Humility is like a shadow for me. It’s either following, leading, or walking by my side. In any given moment, I can be humbled by another or a circumstance; but more commonly it stands right up to me, winks and says, “Hey girl. I know you thought you got rid of me. And here I am.”
After teaching a sweaty yoga class and then taking another sweaty yoga class, I usually look like something that just got hit and knocked over with a fire hose. It’s not pretty but at least it’s productive. And that production induces hunger that trumps vanity. So I detoured on my path home for a local eatery, knowing I’d be in and out in a flash, which wasn’t really that big of a deal because for the first time in many days, maybe weeks, I had nothing to do for the rest of the day. My plan was to get lunch, go home, pull the shades and watch something useless on TV. I walked up to the front and glanced to my left, and there sat an older, 60-something woman I happen to know whom I would characterize as, well, challenging. I have to be cautious when I say that because the truth is that she has never been challenging to me, per se. She has challenged a few of my friends and because I’m loyal like a damn Golden Retriever, I think I hopped on the judgment train and decided she was challenging for me as well. So I quickly averted my eyes and thought, “Just say hi and keep moving forward.”
“Brooke! Hi! How ARE you?” she said as she sat alone in a booth eating her tuna salad trio.
“Oh hi, Linda, it’s nice to see you. I’m good.”
Now allow me to pause here because this blatant, forthright, small-talk lie is one of the things that will get me on my soapbox faster than anything. I will tear down the act of ingenuity until it is left in shreds on the floor with anyone who wants to challenge me on it or present me with it in any conversation. And here I was, carrying the torch of falsity. I didn’t think it was nice to see her; I was avoiding her. Here I am, the agent of change, the leader of goodwill, and I was as phony as a counterfeit bill.
“How are your children? You have two boys, right?”
“Yes, I do. That’s incredible that you remembered that, Linda,” I said, somewhat surprised.
She continued, “Oh that’s because I have two boys myself. You know what they say: ‘God only chooses very special women to be the mother of boys.’”
I stood there and thought, that’s sweet, and I’ve heard that one before. And, I need to move this conversation along. I hate small talk. Or at least I tell myself I hate it. Which is actually kind of odd. Why would I hate small talk? Isn’t one of the things I push myself to embrace the most connecting with people? Oh great. Another learning lesson. All I wanted to do was get lunch. But because I know how this whole thing works now, I let it shake out. I realized that she was trying to connect with me. And my instinct was to strategize a way out. Okay well I’m getting uncomfortable and I am hungry. Me. Me. Me. Me.
“Linda, I hope you have a great lunch. I am sure I will see you soon,” I said kindly but wearing an insincere cloak of promise. And with that I walked to the front of the line.
And I stood there, feeling that oh-so-familiar pang of guilt in my gut. That pit that drops when I know I have had absolutely no integrity with someone. But my mechanism to brush it aside is pretty polished so I distracted myself with the menu. Suddenly someone was standing right next to me and I looked over. It was Linda. She looked sheepish. Can one be sheepish when they are in their mid-60s? I thought by then everyone had an inherent, earned, practiced, take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude that helped them not worry about too much. But she actually looked nervous.
“So, um, Brooke, are you ordering your lunch to go or are you staying here?”
EGO: Quick! Say to-go! To-go. To-go. To-go.
“Oh Linda, yes, I’ve ordered to-go. I’m dreadfully busy and need to get home.”
What was I saying? I had NOTHING TO DO. Oh God, I’m digging such a hole here. Karma and Humility were standing on either side of me like two bouncers hauling me out of bar after taking out a tower of glasses with my drunken dance moves.
“Oh,” Linda said, looking clearly disappointed. “I just thought that if you were staying here, we could have lunch together.”
“Thank you, that is so kind. Let’s do it another time.”
Another time? When on earth would I deliberately find a woman I secretly and for no reason at all try to avoid, and have lunch with her again in this lifetime? I was building a pile of little lies a mile high. I was so involved in my own inner dialogue of battle at that moment that I can honestly say that I don’t even know how that part of the conversation ended. All I remember is that she sat back down in her booth and continued eating.
Now I realize that this is a lot of detail for a scenario that transpired in about 3 minutes. And because I don’t think the Universe lets me have a break for even one minute, I was in absolute mental turmoil about my behavior. For me, the gap between denying my behavior and rectifying it has narrowed considerably in the last few years as I have dedicated nearly my entire life to this EXACT situation – becoming masterful at presencing when I check out, avoid or simply am only and all about myself. Let me put it this way: I want to get this in this life. I want to be present in every moment with every human. Because deep down, I know that every single interaction is an opportunity to change someone’s life. I imagine that every situation, big or small, is set up like a challenge, and that our guides and higher power sit back after orchestrating it and go, “Okay, she’s got this one. I know it. She’s going to talk to Linda. And both of their lives will never be the same if she does. There she goes…! Oh no…wait, she’s not seeing it. Darn it. Okay, guys, let’s recalibrate. Let’s give her another chance. Send Linda up to the cash register. Cue Linda!”
I know that sounds absurd. And it’s what I think happens because I know in my bones that we are all connected this way. And we fail to see it most of the time. But I don’t want to miss these things. I want to get it. And I’ll put my arms around Karma and Humility and willingly let them drag my ass out and shape me up. We’ve made that agreement. And I knew what I was getting into when I signed on. Moment-to-moment lessons.
And here’s another thing. Since when do random acts of kindness only involve money or an act? Recently I have been inspired and challenged by a like-minded soul mate to do something daily for someone else, anonymously if possible, for under $10. This has proven to be incredibly rewarding not only for the recipient but for myself. It’s addictive, honestly. But let me ask you this: how often are we giving our time to others? If you put a value on your time – let’s say it’s worth $100 an hour if you were to be “hired out” by someone to perform your craft or trade – would you be willing to spend 45 minutes with someone you don’t know or barely know if you knew it would cost you $75? Would you be willing to give up that much of your personal time? Or would you just rather write a check and be on your way?
I looked over my shoulder at Linda. There she sat, by herself. She had on a beautiful blue suit on a Saturday afternoon. Her hair was perfectly coiffed. Her makeup was impeccable and she sat up straight and proud while she delicately ate her lunch. Thank you Universe, I said to myself. I hear you. I know this is my cue.
I walked over to her and sat down. For the next 45 minutes we talked as though we had been friends for years. We discovered we knew many of the same people. We talked about how she has owned her own medical aesthetic practice where she helps women feel better about their aging process with Botox injections. Which of course before this serendipitous meeting I had my own narrow thoughts about. Nevertheless, Linda spoke about how she often watches me building a business single-handedly and how she admires how hard I work, because as a mother of two boys, she had to do the same thing. She said, “I have worked so hard for so many years, building my business and raising these boys. I had backup with my husband in case it all didn’t work out, but you – you are a single mother of two running a huge business – and I applaud you for being brave enough to leave a marriage that wasn’t working with all of that on your shoulders.”
I often speak about the wickedly intoxicating power of validation to my students; but the truth is, sometimes, when someone validates a long journey that we have trekked (or wandered), it actually gives us a sense of direction and a renewed sense of hope. Had I grabbed my lunch and escaped, I would have missed a key piece of validation that for a long time now, I have been needing just to know that what I’m doing every day is worth something.
I asked Linda about her life and her children, how she built her business and career. She lit up and spoke vividly of the good times and the rough roads. She simply wanted to connect with another human being. That’s all that she was asking of me. And I know that’s all I really want from anyone as well. At the end of the day, I believe that’s all any of us want and need: to connect to another human being.
It could have been the mascara that was probably running down my cheeks or the dried sweat that was caked in my hair but soon Linda started match-making, a sweet sign that someone really has your best interest at heart.
“Brooke, I know this GUY and he lives in DALLAS and he has a JET!”
I laughed and said, “Well Linda, it sounds like you need to make a phone call.”
She laughed as well. She was lighter. We were friends. We exchanged emails and ideas about how she could not only contribute to my non-profit foundation by helping women in recovery dress nicely for interviews and feel good about themselves again, but to also do something selfless that would give her a new sense of purpose. We walked out of the café together and I hugged her tightly, which I know caught her by surprise. I told her how happy I was to have spent time with her. I could tell she nearly started to cry. And then she stopped, gathered herself and put her shoulders back, and looked directly at my forehead for about 10 solid seconds and said,
“So, have you ever considered Botox?”