Don’t go this way,” I said, “you’re just going to end up furious.”
But I guess on some level I wanted to be furious, because I found myself on the park path, eyes darting around at all the dog walkers, and I was almost disappointed that those dogs were now all tethered to their owners. Well, almost all. The one who wasn’t – the black lab – stayed so close to his owner’s leg that they looked like a single (albeit asymmetrical) creature.
Earlier in the week I’d met some women in the city for lunch. We’ve known each other for decades and we get together once or twice a year just to check in. In this gathering (that’s what we call our meetings…gatherings) I heard things coming out of my mouth that I truly believe but usually feel as if I have no business saying. One such thing was this: If we want to be happy, it’s a choice we must make every day – many times a day. We can’t wait for our situations to be “right” or “perfect” or even “good.” We just have to choose happy. Simple as that.
I thought of my little diatribe when I was in the park, scowling at dog owners, itching for a fight. I reflected on what utter bullshit I had spewed at our gathering and promised myself I would email each of the women when I returned home and tell them what a colossally misinformed ass I had been. Because, obviously, if it was that easy to be happy – switch-flipping easy, as I had professed – then I would never have spent this morning so grumpy.
I didn’t email my gather-mates though. I spent the day surly, and was completely content to be just that. The key assumption – “If we want to be happy…” – was not present for me yesterday. I wanted to be negative and I wanted to stay that way all day. And I did.
A long time ago, that was simply my M.O. I could hone in on the negative anytime, anywhere and was happy to dwell there indefinitely. Now, not so much. It’s like a little vacation for me to be gloomy. It’s almost fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I have dozens of things to be down about. We all do. I used to spend all my time recounting them all so I wouldn’t forget a single one. But now those things are like the dogs in the park. Most of the time – nearly all of the time – when they’re running off-leash, I think, Dogs. Running. Look at them go.
And then I turn my attention to something else.