I love it when I hear from my still, small voice. However, there are days when I am so keyed up its takes a smack to my head to get my attention. Today started out just fine, the typical race to get things in order and get on my way. I had some plumbing problems which added to my morning tasks, and I ran a bit later than I like to.
Traffic was slow, road work and a couple of school crossing guards added to the mix. I found my grip getting tighter on the wheel, but I dismissed it. I was thankful that I had a spot to park in as our lot fills up pretty quickly. I hustled up the two flights of stairs with my bulky bags, determined to not be late.
I booted up, printed out morning reports and ran to our break room to get some coffee in no time flat. I knew that I was wanted in a daily morning huddle and that timing was everything with regard to it, but I was so hungry. My stomach felt queasy from some medicine I took, and all I wanted was a bagel before I went in. After slugging down my coffee, I knew I had to get something to eat to offset it all. I asked for a few minutes, and could sense that my delay was causing irritation.
I raced downstairs at a breakneck pace, grabbing pats of butter and turning the heat up on the toaster with speed and precision. As the bagel came through for its first pass, the butter packs were open, container ready, napkins and knife in hand. The second pass through and the swift execution of my breakfast took place in an almost synchronized manner. A little too synchronized I am afraid.
I whisked my way to the counter to grab some items I needed and pay, with a man standing to my right. I had seen him around before, and he was always calm, and never in any particular hurry. I asked if I could reach in front of him for a moment as he assembled his purchases neatly into a bag, and in my haste knocked over his large cup of coffee. The cup blended into the background of everything because my eyes and motion were too centered on myself to even see it. I stared blankly at this man, not even knowing where to start.
The coffee missed his clothing, but a little bit did splash his shoes. I could see the anger rising up (justifiably) in his eyes. His thoughts must have been filled with choice words for this hasty women in so much of a rush that she could not wait for him to complete his task, and he was correct in his judgement.
In a moment I met his eyes with mine and said “I am so, so sorry. I am sorry for spilling your coffee and almost ruining your shoes, and I will pay for the shoe shine man in building to fix them.” I offered him another coffee and then said, “Please forgive me. I am rushing because I know someone is upset with me for delaying a meeting, and I had no right to pay that frenzy forward.”
As I spoke from my heart, I could see his anger turn into some type of acceptance. It didn’t make my behavior right, AT ALL. What it did do however was communicate the fact that I let my emotions drive me to act in a way that I was not proud of: hasty, rude and careless. I was a java jerk. As a result of the drama, I was even later than I would have been had I calmed down and not rushed.
I hope that I see this man again soon so I can thank him for not losing his cool, for not cussing me out, and for taking the high road despite his frustration with me. I want to let him know that the interaction stayed with me all day, and made me realize that it was such an avoidable circumstance. All I needed to do was maintain my perspective and remember that I have the choice to either assimilate to my frenetic environment or to become the change within it. The world was not going to come to an end if I wasn’t back at my desk within a few minutes. The scary part is that these kinds of reactions to triggers happen at an almost unconscious level. They take up residence within us if we do not evict them.
I took some time during the day right at my desk to breathe, reflect and take stock of my mental wiggle room. When the cup gets too low, you cannot let others drink from it with you. I don’t just want it filled, I want to have overflow. Creating margin, calm and peace in the midst of each moment is a new commitment and desire. I realized today that it can only begin with me, one choice at a time. No use crying over spilled coffee, but I am so thankful for the example a total stranger set for me when faced with it. I had a much bigger mess to clean up than the liquid on the floor, and I am grateful for the chance to make it better.