This week I had one of those “Sliding Doors” moments – when you can see two different choices, two possible futures spinning out in front of you.
What happened was that I did a brave thing and signed up for an adult ballet class. I haven’t done ballet in years, but a conversation with a friend spurred me to act.
I was proud of myself …
For listening to that desire to dance.
For staying focused and eagerly accepting corrections from the teacher.
For going to someplace I’d never been and dancing with people I’d never met (and alone as well, because my friend couldn’t make it. And still rehabbing from birth injuries too.)
The ballet class itself was a very positive experience.
And then afterward, I saw that I’d locked my keys in the car.
I was standing in a rainy parking lot on wobbly legs, staring at the keys lying on the front seat where they’d fallen out of my purse. That was the Sliding Doors moment.
The first possibility was obvious. It was easy to hear the old tapes that play in my mind when I make mistakes.
“What’s wrong with you? Who locks their keys in their car?! What were you thinking?! You just can’t get it right!”
The voice of shame whispered that I wasn’t ready to do ballet. Look at how sore I was! Look at how foolish I’d been, not double checking that I had my keys!
Maybe I shouldn’t come back. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be out in the world, with other people who had it together and don’t lock their keys in their cars.
I started to make this innocent mistake mean all sorts of terrible things.
But then another voice arose. It was softer and gentler, which made it harder to hear. But it was also much saner, so I clung to it like a life raft in a storm.
“Oh honey,” the voice said. “I know it’s hard for you to make mistakes. But look! You’re not alone. A classmate is generously offering to drive you home. You don’t need to beat yourself up about this. You’re human. It’s okay to let yourself be helped sometimes.”
I took a deep breath and accepted the ride home.
The funny little coda to this story is that a couple days later, my husband Jonathan went to Home Depot for construction materials. He came home empty-handed, looking dejected. “After all that, I left my wallet at home,” he said.
For an instant I could feel the old impulse to judge: Wasting time is bad! What were you thinking! We planned this! I took care of the baby for that time!
But what came through much more strongly was compassion. I could feel for him; I knew what it felt like to make a mistake that “wasted” time.
And I also understood that in that moment I had the power to break down our bond or build it up. I could judge and shame him, or I could connect to him, human to human.
“Well, I locked my keys in the car at ballet this week,” I offered. “Same – same.”
And we smiled at each other, the rueful smiles of first-time parents who are still figuring it out.
My mistake was fresh in my mind, and it helped me to be kind to him. Who knows? Maybe that was why I made it.
Maybe that’s why any of us make mistakes: So we can learn how to be kind.
One last thing.
Having produced The Confidence Course Series and The Clarity Course Series, I’m now living with a zen master of both. Our 6 month old baby girl is a fireball of confidence AND clarity.
She is very clear on what she needs and wants.
And she is very confident about expressing it.
(And yes, Bootsie the cat is totally intimidated and perhaps planning a prison break.)
Baby Girl is unabashed in her enthusiasm. She does this joyful little bark when she first sees me in the morning, and I love it.
Why am I telling you this? Because I get many questions about how to be more confident, and have more clarity. Here’s what I’m realizing …
We actually do not need help being MORE confident or having MORE clarity. Confidence and clarity are our birthright. They come factory-installed.
It’s just that sometimes we get a whole bunch of shame and self-doubt piled up over them.
We may just need a hand accessing that which is already there … kind of like when you lock your keys in your car.
You can see them through the window; they’re RIGHT THERE.
You just need a little help to get past the barrier between you and what’s already yours.