Accept validation as a compliment not an invitation

With an accidental brushing of the hands as we reached for a falling phone, my heart tingled like it never had before.  That was a totally unexpected moment that froze time. It was as if a lightening bolt from heaven went straight into my heart, if for only a second.

I knew my adventurous spirit had met another when he turned to me and asked if I wanted to dance. But for that moment, I sat behind my wall of insecurities and refused. A couple of months of chatting online and a limited number of phones calls made us more than total strangers while it had only been thirty minutes since our face to face meeting at the Spanish restaurant to celebrate his birthday. His engaging smile, that hint of a Mediterranean accent, dark hair and olive skin added up to be the physical combination I had always been most attracted to. Everything on the inside of me wanted to be on that dance floor with him but my mask of insecurities kept me in my seat.

The evening ended as I ran to my car in a downpour of summer rain. The questions running through my mind kept pace with the rain and the beat of windshield wipers while I drove away. What had just happened? Why was I so comfortable and confident? Where was the girl I was a couple of years ago who would have been too intimidated to be with such a handsome man? How could one man encompass such looks, personality and championship body? And WHY ON EARTH did I agree to meet him the following morning to workout at the gym?

Early morning frustration with Atlanta traffic and unfamiliar streets caused me to arrive at the gym within seconds of time to begin the exercises. I was determined not to let my emotions be pulled away by a handsome Adonis. My focus would remain totally on my workout. I would not be distracted. Any insecurities from the night before were destroyed as I stood there exposed in my yoga pants with thighs and belly fat bulging. My face was bare without make-up and my hair was still partially wet from my morning shower. It became a mind game with myself to see if I could concentrate on the workout without being totally enamored? How embarrassed am I going to be by my awkwardness and clumsiness in the gym? Granted, there had been a time in my life when I was in excellent shape but that was developed primarily on the tennis courts with limited resistance training in a gym.

The workout began…All was good, I was doing a warm-up on the elliptical and getting the blood pumping.  He could not have been more kind with the small talk and being sincerely interested in any previous injuries as not to push me too far.  So, there we were, he looked like a Greek God and I looked like the twin sister of the Michelin tire guy as we worked our way through the weights and resistance machines.

BAM!!! There was that same lightning bolt again!!! The tingling rushed through my body as he ran his hand through my hair to correct the posture of my shoulder.  Was I getting weak because I had not worked out in a while or was the touch of his skin on mine melting away every barrier I had?

Those past twelve hours should be loaded somewhere in the minds’ database of memories. However, I’m not exactly sure whether to file it under 1) times to remember with a Dream Man or 2) one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done. Little did I know what that day would hold…

While having dinner the night before, he had asked me to accompany him to a business appointment/radio interview following the workout. Therefore, we had a hard stop at 9:15. That would give us just enough time to change clothes and be at the interview by 10. My confidence level was about to increase as we moved from the gym into a business atmosphere. My years in corporate America should put me in MY comfort zone during the meeting. OR SO I THOUGHT….

I sprinted to the car to grab my bag as he went upstairs to his apartment to change. Upon returning to the lower level dressing room my day began to unravel. A quick towel down was all I needed because my sweat level never got to the “stink”. I dressed in my black and white palazzo pants and a comfortable little white lace top. Where was my hairbrush? Where was my make-up and WHERE were my shoes? This could not be happening! A quick run to the car confirmed it indeed was happening. I had forgotten not only the airbrush for my now damp and sweaty hair but my regular brush and make-up. The only pair of shoes I had with me were turquoise and purple tennis shoes.

His text had just come in asking if I was ready. I gave a quick reply explaining I had forgotten my shoes and was going to run next door to Kroger to pick up a pair. (Hoping also to grab a brush and cheap make-up.) I would meet him at the interview. His reply was not what I wanted to hear. Why would I need shoes? We were going to a radio interview, not a television broadcast. No time to go to Kroger, just meet at the car. The clock was ticking. Well, of course, that made sense but now my pride and vanity were creeping in. My years in corporate America had taught me the importance of first impressions. I had even trained the classes for dressing for success. Pride and Vanity vs Confidence and Flexibility. Do I roll with it or back out altogether? Maybe it was my age, maybe it was my newly discovered confidence or maybe it was just my adventurous spirit knowing this was going to make a laughable story but regardless of the driving thoughts I was rolling with it.

The last thing I wanted to do was make us late because I was so unfamiliar with Atlanta so as we met at the car I suggested he drive. He shut my passenger door and walked around to the drivers’ side looking like two million dollars and having just stepped off the pages of GQ! There I sat in a passenger seat many girls would have only dreamed of being in. I propped my turquoise and purple tennis shoe upon the knee of my black and white dress pants, looked over at him with my bare-naked face, tasseled damp sweaty hair and said, “You had better buckle that seat belt to hold you back, if not you are going to be uncontrollably coming across these seats and all over me (as I gave him a pouty sexy wink) because I have got it going on today!” Totally unmoved by my unprofessional mismatched appearance he patted my knee, smiled and said, “Baby, you DO have it going on.”

We arrived at the destination which was in Buckhead, GA. Buckhead is known for being an upper crust and highly professionally respected area of Atlanta. The elevators in the high rise were across from a full wall of mirrors. I rolled my eyes at myself in the reflection as the doors shut. I was secretly praying I would not be an embarrassment to him.

The purpose of the interview was to promote him, his business and his book. However, his attention had shifted to getting my newly released book promoted as well. In fact, when he parked the car he made sure I had a copy in my purse.

The elevator doors opened and I became immediately aware that the station occupied the entire floor. The receptionist was a beautiful lady who greeted us with the expectation to see and talk with him. He immediately introduced me and began sharing my background and book content with her. He took no interest in talking about himself but promoted me. He was introducing me and making me feel like the Queen of Sheba while all the while I was standing there looking like a pauper.

He intention was to bring me on air with him to talk about my book but because I had not been previously screened by the producers that could not happen. It was an understandable position by the station however they graciously invited me to sit in the room with my own headsets while they were on air. I could tell he was a little disappointed that they had not accepted his agenda but he took his place and the interview began. I was very impressed with their level of professionalism while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. There was no question they had done their homework on him. He was questioned about his bodybuilding days and championships. He was questioned about his knowledge of nutrition and how it plays into our total health and wellness. His involvement in the community was brought to the forefront of the conversation along with suggestions of his business and knowledge being used on a continuing basis for their show.

During the wrap-up, they asked a question that revolved around a conversation we had at the gym earlier that morning. That was all he needed. He responded by bringing my name into the conversation and proceeding to talk about my book on air. I then got the sexy look from him as he moved his eyes across the room to me and winked. WOW! What an unselfish act!

Once we were off the air, I was warmly included in the conversations as I was quick to point out that I had forgotten my shoes and makeup but I did indeed know how to dress. It was quite comical though when one of the producers ask to see the book. He was very sympathetic toward the loss of the children as he read down the back cover. However, when he saw the headshot he reacted all over himself as he said, “Wow, that’s you?? That is a great picture.” I could not catch my tongue before I replied in a southern redneck drawl, “Yep, I do clean up pretty good.”

That morning brought an acceptance I had not felt in years. There was a validation that someone was looking past my appearance to the value inside. He was not ashamed to be with me or hiding the fact that he was.

So, what is the point or moral of this story? Well, where do I begin? There are so many life lessons I could share. Let me start by introducing you to the girl I was two years prior to this meeting. Life storms and bad decisions had left this girl broken, defeated and feeling very insignificant. My poor self-image left me looking through a mask and making the self-proclamations that I was not enough, I didn’t have enough and I would never be enough. Enough for what? Well, those were the answers to almost any situation I found myself in. Not enough to be special and not enough to ever be appreciated for just being me. Those toxic thoughts had led to toxic relationships that only reinforced the lies I was believing.

During the two years between being so broken and finding myself in the crazy circumstances of the current Atlanta visit, I came through a major transformation. I decided to write a book where I had to revisit every storm I had weathered and relived the emotions involved with each incident. Upon each examination, I had to ask myself a question and make a choice. I had to ask myself if I walked away with scars or wounds. If I saw scars that meant there had been healing. Scars are beautiful because they show a strength of having endured. Wounds, on the other hand, reflect raw emotions and open sores. Oftentimes, we cover those wounds with masks. We can project confidence when we need to but the mask still covers the lies we are believing about ourselves. The journey through the memories of my life gave me a clear recognition of the scars vs the wounds. I then made a choice to unmask the pain that left me weak, vulnerable, miserable and emotionally needy. I removed the mask. I gave room for Truth to enter my eyes and I saw my own value and worthiness. I realized I was enough and I did not need to measure myself against anyone else. I had learned to enjoy the life I was living and embrace the opportunity to share it with others. My total vision turned from looking at someone else for happiness, to seeking ways I could make others happy.

So, if we were to rewind back to the Spanish restaurant and place the old me beside Mr. Adonis, one of two things would have happened. 1) I would have tried to act “all that” to gain attention and prove to myself I could get the catch. All the while looking stupid and sabotaging even the slightest opportunity to have a good friend. Or 2) I would have begun measuring myself against others feeling I was completely inferior in every way and left with a grasshopper mentality. That mentality opens the door to the questions, “What is wrong with me? Why do I feel I am always outside looking in and watching other people enjoying their life?” Either way, that mask I would have been wearing would have sabotaged any chance for genuine relationships on any level. There is so much freedom in just being real and confident in who you are.

Another moral of this story is to accept validation as a compliment, not an invitation. So many women are walking around emotionally empty inside. They are looking to almost any man for any type of attention or validation. When they do get the slightest hint of acceptance it is not uncommon for a woman to begin clinging to the man to fill a void inside them.

I believe my transformation was tested with the trip to the radio station and my own forgetfulness had set me up. Even with all those variables, the day became a landmark in life. It had been a long time since I was with someone I had just met that made me feel so comfortable. Add to that he had the looks that I naturally was drawn to. Then add to that the fact that not only was he not embarrassed by my appearance, he continued to put be out in front of himself and build me up to others. All of that gave me a feeling inside that I had not felt in, honestly, decades.

Had I not forgotten my shoes, make-up, and hairbrush there would not have been the opportunity for me to see the day for what it was. I realized that I had indeed grown through my transformation while writing the book. Confidence is never true confidence until it has been tested.

There could have been a temptation to say, ‘Wow, look how he made me feel. I need more of that. I need to find a way to be with him more so I can feel that way again.” How unfair is that to a man when he is only “being a man” in the first place? I am thankful to say I walked away with a new dear friend and having my newly revived confidence validated that I am enough for any situation if I am just me!