A few months ago a handsome stranger told me that I shine. (I melted like butter in the sun at hearing those words.) I believe he saw something in me that I did not even see in myself. Those words stuck with me. Shining, radiating an inner beauty, is central to how I want to live. Recently, I have not been very shiny. I have struggled to connect with a confident essence, with my power that I know to be true. When I live my truth, life and love fall into place. Bad things happen when I operate from fear. So, I decided to take a two-week vacation visiting people and places that I love in an effort to find my shine. (I finished a cleanse several weeks ago, and that helped a little, but this vacation is the perfect continuation of my search for shine.) My shine journey is divided into three parts: Brooklyn, New York; Carmel, New York; and Washington, DC. I have decided to tell the shine story as it unfolds. This is the first part of the story: an immediate reflection on my time in Brooklyn.
I arrived in Brooklyn to visit my friend Kathy on Friday afternoon in the pouring rain. I could not find the key to her apartment, so I wandered several blocks to a restaurant to keep from getting even more drenched. I talked with Kathy and figured out where to find her key. I walked back to her apartment, changed to dry clothes, and took her dog for a walk to explore my surroundings. (It had stopped raining by then.) I felt so beautiful walking the dog. I can’t explain it other than everyone around me had a different look and vibe, and that was wonderfully affirming. I think shining involves deeply owning our unique beauty. There was no one simple beautiful look in Brooklyn that afternoon. People were authentically beautiful in a way that Benetton pays the world’s best marketers to artificially replicate. I felt like I fit in for the first time in several years. I wasn’t too short. I did not have too many freckles. My hair was not too frizzy. I was more than enough. Kathy showed me her favorite Brooklyn spots on Friday night, and the affirmation of my beauty continued.
Saturday was another lesson in all things unique and wonderful. We visited the Brooklyn Flea Market, walked the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, ate lunch in China Town, shopped in SoHo, and went to hear Arturo Sandoval at Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Saturday night. Saturday was a reminder of the power of saying yes to life. Saying yes is shiny. Saying yes is an act of confidence. I am not sure I have said yes enough recently. I have not said yes to my yoga mat for months. I have not said yes to running along the river. I have not said yes to living where I want, and perhaps need, to live. Saying yes is complicated, and saying no is sometimes necessary, but the impulse to be open and receptive to life’s gifts is a major step toward shine.
Sunday was powerful, too. The day started, as each day started, with walking Kathy’s dog in a local park. We then made our way to a yoga class at Kathy’s favorite yoga studio. The class was in an amazing old building. I had not been to a yoga class in months, so situating on my mat and getting centered was difficult. I had to forgive myself for my absence from my practice and welcome the moment with gratitude and openness. Connecting with my breath, really paying attention, felt wonderful. Our teacher was affirming and gentle as he guided us through a series of postures that required us to twist, bend, move, invert, and open.
The class was 90 minutes long, and after about 60 minutes we did camel pose. In camel, you sit on your knees and slowly bend backward and grab your ankles. We were moving into a part of the class that seemed focused on our heart chakra, so I was already a little weepy. I kneeled and prepared to bend. I felt my heart quicken and tears welled in my eyes. A tremendous sadness washed over me as I bent backward and grabbed my ankles. Allowing myself to acknowledge my feelings felt powerful. In holding my ankles, in staying in the posture, I was fiercely fighting to shine, no matter how hard it was to breathe. The class reminded me of the power of yoga, and of its importance to my journey. I learn to shine in yoga.
After yoga, we went to see Once on Broadway. (We relaxed during lunch and had to run the last mile from the subway exit through Times Square to see the show.) Once is a love story about two passionate creative souls that quickly burn together and are torn apart by circumstance. I knew the lyrics to all the songs before seeing the show, but it was like I was hearing them for the first time that afternoon because of the power of the performances.
One song, The Hill, struck a particular chord.
I’m on my knees in front of him
but he doesn’t seem to see me.
With all his troubles on his mind
he’s looking right through me.
And I’m letting myself down
And I wish that you could see
that I have my troubles too.
I recently parted from the handsome stranger who had become more. I still care very deeply for him, and each syllable of the song spoke a truth that I struggle to explain. My heart knows complexity and warmth. My heart knows not having the words. My heart knows the connection of artistic souls.
After seeing the show, Kathy and I processed the performance at a bar a few blocks from the theater. I love to sing, and seeing a powerful show reminded me of that love. Kathy let me tell stories about childhood Equity theater performances, college vocal lessons, and high school drama teaching. Her patience helped me remember that I always shine when I sing. I committed to singing again that afternoon. (I decided I would begin to take lessons when I return home.) I want to shine.
Monday was my last full day in Brooklyn. I traveled in to Manhattan to write in Washington Square Park and attend a business lunch. Writing in Washington Square Park felt like having a conversation with Robert Louis Stevenson or Mark Twain. I curled up on a bench, and edited my book that needed to be proofed before it could be released. Inspiration coursed through my veins there. I was definitely shiny in that moment. I then went to an amazing three hour Restaurant Week lunch. I felt shiny as I moved through Times Square satisfied and inspired.