Nan Russell | State of mind

The call came as we were leaving on a typical Montana Friday. Whenever possible, my husband and I spend the weekend at our off-the-grid cabin on the North Fork of the Flathead River. Today we were anxious to get the car loaded, enjoy the beautiful weather, and begin a relaxing jaunt to our mountain oasis.

It turned out, the driver delivering propane to a cabin in our area reported the lock on the shared gated had been shot off. Vehicle tracks in the muddy road were reported heading towards our cabin. Since the driver had no reason to venture further down a private road, he reported what he observed, and the company gave us a call.

I’m not proud of my instant reaction. Maybe the adrenaline rush caused me to explode at my husband with the words, “I’m terrified.” In retrospect, I’m not sure what exactly I was terrified about since I was sitting in a comfy chair in the kitchen of our home when we got the news.

But I admit terrifying thoughts did flood my mind. Had someone broken into our cabin? Destroyed it? Stolen from it? Was he still there? Was a gun-toting person wandering the dirt roads in our pristine wilderness looking for someone in particular? Was it some crazy person creating trouble? Lots of questions. No answers.

There are astonishing thoughts that one’s brain can conjure if it’s allowed to wander. But who’s in control? Those rambling, negative thoughts or me? I consciously decided not to allow more irrational thoughts to hijack my well- being. There was plenty of time for that, I reasoned, depending on what we found. “Breathe deeply. Relax,” I instructed myself.

We appreciated the heads-up call. Certainly if someone was bold enough to shoot out a lock on a large gate to venture into an area well marked as private property and no trespassing, caution was required. And cautious we were as we maneuvered the washboard country road without conversation, and headed toward our cabin.

It was my husband who punctuated my feelings. “I have a pit in my stomach,” he said. “Me, too.” I responded as we turned onto our road. A half-mile in we hit the first gate, confirming it exactly as the delivery driver had noted. Another mile and a half, we glimpsed the second gate to our property. It was untouched.

I don’t know what possessed someone to enter private property, using a gun to gain entry. I’ll probably never know. But in the scheme of things, I do know that my state of mind by the time we reach our cabin was joyful relief. Our retreat, our oasis, our place of abundant love was passed over. Like an almost accident, a health scare, a close call, I was seeing what was, by being mindfully thankful about what wasn’t. Sometimes, that’s the best there can be.

Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008), and host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on, Nan Russell has spent over 20 years in management, most recently with QVC as a vice president. Sign up to receive Nan’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at

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