The departing flight to Santa Fe this morning had been delayed by almost two hours. Nothing could be done about it; the pilot called in sick and the new pilot was stuck on the runway in Chicago. I was in the last boarding group so I knew I had time to visit the ladies’ room before I got on the plane. (Premier member of the “itty bitty bladder club” here.)
I went straight out of the stall to the sink directly opposite, and reached for the soap.
“Excuse me. ExcUSE me! EXCUSE ME!”
Almost from a distance I heard her. I kinda wondered who she was talking to. I’m just going to wash my hands, surely she’s not talking to me. Wait, she’s talking to me…?
I froze, my hand hovering under the soap dispenser, eyebrows raised, not knowing exactly what was happening. The woman to my left was upset about something. I turned to look at her.
She pointed, “That’s my sink!”
My eyebrows went a little higher. Really? “It’s just a sink. It’s ok.”
“It’s MY sink!”
Even her posture was indignant. She was somehow upset that I had stepped in front of her sink. I don’t recall ever having someone claim a sink in a restroom before. Maybe she’s not all there, and this is a big deal for her. “My humble apologies.” I moved aside to the next sink over.
As I washed my hands, I thought about the possible reasons why someone would behave so possessively toward a sink in a public restroom at an airport, and drew a complete blank.
Drying my hands, I tried to make my voice as soothing and calm as possible. “I really hope your day goes better.”
She muttered a retort that I didn’t quite catch. I left the drama in the restroom with her.
I learned a valuable lesson awhile back, to observe and don’t absorb.
In the past, the previous version of me would have jumped with both feet into her sticky, contagious anger and absorbed some of it for my own. Perhaps I would have just claimed the sink I had begun to use and ignored her protests of ownership. Maybe there would even be a snarky or heated exchange. I think I would have judged her harshly for the ridiculousness of her comments in the situation. I would probably replay the conversation in my head, thinking of better or meaner retorts. It could easily have made the flight delay feel like torture. I would have definitely soured my mood for the day. In the past.
But because of the work I’ve done on myself, the deep inner work, I didn’t. In the moment, when it could have all gone south, I paused and leaned into the curiosity I felt for her. I allowed the question to form in my mind: What would make her react so strongly and fiercely?
So often we forget that we have the choice how to respond to any given situation. It’s not that your mood determines your reaction. Quite the opposite, actually. Your reaction determines your mood. There’s about one-fifth of a second where we get to decide how we want to be, who we want to be. It doesn’t seem like a very long amount of time, but for your brain, it’s plenty of time.
This means you get to choose—ahead of anything happening to you—how you want to respond. Choose ahead of time who you want to be, how you want to be.
In the small and especially trying moments—like a woman claiming the sink you were about to use in a public restroom—choose to test-drive the best version of yourself. See how it feels; see how it serves you.
I left the restroom still puzzled, sending her a little gift of good juju, sincerely hoping her day improved. I didn’t absorb any of her anger. Nor did I try to make her day any worse. It felt nice knowing that this version of me is becoming more and more my default. (I mean, I’m not perfect, so I do forget sometimes.) But I’m a better human being than I was before because I chose to start noticing.
The first step of any kind of growth or improvement for yourself is to notice.
So, please, choose to notice. Then choose love.
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you!
Chronic good juju spreader, recovering graphic designer, supporter of all creatives everywhere.