STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES

After two days of cloud and drizzle, Father’s day began bright and clean. My wife, Carol was off to care for her 96-year-old father, and I was free to wander and wonder. My plan was to head out on the bike paths and find clarity. I am scheduled to give a talk at an upcoming Literary Conference in August and I still haven’t got my head around the message I wish to explore. The broad topic of the talk is Purposeful Fiction with a hint of positivity thrown in, but, despite my efforts, the details have failed to arrange themselves in my brain. This morning, my inspiration and revelations awaited. An open bike path, an open mind and some tunes on my trusted, old i-pod are my well-tested recipe for success.

As I hit the pathway, it became obvious that the brilliant weather had enticed a large number of people to the outdoors. Crossing the bridge to Prince’s Island I noticed hundreds of people gathering in an attempt to prevent world hunger. Good for them! Further along, families were happily admiring the little goslings as they streamed across the bike path toward the water under the watchful eye of their parents. I then noticed the brightly coloured outfits of runners of all ages streaming along the pathways as they strode toward their collective goal of health, well-being, and a charitable cause.

As the morning sun continued its ascent across the cloudless sky, it’s residual warmth escalated that of the humanity existing around me in all directions. The distinctive voice of Louis Armstrong scraped its way through my headphones to verify the fact that it truly is a wonderful world.

I was probably smiling broadly as I rounded a corner and came tire to belt buckle with a group of pedestrians walking seven abreast across the entire pathway. Whatever brilliant thoughts had been flowing through my brain slammed into the front of my cranium as my panicked stop left me shaken. The only casualties of this unexpected confrontation were my train of thought and my personal feelings of serenity. 

I feel compelled to provide a bit of context to the emotional nosedive that began at that moment. Living in Eau Claire, the bike and walking paths are my primary transportation corridors. Walking and biking is a daily occurrence. They are the streets we live on en route to everything from shopping trips, family visits, and exercise. Imagine for a moment that your driveway, local street, and neighbourhood thoroughfares were constantly clogged with hordes of aimlessly wandering people, pedestrians, and pets. To put it simply, it can be very frustrating and I seem to have built up some residual negative baggage from many previous bike ride interactions and close calls. Back to the story.

I narrowly skirted the human blockade and tentatively continued onward. As I continued to navigate the pathways, it was as if someone had orchestrated an event designed to disrupt my outing. Paranoid? Perhaps! My finger was poised on my bell as I twisted and turned through the growing throngs of people. Children, erratically ping-ponged left and right across the path seemingly in direct opposition to my course. My tension escalated as I crept forward. A seeming spiderweb of dog leashes, strung haphazardly across the path between oblivious owners and their sniffing canines, complicated my every turn. Any productive thoughts I may have been generating were long gone. Families and amorous couples congregated dead centre on the path to snap-chat their existence or simply to bathe in the glory of their personal happiness. Someone is going to get hurt, I concluded, considering turning around and heading home so that it wouldn’t be me. The final straw was when some unaware pedestrians inconsiderately stopped in their tracks, right in front of me, to smell the roses. Are you kidding me? By that point, I was so consumed with negativity, the vast potential of the beautiful morning was lost. Fortunately, I remembered the first step of combatting negativity, which is to observe your inner thought processes and self-talk. The devil I was dealing with was a concoction of people trying to save the world, excited children, panting puppies, furry goslings, neon joggers, hand holding families and people who merely wanted to stop to smell the roses. There was no way my conditioned negativity could combat the obvious irony of this situation. I had to laugh at myself and my real, yet frivolous frustrations.

The bike ride had begun as a purposeful voyage designed to coalesce perspiration and inspiration. My desire was to clarify my thoughts on the topic of positivity within the context of Purposeful Fiction. As it turned out, I couldn’t maintain positivity even while drowning in it. While I peddled my way through a virtual sea of positivity, it manifested itself as hazardous obstacles destined to ruin my day. How could I not envision the positivity of humanity while being surrounded by it? We are conditioned to view things as they affect our emotions but sometimes when we are able to disengage and gain perspective, we can actually stop and smell the roses with those around us, rather than obeying our instincts and run them down on the bike path.

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