The Law of The Garbage Truck

On a busy New York City day, author David J. Polly hopped into a cab and asked the driver to drop him off at Grand Central Station. A few minutes later a car jumped out in front of them and if it hadn’t been for the fast reflexes of his driver they would’ve had an accident

Just as soon as David regained his composure, he came to the edge of losing it again when the reckless driver had the audacity to begin yelling at David’s taxi driver.

David was shocked by this. But what really blew him away was the taxi drivers response when David asked him why he didn’t take the erratic drivers bait and argue back — something David now calls The Law of the Garbage Truck.”

“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”

*

I grew up thinking happiness was found in doing what we love. Sunshine. Rainbows. Lollipops. And ice-cream cones.

But that was naive. That answer was too easy. If I’ve learned anything during my lifetime it’s that anything worth having demands a fight. Our relationships. Our careers. Hell even self-love. Any semblance of happiness these things bring to us is a privilege, not a right — and its earned by continuing to shine bright especially when others try to stamp out our light.

Life is difficult and some days the people around you won’t make it any easier. But as I sit here writing this today I can’t help but think the key to my own personal happiness depends on how well I can calm my mind when my bloodline begins to beat red. In short, I believe Sheryl Crow got it right — “Happiness is being able to sleep well at night.”

But this can’t happen if every idiot in a Jag makes you mad.

And it certainly can’t happen if you allow these small annoying actions of others to keep you stuck in the past instead of respecting the hell out of the present.

Happy people. Successful people. Whatever you want to call them, come in all shapes and sizes. But the underlying factor that ties them together is they spend more time in the present moment than other people.

That’s it.

They’ve figured out a way to minimize the past and keep the future where it belongs.

The reason they do this is they know the only way they can make a dent in this world is by actually living in it — instead of being like most people who flutter in and out.

Some people meditate to do this. Others practice yoga. Others take big pieces of wood and turn them into cute little animal sculptures. Our only job is to fight for the present and figure out what works for us as individuals and own the f*ck out of it.

For me personally, I’ve found that if I do the three things below each day I’m better equipped for when life throws bad things my way.

Each day before my kids and I have breakfast we turn on Pop music and hit the dance floor. I hate dancing. But something interesting happens when I do it — I’m more patient with my kids while I’m getting them off to school.

Each day I go for a run. I hate running. But something interesting happens after I do it — I think more about what I can do each day instead of wallowing in the happenings of yesterday.

Each day I sit down and I write. I hate writing. But something interesting happens when I do it — when I’m done I give my wife a kiss and actually mean it.

Going to the gym. Sitting in silence. Taking a cold shower. Cleaning the house. These actions can be hard and they certainly aren’t always fun.

But I’m convinced being proactive in doing them has played a big role in developing the restraint to not overreact when life gets ugly and tries to ruin my day.

*

The only certainty in life is that as long as humans continue to be human they’ll do stupid shit. This is a fact, and being that it’s a fact — it’s something for which we don’t have a say.

But what we can control is how we react to the shit once it’s airborne and headed our way.

Positivity is a choice.

And it’s one I can’t recommend enough fighting for so when trouble comes flying you have the strength like the taxi driver in the story above to smile, wave and simply say not today.

*

This article first appeared in PS I Love You (Medium.com)

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