I avoid early morning travel because worry of oversleeping usually keeps me tossing and turning throughout the night.
But I had a bus to catch at 7:45 am, so I gave myself plenty of time to get to the bus station which was a 30 minute drive away. But my plans were derailed when my friend giving me a ride overslept, and we left the house with no time to spare.
In an attempt to maintain control, I decided to drive. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, I saw that the gas tank was empty. I sped down the country road barely noticing the cotton in full bloom – something I admired on almost every other drive.
When I stopped at the gas station, the pump was out-of-order. Once I moved the car to a working pump, it took me three tries to get my credit card to go through. Likely in my anxiety, my fingers fumbled while entering the zip code. The voice over the intercom said, “Your card isn’t going through ma’am. You’ll need to come inside.” But I interrupted her before she finished speaking, yelling, “I don’t want to come inside!”
By the time I got the card to go through, my anxiety had increased to panic. I kept the pump on for less than 30 seconds then I was racing down the freeway, 15 miles over the speed limit.
I told my friend repeatedly that we’re going to be late. I yelled at her, wanting her to accept the blame. It was a situation in need of Blamers Anonymous.
The world continued to teach me a lesson when about 15 minutes from the station, I saw sirens behind me. I completely lost control, and I was on the verge of tears.
I pulled over, and I got lucky. The cop gave me a warning, and I pulled away so quickly that I almost left without my license and registration.
I had already missed the bus by this point, and I begged every traffic light to be green.
When I pulled into the bus station, 15 minutes late, my panic beyond recovery, my emotions distraught, the bus was still there, there were a dozen people in the parking lot, and the ticket agent hadn’t arrived yet. But I still rushed out of the car and managed to bang my knee as I forcefully pulled my suitcase out of the trunk.
I left the station 45 minutes later. My friend and I had time to sit down and eat breakfast. I paid because I felt terrible about how I treated her.
Every bus I’ve taken from this station has been at least 30 minutes late, but I forgot that. I chose to panic. In my attempt to control things that were out of my control, I only elevated my stress and anxiety. And all I had to show for it was a bruised knee and an emotional state that took me all day to shake off.
Consider the other scenario. I don’t panic. I drive the speed limit to the bus station. I don’t get mad at my friend, and I don’t say things I don’t mean. I make it to the bus station much earlier, maybe even on time.
And what’s the worst that could have happened? I miss the bus. I catch one the next morning, and I get an extra day with my friend.
We often create our stress. Our internal dialogue can either keep stress at bay or elevate it into full panic. I’ve encountered many similar situations when I stayed calm and didn’t go into blame mode but what was absent that morning was perspective.
Internally, I knew I didn’t need to panic, but instead of taking a step back from the situation, I chose to dive into it…and I drowned in it. Looking back, I created each situation that further elevated my stress.
When you find that your inner dialogue is pushing you towards stress, take a step back from the situation. What’s the worst that can happen? What is in and out of your control?
Act on the things you can control, and attempt to let go of the rest.
You’ll get there when you get there.