Life Lessons from A Gas Station in Flagstaff Arizona

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Life Lessons from A Gas Station in Flagstaff Arizona- LOST IN THE GRAND CANYON!

Meeting Matt gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “blind date.”

When this six-foot-three pilot with the broad shoulders and royal blue eyes sat across from me at Chelsea’s Kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona at the table underneath a tree and next to the fire pit in the back courtyard, I thought I might go blind at the sight of him.

He was dazzlingly handsome, and I spent the first ten minutes or so of our date desperately searching for a flaw, any flaw. Surely he couldn’t be physically perfect?

I felt like I was seated across from the male equivalent of Angelina Jolie.

Amazingly, Matt was also interesting and kind, and for some odd reason, seemed to find me interesting as well. I was sure that someone as physically perfect as he seemed to be, to me (a Cary Grant look-alike with impossible blue eyes, broad chest, strong arms) would go for the Supermodel-type, and that’s not me.

I joke that I was “drawn by Dr. Seuss,” who incidentally was from my hometown of Springfield, MA. I’m cartoonish-ly adorable, but hardly perfect.

Phoenix Adventures with the Tribe

I’d flown to Phoenix a few days earlier to meet one of my personal heroes, Martha Beck, who is a best-selling author and life coach. Martha is currently a producer of Oprah’s Live Your Best Life OWN network television show, and she writes for Oprah’s O Magazine.

I’d followed her work for years before deciding to sign up for her life coach training program this past June. I was already getting paid to coach clients, and had worked with life coaches myself for years, but I tend to feel better when I have the proper “certification” for a job.

I’m a Princeton and Harvard grad, after all, and for me there is something about earning a degree that still feels satisfying, a way of proving to the world just what I can accomplish. I was excited to finally make my life coaching career “official.”

A Magical Reality

And Martha’s writings and teachings had always appealed to me immensely. One of her memoirs, title “Expecting Adam,” especially spoke to me. I admired Martha’s courage in sharing experiences from her past that were nothing short of mystical: visions and dreams that helped guide her to her future path.

I’d had visions and dreams like these for years, but it is not the sort of thing you generally talk about at cocktail parties. One might think you are mad.

I was happy to find a kindred spirit who was also a Harvard grad, three times over, and obviously someone who is very successful in the material world, who was also able to navigate both “worlds,” apparently, living in the realm of spirit but also firmly rooted and accomplished here on earth.

In this world, but not of this world. I have always felt like that, like I was straddling two realities, living in my own brand of magical realism.

Magical Realism In My Life

That is what my life feels like to me. It is so full of magic, and synchronicity, with coincidences that seem just far too improbable to be true. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

In my case, life is stranger and more wonderful than fiction. I often say I am the “Luckiest Girl Alive,” and these days especially, it really feels like that’s the case.

Which brings me back to the pilot, Matt, and our blind date.

After spending a few days with the Martha Beck “Tribe” learning life coaching techniques, I had camped out at the Squaw Peak Resort Hotel for a few more days with my also devastatingly handsome and charming life coaching partner, James, who is really like a real-world equivalent of James Bond, including the irresistible and sexy British accent.

Sunshine People Miracle Makers Lisa and James

We are plotting world domination through love and healing, and we had projects to map out together. I was planning to stay in Phoenix for one whole week and was on vacation, so had time to give to our visions.

James however had to head to the Rocky Mountains to visit family friends on Tuesday afternoon. Which is why I decided to go to dinner with the pilot on Tuesday night. It was more fun than eating alone, and I figured at the very least I’d make a new friend in Phoenix.

A member of a fund-raising committee that I am part of in Massachusetts had told me a week earlier about her brother, Matt, a pilot, who lived in Phoenix, and said I should meet him when I was there.

“Are you single?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

I am up for anything and hope to be with a life partner whenever it aligns, sharing life’s adventures together. So sure, I would take a chance and meet her brother.

I had never seen his picture, so it was truly a real “blind date.” He rang my cell while I was in the hot tub at the hotel. We set up a time to meet.

Taking It Easy…

Since I had never met him, and figured this would likely be a dud of a date (since I tend to be so ridiculously picky when it comes to the men I date) I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into getting ready.

My hair was still “hot-tub frizzy” and I had already checked out of my room, so there wasn’t much I could do about it. I tossed it up in a quick ponytail.  How to dress? Sexy or casual or business? I went for “sexy business,” wearing black pants and a black blazer with a slightly low-cut top.

I threw on some earrings, powdered my nose, put on a little lipstick, and figured, well, at least I’ll have company for dinner tonight~ !

Dinner by the Fire

Matt picked the restaurant, named Chelsea’s Kitchen, in downtown Phoenix. I beat him there by five minutes, since he was just returning home from a flight and had to rush to change and meet me, and I was just enjoying a relaxing vacation at this point.

I picked a table in the back courtyard underneath a tree by a fire pit. I texted him to say I’d be the redhead sitting by the fire.

I was facing the fire so I didn’t see him when he approached. I didn’t see him until he was standing across from me, and I’m surprised my jaw didn’t drop. It was tough to keep a poker-face. He was way more than I had expected, and I figured I would just make the most of the date. Why not ~ we lived far away from each other, might as well enjoy this time together!

After dinner, he asked me out again for Thursday night, two nights later. I said I’d get back to him. I was thinking about spending Thursday at the Grand Canyon and wasn’t sure I’d be back in time.

But I have to say it was nice that he wanted to see me again, despite my frizzy hot-tub hair and less than amazing date attire. I liked it that he clearly wasn’t just about looks, because if he was I can’t imagine why he’d want to date me (I figure I’m about an 8 and he is a 10, physically).

A Map of Destiny?

I texted Matt the next day to tell him that I wasn’t going to be able to meet him Thursday night in Phoenix. I had decided that I wanted to travel to the Grand Canyon on Thursday, stay overnight and then meditate at the edge of the canyon on Friday morning at sunrise.

What better way to start my day on 11/11/11, which was supposed to be the dawning of a new era for humanity, according to countless Websites and email lists that I was on? Supposedly 11/11/11 would be the day that the “new era” of love and global transformation would begin, culminating in December 2012.

I didn’t know how much I put stock into those predictions, but meditating at the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunrise still sounded like fun.

So I let Matt know, no can do. We agreed that maybe we’d get together sometime in MA, if he came home for the holidays, since we’d grown up just about one hour away from each other.

First Sedona, Then The Canyon

I headed to Sedona on Wednesday first to see its famous red rock cliffs. I arrived in time for dinner.

The sky was already dark, but the moon was full over the red rock cliffs. I drove around for a while just admiring the beauty of the cliffs under a deep midnight blue sky and a full moon, and appropriately enough ate at a little roadside restaurant called the “Blue Moon.”

Thursday morning it was time to head to the Grand Canyon. I had been told it was only about 1.5 hours from Sedona. No sweat!

Denice’s Directions

I had breakfast at Denny’s, and ended up getting directions to the canyon from my waitress, Denice. She had asked me, “Do you want to take the scenic route, or the direct route?”

I opted for the “scenic route,” since after all I was on vacation; had all day to get there; and would be staying overnight as well. Why rush? Armed with Denice’s directions, I headed out into downtown Sedona, where I stopped to buy a bottle of water for the trip. I was going to fast for the next 24 hours, just to “prepare” myself for my meditation at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

I’d never done that before, and was looking forward to the experience.

A Little Bit Lost!

Somehow I got myself turned around right from the get-go and ended up heading south on Route 89A instead of north toward the canyon. Luckily I figured it out quickly enough, after about 45 minutes, when none of the signs on the roadside matched the map I had that led to the Grand Canyon.

I turned around, drove through the center of Sedona all over again, waved, and kept going. Oh well.

An hour and a half “lost.” It didn’t matter; I was on vacation after all!

I drove and drove and drove and at some point it felt as though I had been driving for too long. Wasn’t I supposed to be there in 1.5 hours? I stopped at a gas station, and went inside to ask the cashier for directions. She took one look at my written directions and said, “Why on earth did you go this way?”

I laughed. “Uh, I got the directions from my waitress at Denny’s and she said it was the ‘scenic route.”

“Well, maybe, but it’s going to take you twice as long to get to the Canyon. Let me show you a simpler route…”

I bought a new map and she directed me to a faster path to make it there. At this point I was open to that since I definitely hoped to be at the Canyon before dark.

And it was getting to be late.

On To Flagstaff!

I re-routed myself and got driving again. At some point, I realized that I had “cruise control” on my rental car and and I set it for 70 mph, which made the trip seem a whole lot breezier.

I rolled down my windows, cranked up the radio to full volume, and sang along with the radio as if I were a teenager. Fun times!

Finally I saw the signs for Flagstaff, Arizona, which meant that I was getting close. Good thing, because it was already about 5 p.m., and the sun would set early. I had lost a good three hours on my trip due to bad directions and getting lost, and then another two hours when I stopped to take a client call along the way.

Five hours “lost.” Oh well. It was what it was, I was where I was, and I was relaxed and having fun.

X Marks the Spot

As I pulled into the commercial part of Flagstaff, I suddenly got the impulse to turn into a gas station.

I checked my gas gauge. There was gas in the car, enough to get to the Grand Canyon for sure. I had water. I wasn’t eating anything, except a handful of sunflower seeds, which I had decided to allow myself to make the “fast” more palatable.

Why did I want to stop, then?

Who knew. I was a bit annoyed, honestly, by my impulse to stop, but have learned enough in this lifetime to know that if the thought of doing something makes me feel “open,” that I should go with the impulse.

Follow The Bliss, Follow The Joy, Right?

I had already passed the gas station, so I pulled into a hotel parking lot across the street to head back to it. As I sat waiting to cross the two lanes of traffic, I suddenly got the sensation again that I should “wait.” Don’t go yet.

These “impulses” of mine, wherever they come from, are strong, and I don’t know that I could have pressed my foot to the gas pedal if I tried. Oh well, I thought, maybe some higher power is saving me from a potential car accident right now, because I seem to have a very active fleet of guardian angels.

So I sat and waited, for about 12 minutes, until I finally got the impulse to “go.”

Off I went. I pulled into the gas station parking lot, and parked right in front of a huge truck with a giant target on it. It was for the company Core Mark.

This Had Better Be Good!

Oh well, I thought. I didn’t feel like stopping and getting delayed any longer, but it felt like the right thing to do. I figured I’d stock up on more water and sunflower seeds.

I wandered in, grabbed a few big bottles of water and a package of sunflower seeds. I headed to the register. I was the third or fourth person in line. Suddenly, I got the urge to turn around, sensing the presence of someone behind me.

I turned around and found myself staring into the deep blue eyes of the six-foot-three, strapping, handsome pilot, Matt, who I’d been on a date with just two days before.

Whoa! I Mean, WHOA!

We just stared at each other, stunned, for a bit, maybe 20 seconds, who knows.

“Whoa,” I said. “What are you doing here?!?”

I know ONE person in the state of Phoenix (well, two, counting Martha Beck). I’d been on a blind date with him two days before.  We’d agreed that we wouldn’t be  able to see each other again on this trip.

And yet here it was, Thursday evening, when we’d talked about meeting up again, and here we were, standing next to each other in a convenience store in Flagstaff, Arizona, three hours from where he lives, and one hour from the Grand Canyon.

After we got over our shock and surprise, I said, “You know, it’s Thursday night. We could still go out for a drink after all. Are you free right now?” He said his co-pilot was waiting in the car, and they were off to board a flight. So no can do.

He texted me later that night and said, “Wow how random to bump into you today. Enjoy the sunrise as I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.”

I texted him back the next morning, “It was an epic adventure! Back to NY now ;) and yes CRAZY to bump into you like that, what are the odds??!”

“I guess 100%,” he wrote. “Have a safe flight back home.”

4 Life Lessons from A Gas Station in Flagstaff–

The moral of the story, as I see it, is as follows:

1.  EVERYTHING  is aligning in “Divine Timing.”
So if something seems to not be “lining up” the way you want it to in your life, just surrender it. I “lost” five hours on my trip (1.5 hours getting lost and rerouted; 1.5 hours due to bad directions; 2 hours due to a client call; and then another 12 minutes when my body’s impulse’s told me to “just sit still” for a bit before pulling into the gas station. Matt was in the store for all of five minutes, so if I had arrived five minutes sooner or later, we would have missed each other. Tell me, can you explain that one away!?!? Because I can’t. To me it has the hand of God all over it, a mini-miracle, a true synchronicity story.

2.  “GETTING LOST” may just be a rouse which also puts you at the right place at the right moment in history.
I know at least a half-dozen people who narrowly missed being in the World Trade Center towers on that fateful day on 9/11, 2001. Some missed a bus or train. Some had sick children. Some were simply running late. And “fate,” or whatever you want to call it, saved their lives. Sometimes maybe we are “lost” just because something worse would happen (a car accident? Who knows!) if we arrived “on time.”

Due to the “miracles” that happened to me in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon, I seem to have lost the ability to worry any longer. I don’t miss it, honestly! I was basically a chronic worrier since I was a small child, until I learned as an adult from spiritual teachers Abraham-Hicks that worry is really “negative prayer.” When I focus on what I fear, I actually increase the likelihood that it may happen. Experiencing “miracle after miracle” in Arizona made me decide that I am not ultimately in control, anyways, and I might as well put the car on cruise control and just go where my heart tells me to go.

I have fallen into such a deep well of PEACE, a place of complete and utter absolute surrender and trust, and I plan to hang out here for a while, a lifetime if I may! It feels AMAZING to live with total and complete trust that somehow, somewhere, some force is out there conspiring for our highest good. I really believe, no matter what the future holds, that I was “meant” to bump into Matt the pilot again. As he said, the odds of us bumping into one another like that were apparently “100%,” or “meant” to happen. I won’t argue with destiny. I’ll just cooperate with it and do my part to be sure I make this a fun, full, adventurous, joyful and productive life.

Lisa Powell Graham
Get Happy!

Give us your thoughts!


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  • Pingback: Life Lessons from the Grand Canyon, Continued… | 8 Women Dream()

  • @Cath I love my life <3 I love my life <3 I love my life… I'm not complaining. It's miraculous! and I love YOU!!! xoxo

  • Katie!!! YOU LIVE IN FLAGSTAFF?!?! how did I miss this?!?! next time! I will visit you! xoxo

  • I love your travel stories. They are my favorite!

    I will be thrilled to hear how it went with Martha Beck and more of you adventure. Of course you ran into him at the gas station… of course you did.


  • Katie Eigel, Travel Dreams

    What a coincidence! Must be all the vortexes we have in AZ drawing you and Matt together :) Can’t wait to hear the rest of it.
    P.S. Next time you get lost in AZ, give me a ring – I live in Flagstaff. I wouldn’t want to throw off your timing with Matt, but I can give you some suggestions for where to grab a drink with a handsome pilot.