Each weekday morning I follow pretty much the same routine: Wake up around 6:30, make coffee, add goat’s milk (don’t ask), eat breakfast, put on pants and walk my little dog, Austin, along the shoreline of a mostly empty Newport Beach.
I live about three houses from the sand, on a street that flits with excitable tourists every weekend—Look, Johnny, a wave! A bird! A house! A parking lot!—and on Monday through Friday is frequented only by its residents and a casual smattering of surfers, wet suits zipped to their necks, boards tucked under arm, walking with barefoot, broad-shouldered confidence toward the water.
“Good morning!” One dude said to me, a slim, blonde character with kindhearted eyes.
Was it really?
I smiled but didn’t reply. I just wasn’t yet sure.
At the end of the block, right as you reach the two-lane boardwalk, there’s a house. Well, there was a house. Now there’s an empty lot with dirt and strips of wood nailed together in the shape of the house it’ll soon be. A pale gray fence runs along the perimeter that’s tall enough so you can’t see too far past it, until you turn the corner and reach the unending path of concrete that for miles, edges the sand.
Today Austin (on a short leash) clip clopped a few feet in front of me and rounded this bend. A woman on a pink bike rode by, swerving ceremoniously when she saw him.
“Watch it! Get control of that animal!” She screamed, her voice a grating discordance of cigarettes and divisiveness. “You’re the worst and so is your dog!”
Austy tilted his head in her direction then looked at me with literal sad puppy eyes, like he’d just been a very bad boy. In truth, the woman was riding nowhere near him; he had done nothing wrong besides step a few inches onto the same boardwalk his tiny paws pad across every morning.
“It’s OK,” I told him and he hopped on the sand, content, as I trailed behind.
My hands were shaking, feet unsteady, an unsettling irritation pulsing inside my ear drums because this woman, this frizzly haired stranger on a pink beach cruiser from 1994 had the nerve—the NERVE!—to pedal across the road and conjure a dark plume of negativity out of what could’ve been an otherwise pleasant day.
There are two courses of action when experiences like this occur—someone cuts you off on the highway, snatches up the last ripe avocado in the bin, puts you on hold for 20 minutes when all you want to do is check your monthly cable bill—you either let it sink you or you tread onward. I mean, sure, you can mope around for the rest of the day, accomplishing nothing, or you can feel sorry for a lady who needs to spout cruel nonsense at others in order to placate the misgivings of her own sorry existence. Then you remember life is good; the day is new.
I’ve written before about the power in positivity and my philosophy on the subject still holds, even after Monday Morning Bicycle Lady Encounter. You attract what you expend, receive what you deliver. Happiness is not merely found in sunrises dashing across the Pacific Ocean or ice cream cones slurped on an idyllic summer day; happiness can exist even in situations seemingly wrong. Remember, the mental result of any outcome isn’t a byproduct of someone else’s actions, it’s completely dependent on you. Eleanor Roosevelt’s famed quote aptly applies: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
The blonde surfer was in the water as I walked Austin toward a nearby jetty. Dude sat atop his board, bobbing carefree and calm, but so too was I, for in the short distance between the bike path and the ocean, I had decided to let the shadowy smoke recede and now only good vibes remained.
Then Austin pooped.