“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.” ~Steven Pressfield
This week I had the pleasure of waiting in a queue. Now, that is not normally something that I would be able to say, as I’m not the most patient woman.
The queue was for the immigration department in Chiang Mai, Thailand—a busy place full of people who were stressed because they were unsure about where to get a number for their place in the queue, unsure if they had the right paperwork, unsure of how long the process would take, and unsure if their right to stay in the country would be extended.
Friends had warned me that I might be sitting in that crowded room for hours, so I had come prepared with postcards to write and a notepad to write my next newsletter. I did neither of those things.
Instead, I sat on the uncomfortable blue plastic chairs, observed the people around me, and observed myself. I watched people get grumpy and impatient. I watched the staff trying to do their job well while dealing with grumpy and impatient people.
I watched myself getting nervous about whether I had all of the documents that I would need to get my extension.
I watched myself getting impatient as the staff didn’t call the first number in the queue so that processing of applications could begin, right on the dot at 8.30AM. I was number fifteen.
I watched myself itching to ask the first person processed how long they would now have to wait for their passport to be stamped and returned to them.
Then I made a decision. None of this really mattered. Perhaps I would have to come back again if I had the wrong documents. Perhaps the queue would move at a crawl. Perhaps I would have to wait a long time to actually get my passport back. Perhaps I wouldn’t get an extension at all.
None of these things were inside my control, so I made the decision to let it all go. To sit quietly. To enjoy the time not doing anything “constructive.” To let my mind wander. To have a brief conversation with the family next to me, the kind you have when you don’t speak much Thai and they don’t speak much English but you understand each other perfectly.
My decision turned a stressful experience into a relaxing and, dare I say, enjoyable one. I even played a game with myself to guess the time that I would be able to leave. I guessed 10:00AM. I left at 9.55. Not bad at all!
This experience showed me that there is a massive difference in how I feel when I deliberately choose to view a situation in a different way.
I know that in the past in situations like this I wasn’t even aware that I had a choice as to how I felt. It’s taken some hard lessons and a growth in awareness to realize just how much influence I can have over my own feelings.
It turned out that the Universe had a reason for keeping me in that queue for as long as it did. As I was cycling back to the countryside, where I volunteer at a dog shelter, I came across a puppy in the middle of the road.
Five minutes either side of that moment and I might have missed the puppy or, worse still, have come across a tragedy on that busy country road.
I was able to get close enough to pick him up. I then had a dilemma; how would I get him back to the shelter, which was an hour’s walk away on a sweltering hot day?
Using my well-rested and relaxed brain, I came up with a solution. I emptied the contents of my bike’s basket into a bag I fashioned out of what I had, and then tied the puppy up in a spare shirt so he couldn’t wiggle about. Into the basket he went.
He sat in that basket the whole bumpy ride back to the shelter with the calmness of one who knew that this situation was outside of his control. He is now taken care of and was adopted after only nine days in the shelter.
The lesson I learned is that we always have a choice about how we feel about a situation. Even if we initially react poorly, we still have the power to change what we think and do next. It’s simply a matter of changing what is going on internally and making a conscious decision.
This week I’m grateful that I had the pleasure of waiting in a queue.
Woman in a waiting room image via Shutterstock