I don’t often feel brave. In my imagination, I’m fearless, however. But in reality, I don’t feel that way. I tend to not use my voice, swallow my words, and just become a shrinking violet when it would honestly serve me more to be vocal. Maybe some parts of Frank Ocean’s Seigfried song I wrote about yesterday got lodged in my brain. Throughout the song, he exclaims “I’m not brave.” And it made me recognize that standing still doing nothing simply is not brave. And it’s what I’ve been doing.
But I’ve surprised myself in the past 24 to 48 hours. Here’s how: I was returning a cart to the cart corral in the parking lot of a grocery store. The corral was on the other side of the aisle, but a car was approaching and it stopped, then put its blinker on to let me know it was going to take the parking space beside me. I stopped too, but the driver waved me across so I could return my cart.
As I crossed the aisle, another car approached and proceeded to turn into the empty spot the first car was waiting for. I looked at the driver in the waiting car in disbelief. And something inside me was like, “Uh unh! This is unacceptable.”
So I motioned to the driver to hang on a sec. And I walked toward the car of the person who just ambushed the spot and tapped on her window. She rolled her window down. “The other lady was waiting to park in this spot,” I said.
“Well, she was just waiting so I wasn’t sure,” she said.
“She was waiting for me to cross. And she had her blinker on,” I said.
“Oh, well, okay. I’m sorry,” she said, and proceeded to roll up her window and back out of the spot.
I motioned to the woman waiting that the car occupying the spot was now leaving. She threw up her hand in thanks with a smile, and I got into my car and left.
This was not a big deal. Not really. But for me, it felt like, well, an act of bravery. I don’t like it when people are wronged. I guess no one does really. But when you sit by and witness it, and then do nothing about it, it just doesn’t feel right.
Ordinarily, I would have just said nothing, but it was almost like I was on autopilot and I just did it. Shocked the hell outta me.
Then I was in the laundromat and there was this frantic lady literally running around talking to herself and wondering out loud why the dryer ate her quarter, why it wasn’t hot, where were the folding carts, and on and on. I seriously thought this woman was about to have a nervous breakdown.
I put my laundry bags in a folding cart by my dryer, pushed the cart in and then left to put my dryer sheets back in the car. I was gone for like a minute. When I returned and walked back toward my cart, my bags were sitting on the counter and my cart gone.
Frantic Fran, let’s call her, was the only one running around grabbing any cart she could find to take her laundry out to her car. Mind you, there were like 3 other empty carts she could have grabbed, but she grabbed mine. So I immediately knew she was the culprit.
Now I could easily have gotten another cart, but I felt like she needed to know that she was not the only person trying to get laundry done and her needs did not supercede mine or any others.. So when she came back near the area, I said, “Did you take bags out of a cart?”
She said, “Yes, I don’t know who they belonged to …”
And before she could move on, I said, “They were mine.”
For a second, I think because she was so frazzled it didn’t register what she had done. And then it did. Her eyes got big and she began, naturally, frantically apologizing.
I told her it was fine and she ran to get her basket out of the cart. I told her I could get another cart, but she insisted on returning mine.
I felt a little vindicated, but this was not the point of the exchange. It was about me using my voice and showing up … for myself. I needed her to acknowledge that I was there and that I mattered. And it felt like an act of bravery. This time instead of standing up for someone else, I was standing up for me.
And it felt good. Damn good. Bravery looks good on me.