I smile just thinking about her. She was a wisp of a thing, 4 years old at the most, decked out in bright red and yellow bathing suit with a ruffled bottom and a smile that was contagious. I watched her saunter to the diving board with all the confidence in the world, adjust her plastic water wings then leap sprawl legged off the diving board into the water with a satisfying splash. I loved her attitude and recognized a kindred spirit even though mine is occasionally MIA. When she climbed out of the pool I went over and introduced myself. “My name is Debra. I just wanted to tell you that I love your attitude, you rock!” She tossed her blonde braid over her shoulder and gave me a big thumbs up before heading back to the diving board. I asked her heavily tattooed and pierced dad where she got her confidence. He smiled, got quiet for a minute then looked down at his arm decorated with a green dragon and said, “I’m not very conventional.”
Is that what it takes to be joyously confident, being unconventional? Maybe. Being unconventional, as opposed to being different for the sake of defiance means that you are following your own spirit instead of the dictates of someone else, and that my friends requires unwavering trust. I know that much. I think that Elise threw herself into the water with utter and enviable abandon because she trusted that her dad loved her and was there for her. What I witnessed was the outcome of trust and love, confidence.
I really admired Elise. My confidence gets beat to crap sometimes. I could tell you that it gets done in by all the stuff that falls under the heading of being a grown up, bills that are due, a leaking roof, a neighbor who criticizes my kayak mailbox. That’s true enough on the surface. There’s always a good reason to feel bad about myself and my life, and it seems so logical that it’s easy to call it truth, or worse wisdom. The real truth of the matter is that my confidence gets bruised and battered by my own fears and doubts. You know, that whole it’s either fear or love baby thing. I doubt myself and question what I know is true. I care too much about what I think I can’t do instead of what I can. I forget for a moment, a day, a kiss that I am deeply loved and retreat back into the shadows of fear and call it a life. That’s not how I want to live. I want to trust that I am loved, that I am safe. I want to take bold risks and live with abandon because well, honestly it’s just fun. That’s as good a reason as any don’t you think?
The next night I was getting dressed for a jam at The Redlight. I thought about that little girl in her bright red and yellow bathing suit and plastic water wings as I tugged on a pair of jeans. The thought of her stopped me in my tracks. I yanked off my jeans and tossed them in the corner. Clothes may not make the woman, but they can’t hurt. I grabbed a pair of jean Capris that came to the knee, a cling in all the right places tee shirt and a pair of black wedge sandals and got dressed.
I don’t have a heavily tattooed and pierced dad, in fact I don’t have a family and that can leave me feeling vulnerable at times. However, I do have God and I have gratitude. If there is a secret to the universe it’s gratitude. Gratitude is the grown up version of plastic water wings. It will shift you out of a negative mind set quicker than anything I know, so while I was putting on my make up I counted all the ways and all the people who love me. I listed the many blessings in my life, the innumerable ways God shows His love for me. I filled myself up with gratitude for the way things are right now, just as they are until I was bursting with it and off I went.
We were the band that night, a rag tag group of regulars who just want to have fun and do. Normally, when I sing with the guys I hang back, cower is a good word. I sing my song then step down and let them get on with the music. That night was different. I sang like it was my day job, flirted because I could, and had myself one hell of a good time. When I felt a flicker of doubt I remind myself how grateful I was to be there, for my friends, for being able to sing. I lived in the moment and it was as good as it gets. When the last song had been played and we were packing up Barry put his hand on my shoulder and smiled, “You had yourself a night, Deb.” Yes, I did and what’s more, I intend to have myself more nights just like it. In fact, I intend to have a life just like it. It’s either fear or love, baby. I’m creating love, how about you?