It was 6:25 am when I left San Francisco to head to Vermont to keynote the women’s conference Zest Fest. My Virgin America flight to Boston went smoothly enough, and in spite of the gusty winds, dense fog, and heavy rain, the plane landed with just a few bumps. But it turns out I only had an hour to transfer to my connecting flight, a little puddle jumper that would take me to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where the conference coordinator would pick me up and drive me to Fairlee, Vermont.
Unfortunately, because the puddle jumper airline didn’t have luggage transfer privileges with Virgin America, that meant going to baggage claim, picking up my luggage, checking in with Cape Air, going back through security and making it to the airline in time (good luck!)
Fortunately, my bag was the first off at baggage claim, and I’m a pretty fast runner, so I made it to Cape Air just in time to find out that my flight was cancelled. Puddle jumper Cessnas just don’t do so well in bad weather. I later heard that this airline cancels all flights if the wind even whispers. (Good to know.)
So, luggage in hand, I found a bus that, for $38 and three hours of driving, would drop me at the Lebanon, New Hampshire airport with unexpected free WIFI as a bonus. Problem solved.
The bus arrived as planned, I got on, they took my luggage, and I settled in with my kale chips. Only the bus driver dropped us at the bus station and told us we had to go in to buy tickets. So I went in, bought my ticket, and when I came back, the bus was gone. With my luggage.
By this time, it was 7:30 pm. It had already been a long day, and I was tired and looking forward to relaxing in my lakefront hotel before speaking at the conference. So, in my old life, this is right around when I would have started truly melting down.
I remember a time about five years ago when, after a 72-hour call shift in Labor & Deliver, during which I had delivered 18 babies, this poor kid at a grocery store couldn’t manage to swipe my granola. And I just lost it and ripped him a new asshole. I remember saying, “If I did my job the way you did your job, there’d be dead people everywhere.”
That’s when I knew I had to quit my job.
This phrase flashed through my head. How could the bus driver leave me after he had taken my luggage and forced me to go in, wait in line, and buy a ticket?
But this time, I dismissed the thought instantly.
Instead, I focused on all the plus sides to my situation. Here’s what I came up with.
- While stuck, luggage-less, in a Boston bus stop with no clue when I’ll make it to my destination, I now have lots of uninterrupted time to work on my book.
- Given that the weather sucks, and I was scheduled on a little puddle jumper, maybe this is just the Uni-verse’s way of taking care of me. After all, it would have sucked to have had a Buddy Holly/ Richie Valens kinda night.
- Situations like this give me a good chance to practice my zen skills. Breathe. Om…
- Travel challenges give me a good excuse to chat with my travel-hacking friend Chris Guillebeau, who has been stuck in far more exotic places than me and puts it all into perspective.
- I now have the perfect opener for my speech. “A funny thing happened on the way to this God forsaken place…” (Hat tip to Chris for reminding me of that one).
- A sweet bus driver who was driving the bus that would leave 3 hours later offered to refund my ticket, buy me dinner, call the driver who had my luggage, and make sure I made it safely on the next bus. When he led me to my seat, he kissed my hand (SWOON).
- Travel usually takes us out of our comfort zone, and only when we push the limits of what is comfortable do we discover the limits of who we really are. These mishaps are making me feel proud of the personal growth I’ve made over the past few years. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Joy is a choice.
- When I got stuck, my hubby Matt and my kick ass right hand assistant Melanie were on it like white on rice. Back up plan – CHECK. Bus schedules – CHECK. Phone calls to the event coordinator who was supposed to pick me up at the airport – CHECK. Hugs and kisses and a few little jokes – CHECK. It made me realize that when things get rough, we don’t have to navigate the process alone. It’s okay to ask for help.
- The Zest Fest founder Beth Umba personally went to the bus station to retrieve my luggage when it arrived hours before I did. Then she waited until I caught the next bus and carted me to my beautiful hotel room in the middle of the night before she was about to lead a huge festival. Can you say AWESOMESAUCE?
- Realizing that I’m not only not mad at the world the way I would have been in my past life, but I’m actually kind of enjoying the people watching and not worrying about where my luggage is right now, makes me realize how far I’ve come. Plane ticket to Boston: $450. Bus ticket to Lebanon, New Hampshire: $38. The affirmation that you did the right thing by quitting your highly lucrative, heart attack-inducing job: PRICELESS.
It would have been easy to get all pissed off over this. Get mad at the travel agent for scheduling such a screwy flight schedule that requires checking out and checking back in with almost no transit time. Get mad at God for making it rain so hard that my flight got cancelled. Get mad at the bus driver for leaving with my luggage and leaving without me. Get mad at whoever gets in my way next just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I could have bumped up my adrenaline levels, and with it, my pulse rate and my blood pressure. I could have skyrocketed my cortisol levels, and with it, my blood sugar, insulin levels, and inflammatory markers. I could do that, not just today, but every time some little thing doesn’t go just the way I planned it to go. And I could wind up sick, depressed, fatigued, and ultimately, alone – because who wants to hang out with someone who’s mad at the world?
But I choose not to live that life anymore.
Sure, I wish I had grabbed that sweater I stuck in my luggage because I was warm and cozy on the bus before he left without me (brrrr…) Sure, I’d like to be in my lakefront room, chilling out before the big event instead of sitting on a cold floor so I can plug in my laptop.
But instead, I choose to set goals, but release attachment to outcomes. I choose to find my joy, regardless of what’s going on. I choose to feel peace, even amidst uncertainty. I choose to keep my mojo rocking this time around, which is, ironically, what I’m speaking about this weekend.
I haven’t always been so zen about things like this. Just ask my husband! It’s been a learning process, and one that I’ve had to practice. I guess we really do teach what we need to learn, eh?
The Secret To Keeping Your Mojo Rocking In Any Situation
There’s always a silver lining. It may be hard to discern when you’re sitting in the discomfort of it, but I promise, it’s always there and you’ll often see it afterwards. The practice comes with learning to see it in the moment. So start practicing. I swear it will change your life. What do you have to feel grateful for in the very moment you feel lost, disappointed, frustrated, angry, or sad? Find the gem. Cherish it. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Joy is a choice. Choose joy.
So what do you choose?
Do you fly off the handle when things don’t go your way? Can you be zen about things you can’t control? What have you learned?
Chilling out and feeling grateful,
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grass roots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself. Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com.