Last week I got stuck in the elevator at work. (Of all places to be stuck, right?)
I was on my way back up to the office after snagging an iced coffee from the inconveniently located Starbucks, just 300 steps from my building. (For people with self-control, this Starbucks is likely considered quite conveniently located. For me, its impact on my monthly coffee budget – yes, I have one of those!- is rather inconvenient.)
I was waiting in the lobby just outside the elevators with a complete stranger. A young man maybe just a few years older than me. He’d already pressed the UP button, so I did the same thing any other mildly awkward 20-something would do: I pulled out my phone.
When the elevator dinged and alerted us that it was here to pick us up, the doors immediately flung open. I wandered into the back left corner and when the man gestured to me and mumbled, “What floor?” I said, “Four please,” without even looking up from the glowing screen in my palm.
I was mid-sip of iced coffee and had already hit the manual refresh button four times on Instagram (to no avail) when the stranger spoke again.
“I think it’s confused,” he said.
I looked up at the electronic sign that let us know what floor we were on and realized it just kept flashing 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 in a stock red color that now seemed rather ominous.
Naturally, my first reaction was to designate a pee corner. My second was to panic.
“Do you… do you think we should call 9-1-1?” I asked as I pointed to the little phone box built-in to the wall of the elevator.
Obviously, (because I am just a touch neurotic) my mind flew to the absolute worst (and kind of embarrassingly dramatic) places.
I worried about things like if I would have to share my drink with a complete stranger if we got stuck for hours, what I would do if we ran out of air (can that even really happen?) and if my family / friends would worry about me after not hearing from me for hours because, as evidenced by the compulsive need to “refresh” on Instagram, I had absolutely ZERO cell phone service in the elevator shaft.
“No, no, let me just see where we’re at first,” said the stranger, completely composed and stoically unaffected by the very thing that was causing my armpits to burn through my aluminum-free deodorant.
I tried to keep it cool, but I really just couldn’t. I was in all-out panic mode. And my new friend, was in Incredible Hulk mode.
The man legitimately pried open the two sliding doors of the elevator with the manual dexterity of the World’s Strongest Man. When the seal broke and the doors cracked, the elevator stopped oscillating between floors and came to a standstill. We were not quite on the first floor so there was about an 8″ step up out of the elevator.
Mr. Muscles stepped out of the elevator and started to take steps to safety (without reaching back to help me out). I mentally deducted Gentleman Points from the tally I’d been keeping in my head and quickly (and also, quite aggressively) GRABBED his shoulder with a death grip.
“I’m sorry. I’m just freaked out,” I said, as I used a perfect stranger’s shoulder to steady by step and hoist myself out of the pit I’d convinced myself I would die in just ten seconds earlier.
And then we walked up the stairs together. (I will let you decide if you think he spoke to me or not.)
When I got back to my desk, admittedly still quite shaky, I thought about how I’m sometimes kind of the worst. As much as I wish I could describe myself as a laidback free-spirit who thrives on just going with the flow… I can’t. Most of the time, my default mode is panic mode and if I’m being honest, I know that stifles my joy.
More often than not, I will let myself assume the worst before I collect myself and survey the situation to “stop and see where I’m at first.”
I went on to realize how in times of difficulty or in challenging seasons, I can let myself be defeated. Too often, I think, “This is going to last forever,” when the reality is that it only lasts for a little blip on my life’s radar. And when I let myself wade in this mindset, I waste so much time giving up that I end up tacking minutes and hours and days onto the amount of time it takes me to just move on.
I think we call this being an alarmist. Or dramatic. Or a worrier. Or a Negative Nelly.
Whatever it’s called, I know I don’t want to be it.
The reality is this: No matter how eternal it seems when we are in the middle of a mess (or stuck between floors in an elevator) nothing lasts forever. The light at the end of the tunnel your mama always told you about? She wasn’t lying. It’s really there.
This too shall pass.
How do you keep yourself from panicking amidst struggle?
How do you remind yourself – in the middle of messes – that this season won’t last forever?
How do you prevent yourself from getting defeated and giving up when things get hard?
Photo: Death to Stock Photos