“I hate this crap” I heard myself say as I stepped outside to start the vehicles that morning. Thanks to winter deciding to arrive a month early, and me being too cheap to spring for a remote starter, warming up the vehicles has become an odious task that both my wife and I dread. On mornings that we leave the house around the same time, I’ll typically try to be the man of the house and start them, but I won’t deny there are some days that I’ll be slow to get my boots on in hopes that she’ll take one for the team and fire them up for us. She’s quick to catch on to this strategy, however and when she sees I’m stalling, will say something along the line of “If you’re going out to start your car, can you start mine too?” and out I go into the tundra.
This particular morning, I drew the proverbial short straw, so out the door I went. Now right up front, I got to put it out there that I was in a pretty shitty mood to start. For that matter, I had been in a funk for a while, and it just kept getting worse every day. That morning, the fact that it seemed to be 30 degrees below zero in November wasn’t helping my attitude much at all. A month before I had been on vacation, drinking rum punch on the beach in the Caribbean and now I was struggling with Arctic temperatures just to get my stupid car started. Knowing there was a gorgeous beach somewhere with a rum punch waiting for me didn’t make me feel any better either. I mean, I guess I always new these places existed, but the thought that I had just been lying in the tropical sun less than thirty days ago, and now I was risking hypothermia just to get to work it, made it eat at me even more. “Living in New Hampshire sucks,” I thought to myself as I started my wife’s car. “Why the hell am I living in a place where we have nine friggin months of winter? And even worse, why have I put up with this shit for 51 years?”
I continued to feel sorry for myself as I walked around my wife’s truck toward my own. That’s when I saw it. The passenger side of my car looked like it had been struck by a speeding locomotive. My mind raced as I tried to remember when the hell exactly I had stalled at a railroad crossing in order for such major damage to have occurred to my precious Honda Civic. No, it wasn’t a train. This was done by some thoughtless bastard at that miserable shipyard I work at. He must have backed into it repeatedly with some massive pickup truck, laughing fiendishly the whole time with his equally evil and feeble minded side-kick. This damage was severe and irreversible and had to have been done by somebody so rotten, that the concept of leaving a note apologizing for what they’d done never entered their tiny mind. Even a note saying “Ha ha, I hit your car” would have been better than nothing, but this thoughtless turd didn’t leave a thing, and vanished without a trace.
Now to be honest, the damage was in no way as bad as it seemed that morning. In fact, if you look at the picture that is included with this text, it really isn’t that bad at all. In fact when I first saw it, I wasn’t even sure it was a dent, but rather just dirt from the heavily salted roads we live on. But as a testament to where my mind was that morning, I feel obligated to embellish the appearance of this dent. My bad attitude that had been smoldering over the previous days, turned into a raging inferno when I saw the damage, and as bad attitudes usually tend to do, I took what was in reality a minor issue and turned it into a life ending crisis.
I started my car and stormed back into the house in disgust, poured another cup of coffee and stared out the window at my trashed vehicle. My mind was consumed with negativity. Now, negative thoughts like these are a lot like a cartoon snowball. You know the ones: they start out really small at the top, then they end up being this gigantic monster ball, swallowing up everything in their path. With their victim’s arms and legs protruding from them, they get bigger and faster as they go until they reach the bottom of the hill, slamming into something with an earth shaking crash, leaving the cartoon characters cross-eyed, and shaking their heads as little birds circling around them. This is exactly what was going on in my brain.
I’ll try to summarize what I mean:
“I can’t believe my car is trashed. I tried so hard to keep it in good condition, but some careless scumbag decided to back into it. Some dirty low life who doesn’t care about his own vehicle, so why should he care about mine? It serves me right, this is what I get for working at a shipyard. If I had been more ambitious when I was younger and done better when I was in school, maybe I wouldn’t have a crap job like this and not have to park in a crowded parking lot where I have to walk a half mile to my office. I got nobody to blame but myself. For that matter if I wasn’t so old and fat, maybe I could have kept my last job that had decent hours and a parking spot right outside my door. But no, I’m too much of a loser for that, I went and blew it, and now I’m just another loser working at a dead end job. I may as well get used to beat up civics because that’s all I ever have in my life…”
Crazy how that spun out of control, huh? I know, I need help. Seriously, if I’m the only one who does this let me know, because even though I’m dramatizing this a little bit for entertainment purposes, I was really getting that depressed. It took a little while to build up to that point mind you, but that’s eventually where I ended up. I felt so shitty about where I was in life, all from a stupid dent in the door. That’s about the time my wife walked in the room, running a little late and in a bit of a hurry.
“What are you staring at?” She asked.
“Someone put a dent in my car” I said.
“No way!” She said, “How bad is it?”
“Bad enough that the car isn’t worth what we owe on it anymore,” I grimly replied.
“Oh no,” she said, “well that’s why we have insurance,” she calmly stated.
“Yeah, that’s easy for you to say, as long as I work at the yard, this kind of shit’s going to keep happening. My job sucks.” I stated. I was trying to get her to grasp the idea of how bad the situation really was so she could feel sorry for me too, but for some reason she didn’t get it.
“You’re right,” she said, ” You should quit. Well I’m late, thanks for starting the truck. I love you!”
And with that she kissed me on the cheek and sped out the door. I couldn’t believe how unappreciative she was of my situation. Couldn’t she see how bad things were? It wasn’t just the damage to the car, but I had just tried to convey that I had wasted my entire life with nothing to show for it! I was never going to amount to anything except for simply being a warehouse worker, and the best thing she could say is “well that’s why we have insurance!?” What the heck! It was then I realized I was alone in my plight. No one could see what a colossal mistake my life had been, and I couldn’t seem to make anyone understand. I even cast a look toward the dog in a last ditch effort for someone to give a shit, but even he looked back at me as if to say “Whatever Dude, I’m a fifteen year old dog. I got my own problems. Most of the time I can’t even stand up without pooping. Speaking of which, I left something for you to pick up in the spare room. I’d deal with that sooner than later if I were you.”
Now in my wife’s defense, she isn’t the heartless individual that the last paragraph describes. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You would be hard pressed to find someone who cares more about people than she does. I’m not embellishing here either, the woman is so thoughtful and kind, that were she a devout catholic she could be considered for sainthood. But she has been putting up with my shit for more than thirty years, and outbursts like these are not new to her. They don’t come as frequently as they used to, but still, when the snowball starts to roll down hill, she has learned to gently step off to the side and out of the way instead of getting run over by it. In this case, she was smart enough to leave me feeling sorry for myself with a kiss on the cheek and a reminder that she loves me. A fool like me can’t ask for anything better than that.
So after picking up the dog’s gift in the spare room, I started my hour long drive into work, another reason I hated my job. Despite the massive structural damage to the exterior it seemed to run alright, but then again it ran fine the night before when I didn’t know there even was a dent. I was beyond frustrated and seemed to be only focusing on my misfortune. I was so wrapped up in my own self pity that I wasn’t paying any attention to anything. I didn’t notice what a beautiful morning it was, how light the traffic was that day, or what was playing on my car radio.
So, I’ve been listening to this podcast recently called “Don’t Keep Your Day Job”, It’s the creation of this wonderful lady named Cathy Heller, dedicated to folks like me who realize they may have a talent for something, and they would like to find a way to turn it into a career. Things like writing, photography, art, yoga, baking… you get the idea. Obviously, if you’re reading this, you have probably guessed that I fancy myself as a writer/blogger, and Cathy’s podcast is chuck full of stories and interviews of amazing people who have broke out of their safe and comfortable lives to live their dreams (herself included). It’s a very uplifting and positive show that gives you the motivation, tools and guidance to help you move toward your goal of doing your life’s work. If you’re like me, and want to do something you love to do, instead of making money for some other schmuck, you should click on the link below and check it out. I’ve come to enjoy it quite a bit and listen to it every time there’s a new episode. It’s been a huge motivator for me and has made me truly believe that I will do something Awesome with my life, I’m just not sure yet what… or how….
Anyhow, that morning I was in no mood to listen to a positive anything, and I had not intentionally loaded it to play, but I had been listening to it the night before so it came on automatically as I drove to work. As it played it started to draw me in and slowly caught my attention. This particular installment was about gratitude, and how it affects one’s overall emotional, physical and social well being. As I listened more intently, I slowly started to change my outlook a little bit, and as my perception started to shift, I did a quick self assessment of how I was acting and realized what an asshole I was being.
“Jesus!” I thought, “Are you really going to believe that your whole life sucks because there’s a stupid dent in your car?” I couldn’t believe how bad I let my emotions spiral out of control. and it occurred to me what a whiny little bitch I was being. Had I forgot all the stuff I had learned from visiting Dominica last month? I had been so convinced that gratitude was the most important factor in living a happy, healthy life after I met the people there, and now, because my life had beat me down a little, I let my bad attitude drag me down to a point that a simple dent in my car had me ready to give up on life and live in a box under a bridge somewhere.
Yeah, I had a dent in my car.
Yeah, I had a dead end job.
And even Yeah, maybe I could have done more with my life.
Big Friggin Deal!
I was way out of line, and it became apparent to me that all the things I was bitching about, were things that someone else out there may probably be wishing for.
Somewhere, someone needs a reliable car to get them to work, even if it has a dent in it. And The Silver Bullet (the name given to the Civic after it’s trip to Myrtle Beach… story some other time) had given me over a hundred-thousand problem free miles since I’ve owned it, and it is still going strong.
Somewhere someone wishes they had the job security I have, even if it’s at a dead end job. I may only work in a warehouse at a shipyard, but I’m so lucky to have this job. It provides me enough money to pay my rent, keep me fed and also, the financial means to spend a week in the Caribbean every now and then. It’s actually a really good job!
Oh, and not for nothing, I am healthy. I have survived fifty plus years on this planet, two wars and a myriad of industrial jobs, and I still have both my arms and legs, all my lower extremities and full function of my heart and lungs (for the most part).
And let’s not forget the most important part of all, I have an incredible family. My wife, who tolerated my foolishness an hour before and rewarded me with a kiss on the cheek and a reminder that she loved me, and she’s been doing this for close to thirty years. A daughter and son-in-law who are doing amazing things with their lives and have given me the most beautiful granddaughter ever, and a son who has grown into a good man any father would be proud of. Also I have an amazing mom and dad, siblings, in-laws and friends…
I’m not just lucky, I’m outright Blessed!
By now, I wasn’t just feeling better, I was feeling pretty good, and all simply because I thought of just some of the things I had going good for me in life, not all of them mind you, just a few, and I felt incredible. It was crazy how fast I spun that around.
Now, people who believe in the Law of Attraction say that when you raise your frequency- or to put it more plainly- have a more positive attitude, you attract good things toward you. I don’t know if this happened to me or not but as I continued to drive, I kept thinking about all the things I had good in life. I began to notice what a sunny morning it was and how light the traffic seemed that day. Cathy’s podcast was wrapping up, so I decided some AC/DC was needed, and I queued it up on my Spotify list and cranked it up. At this point it seemed a hot cup of coffee would be a nice way to put the cherry on top of the feel good sundae I had going on. So I swung into the drive through of the my favorite coffee place and placed an order for a “Grande, Hot, Black, Dark Roast”, my preferred type of java. As I pulled up to the window and handed the kid my card, he shook his head and gave it back to me, “No Sir, this one’s on me. No charge.
“Really?” I said, a little confused, “How come?”
I had no idea why I’d be getting a free coffee. I wasn’t in my Army uniform (some folks will pick up the tab when they see you in uniform, thanking me for my service, and I always feel guilty when that happens) , there was no one ahead of me who would’ve paid for it and I don’t think my writing has become so popular that this kid was a fan, in fact I don’t think my writing will ever get so popular that anyone would buy me a coffee because of it.
“We’re allowed to give one coffee away each day, and today I’d like you to have this one.” he explained, “Happy Holidays”.
I was shocked, and didn’t know how to react. These things never happen to me. “Thank you so much!” I exclaimed.
“No problem at all” he said.
“No, really, you don’t understand how much this means to me…”, I started and rambled on inanely about the dent in my car, what a rotten morning I had and how his gesture meant the world to me. I continued on about how miserable I was moments ago and he may have prevented me from quitting my job and running away from home.
At this point he smiled uneasily and looked at me like I was a little crazy. I believe now he probably regretted choosing me, and just wanted me to take the coffee and move on. It did finally occur to me that I was ruining the moment, so I thanked him again, put a couple dollars in the tip jar and drove away, sipping the best coffee I think I may have ever had. I couldn’t help it. That simple gesture was the final touch that changed my whole outlook on that morning, and it has remained with me even as I am writing this!
So does the law of attraction work? I don’t know. It did for me that morning. It changed my entire attitude. I still had a dent in my car, but I had a car, and I am fortunate to have it. I’ll get it fixed eventually, or more than likely I’ll forget it’s even there. But I refuse to get all worked up about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be pissed off if someone hits your car, of course you should. But keep it in context. Don’t make it bigger than it really is, and don’t waste your energy wishing hateful shit on someone you don’t even know. I’m not even sure that the person that hit me knew he did it. Parking is tough where I work and sometimes these things happen. And if it was malicious and they took off laughing about it, well I guess, karma will have something in store for them, and I almost feel sorry for them if that’s the case.
Now I know what your thinking: Mark, you said this blog was about health, fitness and wellness, and you just spent God knows how long spouting off about Gratitude, Karma and the Law of Attraction. for that matter, all of your posts have been about determination, and happiness all that crap. When do you think you’re going to write about actually working out or getting back into shape?”
Well that’s a fair question, and the answer is, I am writing about getting in shape. I’m just starting with getting my head straight first. Granted, this blog hasn’t really gone in the direction I had originally planned. I do tend to get a little philosophical about life and happiness and gratitude and crap like that.. But I will say this, if your mind isn’t in the right place at the start there is no way you can improve your situation, whether it be your health, financial situation, social life, or whatever. I’m starting to see that the reason I’ve struggled to reach my goals in the past was because I was too caught up in what I wanted and not appreciative enough of what I had. For those of us in our middle aged years, we can feel like changing our lives is a lost cause due to all the crap we’ve done in our earlier years. You got to let it go, don’t focus so hard on where you think you should be, or dwell on your regrets. Start looking at all the positive stuff you have in your life right now and start from there. After all, you can’t build a positive life with a negative attitude.
So wake up every morning and think of at least three things you should be thankful for… Then go get yourself a coffee, it helps!