Three weeks ago I wrote how every negative situation is positive. Well this week brought such a crazy-ass example of that, I shared it with all my clients. Now I want to share it with you.
This story is hilarious. I almost wrote “unflattering”, but you’ll see at the end that this story flatters me in the sense that I saw how this infuriating situation was also a massive blessing.
Summer’s sun, blue skies and Oregon’s hot breezy air called me out again last weekend. I love working outside along the Willamette River shores. I enjoy Ospreys above and salmon jumping skyward likely avoiding sea lions and their chisel like teeth.
I decided I wanted more of that, so I packed my bike. I packed light, my portable chair, my iPad and nothing more. I planned to finish reading Ross Douthat’s The Decadent Society, its insightful take on current reality had my attention for weeks now. I anticipated exploring Douthat’s take while enjoying the Oregon summer.
That’s not what happened though
Oregon’s governor recently eased lockdown mandates. With her decree, all of Oregon made similar plans. I expected a few people riverside, but wasn’t prepared for crowds that showed up.
A forty minute bike ride turned into an hour while I tried finding suitable, solitary rest stop. I finally decided on a rocky shore devoid of human for lack of any sand. But I had my chair. I didn’t need sand.
I parked my bike, set up my chair then settled into Douthat’s narrative. Thirty minutes later, a couple with two dogs showed up. The young, tattooed Portlanders led their dogs to the water’s edge, unleashed them and threw tennis balls into the river. The larger of the two dogs, a pit-bull, leapt into the water while its smaller puppy companion barked in envy. Then the puppy eased into the water, found it agreeable and went for a swim. I smiled then turned back to Douthat.
Minutes later, the puppy was licking at my bare legs. I’m not a dog person, but I can appreciate a cute pooch. On this day though, I just wanted to read in quiet on a beautiful day. It annoyed me that this dog suddenly was licking my leg. But what annoyed me more was the fact that its owner hadn’t done his legal duty of keeping his dog under control.
I lifted my legs away from the pooch, clearly annoyed, which the owner saw. He came bounding to my rescue, scooped up his dog with an apology and returned to his spot. There, he put it on a leash. His partner too re-leashed the Pit-bull.
All that was nice. But it was too late.
I got hooked in frustration-momentum
Momentum is a powerful thing. Especially negative momentum born of oft-told stories. I’ve harbored negative stories about dog owners who don’t keep their dogs leashed and therefore under control as leash laws mandate. So much so it’s one of my “pet peeves” (oh god! no pun intended!).
Recently when I read about a “Karen” from Central Park Manhattan who made a racist false police report against a fellow New Yorker who politely asked her to leash her dog in an area where a leash law was in force. The fellow New Yorker, a board member of the New York City Audubon Society who happens to be African American, recorded the whole incident. The recording went viral and popular outrage caused the woman to lose her job and her dog. Reportedly, New York is considering banning her permanently from Central Park and the District Attorney is considering pressing charges against her for making a false police report.
This story came to mind as that puppy slimed me. When its owner grabbed it and apologized, I mused whether he also thought about that Central Park incident.
The problem was, I didn’t shake the association, which would have been in my best interest. Comparing my experience to what happened to the Audubon Board Member wasn’t really fair. But old stories about my pet peeve combined with that viral Central Park experience in my head creating momentum that swept me up.
For the next half hour I couldn’t focus on my reading. My mind swirled around the association, my indignation, my annoyance and frustration….
What happened next was no surprise
The couple decided to pack up and leave, having I suppose, had enough time at the water’s edge. As they walked to the bike path, I heard the woman say to someone I couldn’t see “Sir, would you mind leashing your dog?”
The irony didn’t escape me. “Cosmic Justice” I thought. Little did I know said justice was just getting started…
I couldn’t hear the what the person she addressed said, but I heard what she was saying. I also got the annoyance in her tone:
“Why aren’t you willing to put your dog on a leash sir?” She asked. I turned, hoping to see who she addressed. I couldn’t see that person. She continued.
“My dog isn’t friendly,” she said. The person said something I didn’t hear.
“How many years have you been around my dog sir?” She replied. “I’m telling you my dog is not friendly.”
Apparently whoever she addressed had done nothing, so she reached down, picked up what looked like a 40 pound pit-bull and scrambled over rocks the rest of the way to the bike path with her male companion in tow.
I was thinking about karmic kickback, wondering how the couple felt now since they themselves hadn’t controlled their (little) dog. Which is why I hadn’t noticed that not seconds later another dog was sniffing at my leg!
It’s my turn…
I turned in surprise, saw the Husky, then darted around looking for the owner. Presumably this was the same person the young woman spoke with earlier. Finally I saw him sitting in a chair he set up behind me on the bike path’s edge.
My indignance increased. “Really?” I thought. “Twice in a row?” What did I expect? I create my reality. Here was the Universe serving me a big pile of pet peeve….a second helping if you will, this time via a Husky and yet another irresponsible owner.
But wait…it gets worse. Or rather, I got worse.
I should have known trying to get the owner to do anything about his scofflaw dog would be futile. After all I saw that play out just seconds ago. Never the less:
“Sir, would you please come get your dog!” I said with force ten annoyance.
The owner looked down at me, at his dog and said “he’s alright.”
“I’m not!” I said.
The owner said nothing.
At that, I’d had it!
Now I was fully in rage. That’s right, I was so angry, I was shaking. I wanted to strangle that damn dog and murder the owner. But I also knew it wasn’t the dog’s fault. So I directed all my rage (in my mind) at the owner. I wanted to first strangle him, then murder him!
I should mention I had the presence of mind at this moment to see the ironic humor here. A part of me knew what I was doing was ridiculous. It’s just a dog. But the principle folks, and the momentum of my pet peeve had me firm in its grip.
Clearly this guy wasn’t going to do anything about his dog. There was no way I could recover my state of calm at this point, not to mention focusing on Douthat’s prose. I decided then to gather my things and head home in a huff, which took all but a couple minutes.
But I couldn’t let it end that way. Noooo.
As I pushed my bike up to the bike trail, I made my “offender” clearly: white male in his 40s, beer in hand, listening to a transistor radio, minding his own business and cool as a 🥒. Perfect contrast to my seething rage, which at this point, boiled over and out my mouth:
“YOU’RE EXACTLY THE KIND OF PERSON WHO GIVES DOG OWNERS A BAD NAME!” I yelled in his general direction. I hopped on my bike and peeled away on the momentum of my righteous indignation. 😂🤣😊
That wasn’t the end of it.
A half-mile into my return trip, it struck me. What happened here? Why am I letting this situation shape how I feel? How I feel is more important than how I’m treated. In fact, I know by choosing how I interpret what happens in my life, I can create reality. Here I was doing what a noob at all this “you create your reality” business would do…
At this point, I should stop and say I know sometimes I’m going to get pissed. It’s just part of what happens when an eternal being comes into physical reality.
Thinking an enlightened person doesn’t get mad sometimes indicates misunderstanding about how physical reality works. Physical reality intentionally offers variety: things I want and things I don’t want. After all, how am I to know what I want if I don’t know what I don’t want?
How am I to know what thoughts feel better than others, if I don’t have a negative experience every now and then?
That’s what I thought one half mile into my return ride. And that’s when I decided I had the power here. I had choice.
So instead of continuing to seethe, I decided to put my attention on something else. Something more pleasing. So I noticed the blue sky. I noticed the green trees. I noticed how much I like riding my bike, how good the sun felt on my bare legs and arms, how good it feels on a Oregon summer day. In seconds I felt better. My feelings reminded me how wonderful it is working from Oregon’s riversides:
That’s when something amazing happened
The more I thought these thoughts, the better I felt. Then…
Ever had an experience where something happens, you react in a less than ideal way, then, later, you get a thought, an idea, an alternative way you could have responded that might have been more effective?
Well that’s what happened. In my increasing happiness I received an alternative scenario that played out in my mind. Rather than throwing a tantrum at the guy, I saw my self calmly rise, gather my things and my chair, walk up to the guy and set up my chair right next to him. So close our chairs touched side by side. Then I sat down, looked at him and began politely talking his ear off.
That’s when I burst out laughing, a belly laugh so strong it obliterated my anger. I let this alternative reality play through my mind, adding humorous bits here and there – I saw him looking at me surprised, then trying to ignore me, then suddenly packing up his things and stomping off, dog in tow off leash. I imagined him and I actually having a friendly conversation, chatting away like best friends. I imagined him and I sitting there, me chatting away and he trying to ignore my chatting tsunami in quiet annoyance…
And you know what happened next? The entire situation changed for me. No longer did I see him as the idiot epitome of bad dog ownership. Instead he became a shining example of what I could be.
- This guy was doing his own thing, oblivious to what others thought and said about him
- This guy was in his own reality, enjoying his life with his dog. So was the dog!
- This guy had presence of mind, a centeredness so powerful, he appeared unphased by not only one, but two verbal aggressors trying to knock him off his rocker
As much as I want to vilify him, he demonstrated to me vibrational mastery. And at that point he went from villain to teacher.
I want to be like that. I want to be calm in the face of storms.
And, in fact I am, nearly all the time.
Which is another thing he taught me: that I am that nearly all the time. When I’m not, there’s always something great in the experience I learn about myself and about my Positively Focused practice.