My first instinct was to to think "Not me. Obviously."
I turned around and looked behind me to see who he'd been talking to, but there was no one. My now-obvious underlying belief that direct, spontaneous goodness doesn't find me (obviously!), and it's subsequent attempt to let the words roll right over my shoulder and onto those of the person intended, had just made me perform a comically uncomfortable spin move. I stood momentarily dumbstruck just inside the driver door of my car, thinking..."really? Me?". I turned back to him and - yep - he was looking directly at me, eyes locked into mine, this time with his eyebrows raised, nodding affirmingly, protruding his forehead toward me, as if to say "yes, you!"
"I hope you get everything you're looking for." He'd said.
He was a non-descript man in his 40's, dark tan skin and shaggy black hair, unkept, dressed casually in a well-worn t-shirt. He'd said it without refrain, and without much pomp and circumstance, while we both had been climbing in our vehicles, each with our freshly made lattes in hand, each having never spoken a word to each other before. To me. A stranger's hope, a passing ship's well-wish thrown so casually my direction it actually shocked me. He'd spoken his wish, smiled, and climbed into his seat as if it were the most casual goodbye. He waved one last goodbye through the window and drove away while I sat in my driver seat befuddled, charmed, watching him pull away.
Having watched the encounter, you might have thought he'd gifted me $100 cash. In my 30 years I have never encountered such a comment from a stranger. Worse, I've never wished one of my own to someone else so kindly and nonchallantly as he'd just done. Once my doubt subsided, I received his words like a cupid's bow right at my heart, from soul-to-soul over the metal of our cars. It was then I noticed what a clear day in LA it was, not a cloud in the sky, no witnesses either. With this single, brief encounter somehow the entire day changed from chaotic to calm as could be, from completely and boringly normal to very, very subtlety extraordinary.
After he drove away, I felt a twinge of embarrassment roll over me, wondering what had made him say it out loud, as opposed to silently in his own head like I surely would have in his shoes. Sure, I'd progressed beyond the first subconscious belief; I'd accepted the niceness and affection as being meant for me. But now my second instinct revealed just how far my self-doubting beliefs went: I immediately wondered what I'd done wrong, as if kindness only comes my way via pity rather than because there might be a goodness in me that attracted out of others or simply deserved goodness in return. I glanced down at clothes; was it that I looked like I needed the encouragement? Was it my slovenly gym close and makeupless face, had he just got the feeling that I desperately needed someone to be nice to me today or something? But when I'd been looking at him, it wasn't pity I felt. In fact, if anything I felt the opposite. Something divine. Something planned, and by something grander than us two. As if, despite my clumsiness I'd stumbled into ethereal intervention, struck like a cartoon walking through a laser beam and being lit up and electrified in the contact.
Then a more terrifying thought came to mind...
Was it so hard to fathom that a stranger could be a kind, thoughtful person? Was it this hard for me to believe that he was altruistic in his comment?
Just how deeply engrained in me was it to think that seemingly random yet totally divine love wouldn't naturally, effortlessly find me??
I took these thoughts with me through the hour. The day. The entire week, basking in the gratitude of a stranger and fellow human wanting good for me in this life, and the idea of sharing a positive intention of my own as blatantly with others, as he'd done. A little nervous to do so, I realized it would actually be weirder to think such kind, loving thoughts and be too scared to say them out loud. If I wanted to perform such a simple loving act as he had, I'd have to be brave enough to talk to strangers. But I actually had bigger worries: if I were to see him again, at the same Starbucks perhaps, and this time he were to ask "What is it your looking for, so that I can wish it all the more for you?" would I have a clear and clean-cut answer for him? Would I be able to word to him, or even myself, exactly what it is I'm looking for in life?
Two weeks later we were packing up our apartment to make the move across town to our new place in Koreatown, LA. I threw half our things away, sacrificing much of our belongings. I wanted to haul less old things, and acquire more new things. I wanted a clean, white space with stark, clean lines and everything as bare and minimal as possible. I wanted our new place to look modern, minimalist, bright, like it had been freshly sanitized and dusted at all times. I wanted things to the point. Form, function high over, well above, and completely beyond frill. As I packed each picture frame and wrapped old vases and threw half my wardrobe into donation bags, I mulled over what using the same concept for my career might do for my every word written. Stark cleanliness. Directness. Frankness. To say what it is I mean without a poetic cover over any ugliness. I want, as that man had done, to say it without too much fuss or explanation and let the reader do the work of their own realization without my control, as I had done in the moment.
So when it came to write this week's post, an exercise in simple self expression, I dedicated myself to less planning and more allowing. Instead of worrying about who would read it or why it might matter, I thought only of pinpointing an exact moment to share, and writing of that. Exactly as it was. Not glamorizing or strategizing it to be more impactful. To just fucking spit it out. Above all, I resolved not to work so hard and instead let the work make it's own way out of me. To not judge it, and just honor the urge to say what came to mind. Before, I have always approached writing like that of birthing, a labor of love and strain that is often painful and takes a lot of push. Not this week. This week I wanted the words to walk right out of me themselves, not worried how you - a total stranger in your own right - might receive them. So here we are.
Unintentionally, the theme continued with how I interact with people in my life. With friends needing advice. With clients wanting changes to projects I wasn't capable of changing, for technical and stylistic reasons. With personal matters that maybe might have benefitted from a bit more poise and eloquence, but instead I just said what I needed to say without overthinking, or my usual over explaining. It came back to bite me only once when I offended my dear lover, and didn't apologize, thinking what I'd said wasn't offensive. Later I realized that's not what apologies are about. They are about love, mutuality, and kindness. Frankness and kindness can go hand and hand quite naturally, as my coffee loving new friend proved, but frankness with other matters can have the opposite affect.
Where will this new mindset take my life, my attitude, my work, I'm not sure yet. I do know if you encounter me, maybe at a new local coffee shop in Koreatown near my new digs, and if you catch my eye, I might just tell you exactly why, right directly into your eyes. Yes, you.
Are there things I have been wanting to say to someone that I've been over-thinking or over-planning? Conversely, have I been overly obsessed with thinking how they might react or respond?
Can I let go of worrying how others will receive what I need to say, and instead embrace more opportunities to be frank, blunt, and honest?
Do I doubt myself too much, or believe too strongly that kindness and affection wouldn't outwardly be directed to me?