Tiny Moments of Couraging
Building the habit of showing up
I can be so small, so stingy sometimes. Like in the elevator in our building.
Yesterday I was headed down to the lobby level from The Moxie Penthouse – ooh, sounds so swank, so cool, how could one ever be small coming out of that, right? Well, it was the end of a longish day, and I was hungry and not sure whether we had anything remotely interesting in the fridge to turn into dinner. I glanced down at the phone in my hand and noticed a text message I hadn’t answered yet. I was feeling a little overwhelmed.
On the 6th floor, the elevator doors opened, and a guy gets on. He’s an older dude and he smells faintly of campfire smoke and he’s got the best hat. And he seems a little sad. Was he, really? Who knows, maybe his face in repose just looks like that. But he did seem wistful, somehow.
I noticed him, I had a thought to say something, and I said nothing and looked down at my phone.
He got off the elevator and walked off into the world, and I’ll never know how his day or his life were going—whether he was sad or disappointed or supremely content or what.
But what I do know is this: I had one of those tiny moments where we’re given a choice to either expand or contract, and I contracted.
Was it a big deal? No.
But did it provide anything, did it have me being true to who I am at my best and most expressed?
And so life went on, ho hum, per usual.
Now contrast that with this thing that happened in a ladies’ room recently. This didn’t happen to me, it was my friend, I’ll call her Lynn, with whom I shared a few glasses of wine over dinner last week.
My gal pal and I were talking about the guy at the bar who rather endearingly struck up a conversation with Lynn while she was waiting for me to arrive, and how it takes something to risk engaging with a stranger. Especially since he didn’t do it in some smarmy way, but instead was delightfully quirky and, well, himself.
Anyway, several days ago, Lynn says, she saw a woman in the restroom shared by all the offices on that building floor. Lynn sees this person all the time, she says, but as often happens in such situations, everyone tends to keep to themselves and scoot past each other with no eye contact or words exchanged.
But this time, Lynn relates, the other woman turns to Lynn and makes some comment about how dry shampoo is the best thing ever.
What ensued was, apparently, one of those mutual OMG moments where the stranger you’ve been sort of avoiding becomes a kindred spirit.
“The minute she said something to me I perked up and became this different person, all talkative and outgoing. We spent a couple minutes celebrating the miracle of dry shampoo, and when I walked back to my office, I felt happy,” she says, waving her glass in a swoopy maneuver to underscore the profound nature of the interaction. “And now when I see her every so often, it’s like Oh, there’s my Restroom Bestie!”
Lynn looked around the restaurant, then at me. “It made me wonder, you know? How many moments do I let pass by where a tiny gesture on my part could have totally made the moment?”
It made me think as well.
In fact, if Lynn hadn’t shared her story with me, I likely wouldn’t have noticed the moment I let pass by on the elevator yesterday. Sometimes simply witnessing ourselves in action—or inaction—is the most important gift of the moment.
I ran across a great quote recently:
Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.
—Marie M. Daly
In my work with clients, something that inevitably comes up at some point is the discomfort of showing up. More to the point, it’s the anticipation of discomfort that seems to trip people up.
What if I say the wrong thing and look stupid or desperate? Who am I to speak up? So many other people would say something more important or clever or meaningful. Blah blah blah blah blah.
And yet the very same people who are reluctant to expand and extend themselves (by which I mean you and I!) are the very ones who are often surprised and tickled at what ensues when they do choose to say something.
I love the idea of learning courage by couraging. And I can totally see how building the habit of looking for where I can sprinkle a little wonder and love will have less attention on boring, always-too-much-to-do me, and more attention on the gifts I’m able to give here and there.
Like the other morning in Whole Foods, the woman standing in line in front of me was rockin’ the most spectacular specs I’ve seen in a while. As she moved to the next open register I called out, “Those glasses are AWESOME!”
She turned her head, looked a little surprised, and then flashed a megawatt smile that lit up the whole damn store.
“Thank you!” she said, and she threw those shoulders back a bit and drew some admiring looks from the shoppers around us.
I like to imagine she carried that moment with her throughout the day like a fab new accessory that set off her beauty just so.
And the bonus? I felt just a bit more alive and fabulous myself out of choosing to give that small gift instead of withholding it.
Can you relate to this? What goes through your head and what has you hesitate when presented with the choice to either show up and speak up…or keep your gifts to yourself? How do you grapple with the challenge of seeing what you’ve got to say as something that can and will make a difference for someone?
I’d love to hear your challenges and what you’ve learned. Leave a comment below and share with the rest of us.
Because you never know when taking the time to speak up will have a profound impact on some fellow traveler in this big ol’ world of ours.
With love and moxie,
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