Anyone who knows me will tell you: I almost never lose my temper.

I even consider my ability to stay calm in stressful, even argumentative, circumstances to be one of my super-powers.

But the other day I LOST IT.

At a diner.

About breakfast.

See, I was out early running errands, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could try out this nearby diner for the first time and treat myself to a nice breakfast.

I *love* diner food.

When I get there and the server points out a booth to me, I scootch myself in. I am very pleased that the decor is classic – refreshingly unironic – and the food smells great.

Especially the biscuits and gravy, which I consider a rare treat indeed.

I decide to order something with the unappetizing name of “The Kitchen Sink.” Which is all the bits and pieces of all the things I want to try. Which is excellent because….

I *love* a sample platter.

So a diner-breakfast-sample-platter is kind of my ideal order.

Except – the way the dish is described on the menu, they pile all of the elements up in a stack on one plate. Home fries on the bottom, then eggs, then a biscuit and gravy on that, then bacon. I think this sounds sort of gross.

So when the server comes to take my order, I explain that I would like The Kitchen Sink, but may I please have it spread out instead of stacked up? Or even on different plates?



“We don’t serve it that way.”


“Let me get the manager.”

Wow. That escalated quickly. But I’m not mad – more puzzled than anything else.

Now the manager comes over – one of those short, stocky, thick-necked men who has a sort of bulldog-like demeanor.

“Is there a problem?” he gruffs.

I explain my thing about wanting a Deconstructed Kitchen Sink.


HUH? Why?

“We were getting slammed with substitutions, and….”

Oh! I get it! Yes – I’ve worked in hospitality and food service and I get it – substitutions are a nightmare. I totally get it. I clarify that I’m happy to accept the meal as cooked, I just want it spread out a bit.


Wow. I ask again, “Why?!?!?!?”

“These are the rules,” says Mr. Bulldog. “The government has rules, I have rules, we all have to follow the rules.”

The government has rules about my breakfast?

“Can I get you something else?”

Now this would be my big opportunity to shrug my shoulders, smile sweetly and order everything in that Kitchen Sink thing, but à la carte.

Or pick something else on the menu to eat.

Or simply ask for a hot tea and take some time to reconsider the life choices that brought me to here.

But I don’t.

Because of all the things that piss me off (and again – there aren’t that many of those things) the phrase, “That’s just the rules, ma’am” is the WORST.

My Inner Teenager was incensed, and the next thing I knew I was in my car, pulling away, still hungry and now, angry and crying.

To be fair, I’ve been doing a lot of crying the past few weeks, so even in that moment I knew that the tears may not have been about the diner.

I try to calm down. I remember I haven’t eaten, which is probably why I’m reacting so strongly. Eat something, I think. So I pull in to good, old, reliable Starbucks and order a tea and a breakfast egg-and-sausage sandwich. (Which is an all-piled-up thing, I know. #icontradictmyself #icontainmultitudes)

While I’m waiting for my order, I make a point to try and notice the other people in the Starbucks being human with one another. There are two teenage girls bent over a phone. There is a couple having an intense discussion about something that had happened the day before. There are two workers outside, stringing up holiday lights.

Usually noticing other people just being their dear, human selves is enough to cheer me up and calm me down.

Not today, though.

I get back in my car and do some of my favorite 4-7-8 breathing (inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8) which almost always calms me down like magic.

Not today.

I consider calling a friend to vent. Then I remember how my friend Billy always referred to that “venting” as “praying the problem.” Anytime you find yourself repeating a story over and over – especially one in which you are the innocent victim, you are energizing that story. You are perpetuating that reality. So while normally I would be perfectly happy to dump this whole silly story on a friend so that I can be told how right I am and how dumb everyone else is, I chose not to. So – no venting.

Not today.

As I drove, I caught myself re-running the conversation with Mr. Bulldog in my head – especially the part at the end, where I just sort of wiggled out of the booth, grabbed my bag and left without saying much. I kept mentally re-writing better and better lines of dialogue for myself. You may have noticed in your own life that re-playing old conversations, or pre-rehearsing conversations you haven’t had yet, is NOT the highest and best use of your imagination. So I knew that replaying the incident over and over was not going to help me, no matter how clever my l’esprit de l’escalier (literally: the wit, or inspiration, of the stairs. Leave it to the French to come up with a term that describes the thing you think of to say when you’ve already stormed out, slammed the door and are halfway down the stairwell. Genius.) So – no reruns.

Not today.

OK – time for the big medicine. I started to run through Byron Katie’s Four Questions. If you aren’t familiar with Katie’s work ( I cannot recommend it highly enough. I find her simple process to be revelatory, every single time.

But not today.


I was almost home. I had run through my favorite tools for self-management, and I was still mad.

I resolved that this diner dude and his dumb breakfast rules were NOT going to ruin my day. No, sir! Not today, sir!

So I called the restaurant, and asked to speak to Mr. Bulldog. I introduced myself, and then I said that I was calling to apologize to him. I explained that it was unlike me to storm out like that, and that I was sorry for behaving that way.

“I just want people to have a nice breakfast, ” he blustered, still defensive.

I said I understood, and I thanked him for hearing me out. As he was hanging up, he sort of mumbled something I couldn’t hear. I hope it was something nice.

He didn’t apologize.
He certainly didn’t he hoped they’d see me again soon.
He wasn’t even particularly nice about me apologizing.

But I didn’t call him because I wanted him to apologize.
I didn’t call him to try to make him feel bad about his behavior.

I called because I felt bad about MY behavior.

I apologized to him not because he “deserved” it.
I apologized to him because I deserved it.

And I felt so much better afterwards.

There were a million different ways I could have handled this diner situation. Obviously, it was a completely minor matter to which I had an outsized emotional response.

That’s what happens when your values get stepped on.

So when you find yourself getting unusually peeved about something or someone – ask yourself, “Which values of mine are getting squashed here? And how can I realign myself with my values right now?”

I called him because kindness and good humor and empathy and finding creative solutions are some of my most important values, and when Mr. Bulldog demonstrated NONE of those, I freaked out.

The fact that I was able to un-freak myself out in less than an hour is the result of thousands of hours of spiritual study and personal development.

I used my tools:

1) Eat something. Drink something reassuring.

2) Notice all the humans around you being human.

3) Try 4-7-8 breathing.

4) Avoid “praying the problem.” Quit collecting evidence about how right you are.

5) Stay in the present moment. Do not allow your imagination to get stuck replaying, re-writing or rehearsing hard conversations.

6) Explore by Byron Katie.

7) Examine your values, and notice which ones are at play.

8) Treat others as you would like to be treated. Especially if they don’t deserve it.

What tools work for you when you get upset?

By The Way, You Look Really Great Today

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