oldman Stress is one of those realities of life that we all experience.  Whether it’s stress on our job or stress in our relationships, eventually this harbinger affects us all.  It’s how we handle this stress that separates our good days from our bad.

One day last week, I was having one of those stressful days that threatens to redefine the term.  It was job stress and it seemed nothing was going to go right for me.

From spilling the first sip of coffee in my lap to dribbling salsa on my shirt during lunch to dealing with a major website error, this day was destined to work against me from the first waking minute.

The coffee was Columbian Roast Chock Full ‘O Nuts and it was entirely too hot to drink.  It was also too hot to spill into my lap but that didn’t stop me.  It set the tone perfectly for the day to follow.

The salsa was homemade with garden-fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos and even some corn sliced straight off the husk the night before.  It was amazing, the highlight of my day, until a splotch of it took a nose-dive off my blue tortilla chip and landed on the front of my shirt.  My previously spotless white shirt now had what folks call ‘character.’

The website error was a major one, a fatal error of too little memory allocation.  I couldn’t even load the admin section to test it because that was where the problem occurred.  As a result, I spent most of the day sifting though thousands of lines of code never to figure out what was causing the error.

This was my stressful day in a nutshell.  It was one mishap after another, compounded by other people’s problems, steeped in illogical bang-your-head-on-the-desk errors, and sandwiched inside exasperating bloopers.

I haven’t mentioned the customers who called to bless me out.  Or the impossible tasks one of my bosses straddled me with.  Or the copier that died because that same boss screwed it up, just when I needed it the most.

When the end of this workday came, I couldn’t rejoice.  The website error still existed; it was the proverbial digital monkey on my back.  The most I could hope for was to keep my sanity on the gas-guzzling commute home.

But something happened as I drove through downtown, something that transformed this day of negativity into a positive.  In fact, it was a paradigm shift that affected my whole way of thinking.  The scowl I’d worn most of the day slowly melted into a smile, then a chuckle, and finally, a loud guffaw.

As I slowed down for my umpteenth stoplight, an old man sporting a pair of headphones grabbed my attention.  He danced his way down the sidewalk on my right, growing closer with each syncopated step.

He wore nothing special and had he not been gyrating to his own personal beat, I would never have noticed him.  Yet there he was, traipsing about with the energy of a teenager, taunting the world with his ecstatic mood.

Suddenly, I wanted to hear his song.  I needed to hear it, to feel his catchy rhythm.  I found myself smiling as he neared me; he was oblivious to the world around him and the mesmerizing effect he exuded.  This old man in his early seventies, with stark white hair and clean-shaven face, instantly transformed my mood.  I laughed and just when I thought myself completely healed of the day’s hideousness, he abruptly stopped and commanded a twirl that would have left the great Fred Astaire jealous.  That was when I guffawed and felt the rest of my negativity lift like steam off a black-top after a summer rainstorm.

My day of woes was over.  An old man dancing had healed me.  It’s funny how something as innocuous as an old man bopping around like a kid can affect your day.  It’s also wonderfully refreshing and I wish you could have seen him too.