Several years ago I was having one of those days in which a Charlie Brown dark cloud seemed to be literally hanging over my head. It was so bad that it could have rivaled Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, was going my way. I was drowning in self-pity and thoroughly overwhelmed.
Everything in the world seemed to be orchestrated against me. Torrential rain was pouring without ceasing outside. It was like the Oregon sky had opened up was drenching the city, literally flooding the parking lots and streets. To top it off nothing was going right at the office, my kids were driving me batty, and to add insult to injury I got two flat tires in a row in the midst of said downpours. And as a bonus I came home to find a house full of hungry people and no food in the fridge. I wondered if the week was done beating me up yet as I made a solo grocery store trip.
Once at the store I suddenly realized that I had been postponing a potty break for so long that I couldn’t focus on the task at hand. Frustrated by the distraction I rushed over to the public restrooms. I was in such a foul mood that I was even annoyed at this inconvenience. As I washed my hands I wondered why motherhood didn’t come with a personal catheter. I was mid-pity-party as I rushed out the bathroom door into the hallway to complete my shopping trip.
Just as I opened the door to step into the hallway both of my feet landed on something so slippery that, just like Charlie Brown I landed flat on my back on the ground with my feet flailing in the air. As I caught my breath I wondered what the origin of the exceedingly foul aroma that was assaulting me. I had never known a mood to literally stink, but it seemed that mine did. I thought maybe I had stepped in a pile of dog pooh outside and that the fall had brought my feet in close enough proximity to my face to catch a whiff of it, but the odor was too overpowering to be even that.
There was no one else in the hallway. I gathered myself up and could see that the floors all around me were sparkling white. Once I got to my knees I realized the aroma was following me. I looked down to where I had just been laying flat on my back and saw liquefied human pooh with was imprinted with slip marks the pattern of my rain coat etched into the brown ooze. In that moment I was quite certain I had literally hit bottom.
I scooped myself and my dignity up and retreated into the women’s bathroom. In the mirror I was horrified to see that the entire back end of my raincoat was covered in someone else’s pooh. In that moment all attachment to the raincoat was lost. I carefully peeled if off my body, trying not to touch any portion of the outside of the coat, and deposited it into the trash can. I washed, and washed, and washed my hands, and then I washed them again. I considered ditching my shoes too, but I still needed get past the smeared pile of pooh awaiting me just outside the door.
As I gathered my courage to exit the bathroom, another woman entered the bathroom.
She navigated around the pile of pooh and asked, “Who pooped on the floor?”
I had no answer other than to simply say it wasn’t me; and explain that I was simply the one who had fallen in it.
Just then a small voice from behind the stall doors confessed quietly that it had been her. She explained that she had a chronic stomach problem and she had thought she could make it to the restroom.
At that moment I was so grateful that nothing had escaped my mouth as I fell, landed, and got up from the pile of pooh. I knew, without a doubt, that someone was having an even more terrible day than I was having. The compassion for the unseen lady in the stall slapped me in the face and reminded me to get over myself.
But still, I had just fallen in human pooh and was traumatized as I made my way to customer service, reported the problem and slinked out into the rain. I walked coatless for some time in the pouring rain. I waded, soaked, and stomped in puddles in an attempt to clean my shoes. I arrived home wet, foodless, tired, frustrated and defeated. I headed directly for the shower, because you simply can’t feel clean enough without a thorough shower once you have fallen into someone else’s pooh. (Trust me on that one!)
I walked away from that day with an overwhelming sense of compassion for the woman hiding inside the bathroom stall. She had to feel her life was spinning out of control when she couldn’t control her own body.
I also realized that our own personal bottoms aren’t how far we can and will fall, but it is instead how far we must fall before we stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
The most important lesson I learned that day is that the thoughts planted in our minds from the events of our lives direct the course of our lives. If we allow our negative pity-party to continue, feed those thoughts, add water from tears, and curl up in a ball in response to life we will sink into the abyss based on the anchor created in our thought life.
Our personal bottom is when we pack up our pity-party and get back up despite what is going on around us. We may fall farther still, but taking the control to get back up stops the free fall. I started instead counting my blessings.
- I wasn’t the one with out of control stomach problems.
- The Creator of all-the-Universe loves me.
- I was wearing a trench coat when I fell in human pooh.
- No pooh got onto my skin.
- I had a business to be having a bad day at.
- I had kids to drive me nuts.
- I had a car to get 2 flat tires in.
- I had AAA to call to fix my tires.
- I had my husband to share the burdens with.
- The rain provided puddles to clean my shoes….and the list goes on every day.
Even on a bad day we all have a list of blessings to count. Counting blessings cancels all pre-scheduled pity-party activities.