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Finding Grace in a Bathroom Stall

I arrived at the Dallas airport after midnight.  It was 1 a.m. before I got to the hotel.  The desk clerk couldn’t find the training manuals I’d shipped ahead.  Digging through boxes in the shipping department took another thirty minutes.  Sure enough my boxes were there, but no one was available to help me get them up to the meeting room.  It was 2 a.m. by the time I got to my room.

Now, here I was at 8 a.m., a scant six hours later, standing in the back of a ballroom of people getting ready to take the stage to run a two-day sales program.  I was supposed to be motivational, but the truth was, I felt anything but.  The late flight and the search for the boxes had put me over the edge.

I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person.  But weeks of being on the road had taken their toll.  In that moment, I found myself thinking, “Just do the basics.  All I need to do is make it through the next two days.”

With fifteen minutes left before we started, I did what many professional women do, but very few admit to.  I headed for the ladies room, locked myself in the stall, and began to cry.

As I sat there, silently weeping and feeling sorry for myself, two of the attendees came out of stalls and began talking to each other.  The first one said, “I’m so excited, I’ve been wanting to do this program for a year.”  The second one said, “I know, I heard it’s great.  It’s the first thing my new boss wanted me to do when I got promoted.”

Listening to them so excited about the program I was dreading was a wake up call.  It was clear, I had been given the chance to touch lives and I was blowing it.

In that minute, I finally got it: Every moment matters.  If you show up with a victim mindset you’re not helping anyone, including yourself.  You get what you give.  You can’t control circumstances, but you can always control your response.

That was fifteen years ago.  I’m forever grateful to those two young women.  Since that moment, I made a conscious effort to infuse positive energy and love into my work, and to bring the best of what I’ve got into every situation.  I don’t master it every time.  But I do my best.

I can tell you, it’s transformative.  When you recognize your own power to transform negative situations, it’s a game changer.  For me it has reaped bigger rewards than anything I could have imagined crying in my bathroom stall pity party all those years ago.

I ran across a prayer a few years ago that articulates the aspiration:
I pray that when the time comes, and all eyes and ears turn my way, that somehow – despite my shortcomings – I become an instrument of grace. Let the light flow through me.

We all have an opportunity to be an instrument of grace and light.  There’s always a bad meeting, lost boxes, travel delays, and problems.  Your response to these challenges can make life better for you and others, or worse.  You are always at choice.  You can have a pity party in the bathroom or you can make the most of the circumstances you’re in.

  • goferjohn

    Lisa, at the top of my core list of beliefs – my personal doctrine, per se – is that everything happens for a reason. Those two young women were not there by accident… and I believe that you will agree with me on this. I know you are thinking about what kind of presentation you would have given had they not been where they were intended to be – for you.

    When I am asked, “How are you?”, I will often respond, “You know, I heard an ambulance this morning… and it wasn’t coming for me.” It helps me keep things in perspective, helps me remember that no matter how bad a day I might be having, someone near me is worse off. I have never not had a roof over my head… never not had food on my table… never not had a bed to sleep in… you and I, we are blessed.

    I was moved by the prayer you shared. I suspect I have shared my personal mission statement with you – to make a profound difference in another’s ability to experience their day more joyfully, more abundantly, so they can fulfill their life’s purpose.

    Every moment does indeed matter… the central theme of Dan Millman’s “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” is that “there are no ordinary moments”. Make the most of every one.

    I look forward to your posts… thanks for sharing.