it’s okay to be scared–center yourself in love anyway

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“Wow, that must be a really nice thing to hear!” said the man walking by with his wife.  Little did he know what had just transpired… and that I was still physically shaking from it as I walked away.

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Some background: I am used to being approached and talked to by “strangers”. It’s just part of who I am… I guess I put out the vibes of a safe place to be seen and heard. 

This has served me in my healing and coaching work, but has also been happening in everyday life for my whole life. I have a friend who often says “I forget what it’s like to be in public with you!” when we venture out together. I welcome interaction with friends-I-don’t-know-yet as I’m out and about, and even though I’m an introvert, I love that feeling of authentic connection.

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Back to my story…

I had noticed the remnants of smeared pink sparkly lipstick on the young man’s face when I first looked him in the eye, and what appeared to be paint/lipstick in each of his ears (I’m still not sure what that’s about). He asked me how I was doing and I answered honestly “Great! It’s such a beautiful day today.” 

I was surprised when he answered, “Is it?”

I knew it was time to put away my phone (I had been glancing at my Lyft app, to see when my ride was due to arrive) and give my full attention to the person beside me. He wasn’t being sarcastic with his question–I think he was checking to see if I was really there with him, or if I was just giving a quick answer to be polite.

He asked me what my plan was for my life…and when I gave a short answer and asked him “and you?” I heard about some of his struggles, about how drugs had opened his eyes in some ways and how he wanted to live without judgment from others, and find his own way.

I said I thought it was important to have compassion for ourselves, too, and he asked “what IS compassion?” Oy! It’s a good thing I don’t work alone–this felt like a very delicate situation I was trying to navigate. In that moment it was like my words were coming through me instead of from me. “It’s about forgiveness,” I said, “and being gentle with ourselves for choices we make that may not be the best for us. It’s about trying to do better going forward without beating ourselves up about what we’ve done in the past.”

I’m going to come clean with you all–there were times during this conversation that I was scared. This young man was not well…I could see it in his mannerisms, but even more, I could feel it in his energy.

It’s important to me that I not live in fear. I’m not oblivious to danger, but I don’t want to see it everywhere in the world around me! So I try to make smart choices–like waiting for my Lyft outside a gallery, where there were plenty of people walking around. When I take these precautions, I can let go of general anxiety and worry about my safety. Because of this, I truly can’t remember the last time I’ve been fearful of my surroundings.

But I’d just come from a march about gun control and protecting our children, and I was honestly kind of afraid that the young man I was talking to may have a gun hidden in the little bag that he clutched to his chest. That this may be my last conversation. (It’s amazing how quickly that fear can jump in and make a mess of things if we let it!)

It felt like a very long 6 minutes (the time we had until my ride arrived) but I did what I could to stay present… feel my fears as they arose and let them pass. I tried to center myself in love. To speak with this young man as I would have any other person who started talking to me out of the blue. To focus on how much I love connecting with others!

I do wish I’d have asked his name. I’m not great at remembering names, and I think that’s one reason I often don’t ask. I hope that even though I didn’t, he could feel the love I have for him as a fellow human being. I hope he felt no judgment, only connection. 

When my ride got there, I touched him on the shoulder and said I had to go. I told him I’d enjoyed talking to him… and I meant it.

As I headed up the sidewalk, I heard him call after me, “You are a beautiful person.” 

I turned around, met his eyes, and said “right back at’cha!” 

All witnessed by a couple who knew nothing of what had unfolded, but understood how nice it is to hear words like that every now and then.