I read online that Hannah Brencher wrote thousands of love letters to be received by random strangers in an attempt to fight off her own feelings of loneliness and depression. She left them all over #NYC where strangers would find them in the most random and unlikely places. I loved the idea but wanted to take it one step further... What if I hand delivered these love notes to strangers all around the city. What would people's response be? Would they be open to receiving them? Would they think I had some other agenda?
I started with twenty that all said something different. I kept thinking: What would I want to hear? What would make me smile? And I wrote with that intention. My plan was to go to Union Square and then walk down to Washington Square Park, as I really thought the task would be easy. I could potentially deliver all of them in under an hour. Boy, was I wrong!
I waked up to people who were usually alone, as to not interrupt someone in mid-conversation. I began, "Excuse me, would you like a love note?" The first woman nodded and said, "Sure!" Great, I thought... This will be easy. Next few people all said, "No, thank you." Okay, I understand people don't want to bothered but I had to follow up with, "It's just positive words of encouragement..." and they walked away.
My next few attempts were mixed with half of the people accepting and the other half, couldn't be bothered. I looked down after two hours and had thirteen love notes left!!! Omg! How can I get rid of these?
I walked up to two older couples sitting and enjoying the view. "Excuse me, would you like a love note?" To which the old man replied, "Save it for your boyfriend!" I said, "It's just positive loving words...." He said, "No, we're not interested!" Ouch. That hurt.
I walked away feeling my heart begin to close. Why did I want to do this again? What was the point? Maybe I should just stop and forget about it. Maybe everyone is right...People are harsh. People don't care.
And then I asked the universe, but why am I like this? Why do I constantly put myself out there like this and just get hurt? And I heard a little whisper...Because it's who you are and you are needed. Don't let one person stop you... Keep going.
Today, after my class I headed to a coffee shop to do some work. I pulled out my love notes and had eight left. Ugh... But then I remembered what one said: love is all around you. Adjust your focus, see things differently.
I turned to the lovely girl sitting next to me, "Excuse me, would you like a hand-written love note?" "OMG, I'd LOVE one, thank you...I'm having such a bad day!" Finally, someone who genuinely wants one. I picked one especially for her and she said held it to her heart, "I love it." She folded it up and put it in her wallet.
We began talking and I told her about my challenge and about the rudeness I had been receiving. She said, "What about approaching the people in this cafe?" I looked around, feeling uplifted by her suggestion and said, "Okay, let's see if I can give them all away here!"
I approached each table with a little more confidence and sure enough, every single person I asked, enthusiastically replied, "OMG, YES!!! That is so sweet!!" I delivered all eight in under a five minutes. I couldn't believe it!
I walked back to my new friend, Martina and we gave each other a high-five! And then it hit me...To keep your heart open means you let it all in - the good, the bad, the indifferent and everything in between. And if I didn't feel that moment of harshness, I could have never appreciated this moment of victory. We are in fact, ALL needed.
There are two important life lessons that occur when a woman matures into her "forties." First, you generally stop caring what others think about you and two, you realize the annoying inner voice that told you getting your nose pierced is a terrible idea...is actually wrong!
Perhaps I should speak for myself when I say this but I distinctly recall my father telling me I could never bring a man home with any nose piercings! So, I got the subtle hint: NOSE PIERCING = BAD IDEA.
It's funny how many of our inner voices we adopt from our parents. I always thought it was "cool" looking but I never allowed myself to think past that. I always heard that voice: nose piercing...bad idea.
And then recently, I started to really love the way it looks on certain women. And I got to thinking, but maybe I DO want one now, inner voice, I'm old enough to decide for myself, so SHUT-UP! I'M DOING IT!
My good friend, Nikki came for moral support (and because she got her nose ring at age sixteen!) I picked out my little triangular stud and felt a bit nervous in the waiting area. There was another young, sweet-looking girl who just happened to be getting her nose pierced for her 24th birthday! "Wow, I'm almost twice as old as you!" We all laughed. "Are you nervous," I asked. "I'm kinda nervous for what my dad will say," she confessed. "ME, TOO!!!" We all laughed again.
It was painless, it was simple, the piercing artist was also a comedian (I'm making this up, he was just really funny!). And I left thinking...I wonder what other voices are really mine or left-over from my parents. Maybe my forties are about discovering who I really am.
I decided to buy poster board and advertise that my performing in the park was part of my fearless acts challenge. And that was a good idea. I quickly learned that singing alone in a crowded park doesn't garner much attention. I also happened to be next to the booth promoting, National Orgasm Day so, I had some stiff competition. But, my sign definitely sparked interest. People would walk by, read and then take pictures or give me a thumbs-up.
Truth: I wasn't really into street performing. I felt distracted and self-conscious like nobody was paying attention to me. I started thinking of other ways to get attention: maybe I could get people to do a massive conga line or lure a crowd to run into the fountain while singing the "Friends" theme-song. I was just looking for anything more exciting than me, singing with my guitar.
About fifteen minutes in, a young, vibrant NYU student approached me. "I'm doing an article on street performers and would love to talk to you about your challenge. Would you like to grab a coffee?" Perfect, I thought. I was ready to be done.
Her name is Yuki and she's here for the summer taking a music journalism class. She loves New York, loves photography and loves hearing people's stories. My kinda gal. She asked me about everything; my journey; my challenge; why I wanted to be a singer. And when I told her I taught myself how to play guitar at age twenty-five, her eyes lit up. She's only twenty!
"Thank you so much for sitting with me," she said. "I think what you're doing is really special."
Maybe that's what I needed to hear all along.
We parted ways and I continued to sit at the park for awhile. I started to think how I desperately wanted to change the moment, and do something different to make it more fun. But I would have missed out on meeting Yuki.
And sometimes when we want something different to occur than what is actually happening, we miss out on life's greatest gifts.
These blog posts are part of my #40daysoffearlessacts Challenge. When I turned Forty on June 6th of this year, I decided to STEP-UP my life and created a "40 Days of Fearless Acts" challenge. Follow along as I step out of my comfort zone, do things that scare me, that I've never done before and/or are just plain silly and make me laugh!