As I leave for my walk this morning, I notice how sore my hips feel. I want to turn back but forge ahead. Thoughts slosh around my head like patches of oil atop vinegar. The pieces aren’t fitting. I am a tangle of opposites. I push the varied thoughts aside and keep going, saying to myself “I can do this, I can do this.” I am the “engine that could.”
And then, I notice a huge mess on the trail. A dog responded to the call of nature and left the evidence in a wide swath directly in front of me. I didn’t know there was a dog this large. This mess is of epic proportion. This dog must have been as large as a Trojan horse and full of enemies just as undesirable to the troublesome Trojans. My first thoughts are not positive. In my head, I scold the dogs owner for his lack of respect and irresponsible behavior. But those patches of oil atop vinegar have me question myself. Do I really know the circumstances? Did I step in it?
I answer ‘no’ to both and push these thoughts out of my mind and return to today’s mantra, “Yes, I can. Yes, I can.”
The sky is overcast but no rain slows me down. I pass other exercisers on the morning trail. Most wave or smile. Some do both. It is a good morning for a walk. The oily patches swirl back into my consciousness. Can I make my half way point? I consider turning around sooner and then forget my fatigue, my sore hips, my aching feet and I am lost in movement, forward movement. My lungs fill with oxygen. My brain feels alert and alive. I forget about the stuff left on the trail. I forget that I plan to turn back sooner. I am at the half way point before I know it.
I turn. I think about weeds. I think about how nice it is to see this couple walk together so frequently. I think about all the things I need or want to do today. The day does not have enough hours. I empty my thoughts again and again. I repeat, “Yes, I can. Yes, I can.” Thoughts return. I recycle them and repeat my mantra.
Suddenly, I’m back to where the dog punctuated my morning with evidence of its passing. This time instead of scolding the owner and ranting inside about the thoughtlessness of others, I decide to reframe the experience into something positive. I love a good challenge and the answer comes quickly. Probably the endorphins released by my brisk walk are the source, but the result was the same. This was a healthy dog. Plain. Simple. No inner rant. Instead a calm awareness. I had seen this mess long before there was any danger of my stepping it in. I realize that even if I had met such a misfortune it really wasn’t the worse thing that could happen to me. The consequences while definitely unpleasant would not be threatening in any way. I am grateful that I am a careful walker. I pay attention to my surroundings and often avoid danger or minor irritants such as these. This mess is small potatoes. Proverbially, not literally, small potatoes.
This is about more than messes or small potatoes. This is about my change in perception. This is about reframing my thoughts, looking for the positive when my mind wants to make a big deal out of the negative. This is about persevering and trying again and again, and again. This trail is a metaphor for my life. Into every life some messes must fall. This mess of epic proportions changed when my perspective changed. I had to make a deliberate choice to be willing to see it differently, to put it into perspective and see it in a much larger scheme. This mess on the trail was not left specifically for me. It just is. Taking it personally, getting upset over it is an utter waste of time. How often I waste time. How grateful I am that today something like this could teach me so much, something unpleasant, some might even call nasty, had great value to me there along the trail underneath a cloudy sky.