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Scheme of Things

Those Pitch-Black Mornings
By Nan S. Russell
Jul 1, 2012 - 9:38:15 PM

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I woke at 4:00 a.m. for a final practice before delivering a morning keynote at a professional conference. But my normal speaking preparations, including a mindset routine, changed abruptly when I found myself showering in total darkness as three bathroom lights suddenly went out. It wasn't just dark, it was pitch-black. Not even a light-sliver seeped under the doorway from the bedroom where my husband slept soundly.

I wasn't sure how to climb out of the shower/bath combination into blackness to avoid hazards. As strange as that sounds, I couldn't remember the bathroom layout. We'd arrived late the previous night and I hadn't paid attention to yet, another, hotel room.

Like a robot delivering programmed movements, I'd executed mine. Mechanical on-the-road routines the night before, and sleepily at 4:00 a.m., left me with an inability to navigate in pitch-black. If I'd been paying attention as I brushed my teeth, it might have been different. But I wasn't. I lost my bearings in the dark because I'd never focused.

I could say that life is like that, too, and discuss the merits of staying in the moment. Or I could comment that life sometimes leaves us wet and in the dark, grasping for some light to find our way. But those thoughts are way too philosophical for pitch-black mornings.

These are the mornings (or days) when your child throws up on the new outfit you're wearing for a big presentation that isn't going to happen now because you're going to stay home with a sick child; or the dog runs away just as you're leaving for an important appointment making you rudely late; or the dishwasher overflows on the new carpet. We all know these mornings. They take our plans and render them (and us) scrambling.

I was definitely scrambling as I arrived at the event. The time it took to wake my husband for help, get hotel maintenance to fix our room's electrical problem, and finish getting dressed put me in a harried and less than positive state.

Yet, as I took the stage and looked out at the audience, it hit me - this wasn't my morning. The audience didn't care that I had one of those mornings. They didn't care why I was cranky and out of sorts. They didn't care that my hair wasn't styled perfectly or my jacket could have been pressed better. They didn't care because their morning wasn't about me, it was about them. It was their kick-off, their event, their day.

It was that ah-ha that shifted a pitch-black morning into a bright-day one. In the scheme of things, a day isn't mine. It's ours. We share it. How I show up and bring that awareness and energy to others, whether it's in passing at a store or an encounter on a roadway, and how you do, matters.

We decide if we turn a trivial occurrence into a rain cloud, or we let it pass. In the words of author Annie Dillard, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." And how we impact others' days is, of course, how we impact our own.
(c) 2012 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.
Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. More about Nan and her work can be found at  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at:

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