WILLIAM RUTHERFORD: Decide to be happy

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Smoke grays the sky in these western mountains then fills my lungs with heavy weights. My breath labors, seeking air to oxygenate my blood as I finish the final cut of grass in my backyard. My chores are done. As the result of dozens of area wildfires, the air is unbreathable. I seek survival in the basement of my home, searching for clean, filtered air and find relief in my man cave. Coughing, sneezing, wheezing and beginning to fight a massive headache, I take two Aspirin, a Zyrtec and quickly fall asleep.

Waking up an hour later, I head upstairs and look outside. The sky is oddly colored pink and brown, the mountains a few hundred yards from my home have disappeared, the red sun peeks through the haze and the air stinks of a rancid campfire recently doused with water. Frustrated with my view and discussed by the scent, I cancel an afternoon of golf with my buddies and head back downstairs to listen to music and read.

This is not how I envisioned my last unofficial weekend of summer. Labor Day weekend traditionally offers warm, vibrant, clear days with clean air. Camping, fishing, golfing, hiking and long, leisurely bike rides are the norm as I soak up every last breath August and early September have to offer. Today, the only breath I soak up is that of an apple cinnamon scented candle slowly burning in my basement.

Sad songs play on my Pandora station as I finish, “The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich — a book about rape and a lost soul. Closing the book, I rub my eyes, cough and look around the room. “Happy Labor Day,” I say out loud in disgust. Scout wakens from my words, looks up, wags his tail then turns on his back searching for a tummy scratching. I oblige as he stretches his hind legs and lets out an audible yawn. I chuckle, continue to scratch his belly, then pet the top of his auburn head. He looks up in appreciation then drops his head into my lap. “Good dog,” I offer as my mood begins to brighten.

Scout’s big brown, droopy, Labrador retriever eyes look up at me as if to say, “It’s OK dad, I’ll be your buddy today.” As I look into my dog’s eyes, I begin to think, life is pretty great. Realizing that it’s time to take a vacation from my pity party, I begin to wrestle with my pup and end up laughing as he nips my hand while I grab his tail. This epic failure of a weekend turns into a grand day of leisure and love — the love for a pet.

As I sit this Monday night reflecting on this lost summer, I think of the book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Alexander goes to sleep with gum in his mouth and now there’s gum in his hair. He experiences kissing on TV and he hates kissing! He had lima beans for dinner and he hates lima beans. Eventually he decides to move to Australia to avoid all of this trouble finally realizing that sometimes days are just like this, even in Australia.

Well, some summers are just like this, even in Coeur d’Alene. Every once in a while lima beans are on the dinner menu and they must be eaten. Sometimes there is kissing on TV and sometimes, you get gum in your hair. Moving to Australia is not the answer. Momentary setbacks, struggles, frustration and anger can be pacified when one seeks to find happiness. Happiness is a choice.

There will always be external stressors in everyone’s life. The choice is how to handle these stressors. Does one handle stressors head on and attempt to make the best of a bad situation or might one give in and fall prey to these external stressors? The decision is in the internal fortitude of the individual. Does one wrestle with the dog and laugh or does one move to Australia?

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Send comments or other suggestions to William Rutherford at bprutherford@hotmail.com or visit pensiveparenting.com.

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