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What Do You Do When Your Life Is Out of Control? I sat on the hard metal bench at the Greyhound bus station in tears. My 23 hours rode trip had just been extended by ten hours, and it wasn’t my fault. My bus from New York was two hours late arriving in Raleigh, and my connecting bus had long left the station. Probably fearing a verbal beat down from the 40 or so tired passengers arriving at the station. The two ticket agents on duty provided no comfort. They made little to no eye contact as we lined up to trade in our obsolete bus transfers and get new tickets.
Behind the safety of the bus terminal intercom, the supervisor on duty announced that the next three incoming coaches to Atlanta were sold out. Everyone in line let out a collective gasp as they mentally tried to calculate when they would arrive to the destinations. As I stepped up to the counter, the ticket agent informed me without lifting her eyes from the computer screen that she could put me on the fourth Greyhound bus at 5:30 AM, but that it would not arrive to Atlanta until 11:30 PM that night.
On the verge of tears, I simply nodded and took my new ticket. I was livid. The memories of my wonderful New York vacation were instantly dashed and replaced by the fact that I was now obliged to sit in a bus terminal for five hours waiting for the next bus. I had just pulled myself together when the supervisor on duty made another announcement. Once again, behind the safety of the terminal intercom he informed me and my tired grumpy companions that our connecting bus would be late with no estimated time of arrival. You see, there was no driver scheduled to drive this bus from Raleigh to all connecting points south, including Atlanta.
I lost it-right there at the Raleigh Greyhound bus station. I had left New York at 5:00 PM on Monday. It was now 3 AM on Tuesday, and the late arrival of this bus meant that there was no way I would make my connecting bus and get home by 11:30 PM that night. Instead, the 5:30 AM bus arrived at 7 AM, and we were all informed that we would not arrive in Atlanta until approximately 2:30 AM Wednesday.
You are probably wondering why in this age of flying did I decide to take the bus. Well, to be honest, it was cheaper than flying. And in the past, when I’d taken the bus, I‘d gotten so much work done. I wrote my best blogs on the bus, completed a book, created a newsletter, and caught up on my email. And when I was done, tired, or I did not want to disturb my neighbor with the overhead light, I slept.
This time was different, I was trapped. Stranded in a cavernous bus station that felt like Antarctica. Despite its size, it had very few elecrtical outlets. The ones that were not broken were quickly taken by other passengers. I felt completely out of control. A feeling I do not like having at all. I am the person who makes plans. Written plans, in journals, with timelines. I had planned my entire week. Something out of my control had sideswiped me and my neatly arranged schedule. My blog post, video and podcast schedule, clients to coach, and my work outs were just gone, shifted, eliminated.
What do you do when your life is out of your control? The first thing I did was cry. Then I prayed, got angry and asked God if he was listening and what was he going to do to punish the people who had upset my life so severely. I felt completely and utterly vulnerable. Then I calmed down and realized that in every situation I still have some control. I couldn’t control when the bus would arrive, but I could control how I responded and how I managed my time.
I took my own coaching advice. I dried my tears and took a couple of deep breaths. Taking out my calendar, I gave myself Wednesday off to recover from this leg of my trip. Then I emailed my podcast interviews an apology with a link to my calendar to reschedule. When my computer battery conked out, I used my phone to email my clients an apology with the link to my calendar so that they could also reschedule. When my phone died, I started writing notes in the notebook that I always carry with me. I am an old school writer. Those notes ended up being this essay.
As much as we would love to check out and blame the other guy, we are never truly out of control of our lives. What can we do when we feel like our lives are out of our control? We can make the decision as to how we are going to handle the situation. Will we choose to handle it with grace and dignity or with anger and blame? The decision on how we want to behave can never be taken away from us, it will always be ours, we just have to own it. I do have to say a good cry never hurts.
Peace!Check the Welcome to Your Life Podcast