Have you ever had one of those moments in life when you step out of character, so to speak – where you find yourself saying or doing something that surprises, even you?
I spent most of my life believing that my insecurity and shyness was just who I was – that these were personality traits as fixed and indelible as my pale skin and fingerprints. Like two faithful friends, those traits we’re always reminding me of my limitations – they became the driver of me. They told me what I could and couldn’t do. They kept me from entering unsafe neighborhoods – or so I thought.
But every now and then - a situation would present itself – as if out of the blue -and I’d find myself stepping outside of my usual self – daring to step outside the lines. And at that moment who I thought I was would fall away – something was calling me – inviting me to cross over the line and be open to a new possibility.
One of those opportunities came about, dare I say, with a chance encounter with singer, Van Morrison.
My friends and I had just stepped out of a bar and we were just about ready to head home. We’d had a great evening listening to Van Morrison sing at the City Club in Boston. And it was there standing on that sidewalk, that we got a glimpse of Van the Man waiting to get into his limousine.
To say that this was a big deal for me would be an understatement. You see, Van Morrison was from my hometown of Belfast – my lower-middle-class neighborhood. He had left Ireland and made it big. As a teen, his music – that sublime mix of jazz, blues, and soul was like nothing I’d ever heard before. He was a singer and a poet who wrote love songs with the words “I shall drive my chariot down your streets and cry,” – and I will never grow so old again - I mean, who talks like that? Words like that captured my young adolescent mind. I adored this man. So, maybe you can understand that when I saw him standing on that sidewalk I knew this was no ordinary encounter.
And that’s when it hit me at that moment - standing outside that bar – that’s when the inspiration hit me and that’s when I forgot about myself. And suddenly shy Linda was thinking:
I will walk up to him and introduce myself. I will tell him how much I love his music. I will let him know I’m from Belfast. Yes, I will do just that.
And at that moment, there was no second-guessing; no self-doubt within my mind. That familiar voice - that voice! - had disappeared. The invitation had come. This I would do no matter what.
It was one of those rare opportunities in life that don't happen every day - that you don't want to miss out on. And so, much to the amazement of my friends, who had told me not to bother, some other version of myself took over and walked over to him. And as I stood before him, shaking in my high-heels and with my heart pounding, I managed to mutter some words:
Hi, Van...loved the concert...I've been a fan of your music for years...and I just want to thank you ...oh, and I'm also from Belfast!
And then, there was this long, long, deadly silence where he just stood there staring at me with a blank expression for a long, long, long, time. And that old familiar voice in my head – the one that was always warning me to stay out of dangerous neighborhoods, the one that told me never to cross over the line – yes, that voice – was again telling me that I’d just humiliated myself and that my favorite singer in the whole world thinks I’m an idiot. Oh! the shame of it all. What a fool!
But then - out of the blue - the silent Irishman broke his silence with...
thank you!...what's your name?...what part of Belfast are you from? and then: would you like to join me at a party?...we can make room for you in the limo. Would you like to join me?
That's when everything became a bit surreal, because very soon after those words are uttered, I find myself sitting next to Van Morrison in the back of his limo going to a party, and looking at his brown trousers and shoes, and wondering what the heck just happened. So, this is what it feels like when you find out you’ve just won the lottery.
And all I could think about was what my friends were thinking as they stood there with their mouths open and they watched me drive away with Van in his limo.
I’m sure you’ve had similar moments in your life when you’ve felt the urge to do something bold or out of character - when you feel the desire to seize an opportunity. The times when you've wanted to start a conversation with someone you've been attracted to, or you've wanted to ask them out on a date, or you've felt the urge to speak your mind, or when you’ve applied for a great job even though you think it’s out of your league. Or, how about that moment when you desperately want to tell someone you love them?
And for that one nano moment, you feel the thrill of it, the possibility...BUT then that voice – yes, that voice - reminds you that you don't do those things, and you snap back into your old familiar insecure self, losing the moment forever. If I hadn't have taken that bold step to talk to Van, I'd never have gone to that party and sat up to the wee hours talking to him about his music and Ireland, and I wouldn't have this great story to tell you all!
As much as we’ve come to identify with the labels we give ourselves, as much as we've convinced ourselves that we're stuck with our identities, we all experience the odd gap here and there where those labels fall away, even if it’s just for a moment. Where does your insecurity go to? Why do you suddenly feel comfortable in your own skin? What happens to that made-up self? And why does that the volume of that voice - yes, that voice - get turned off? Doesn't that make you curious?
Like the sun wanting to break through the clouds, those feelings of confidence, playfulness, clarity, and self-expression are always wanting to shine through and remind us of who we really are. The sun can’t be hidden and neither can our true nature. The invitations will keep on coming to remind us - they will always be on offer. Watch out for them!