Guest post by Seana McKiernan
Have you ever had one of those moments where you examine what’s happening and think “what the heck am I doing?” You know: one of those“out of body” moments like you’re watching yourself on film but at the same time fully aware of and engaged with what is taking place?
I had one of those moments recently.
Picking up a shot of Fireball (after drinking a personal record of more than two alcoholic beverages over the course of a few hours), I looked around at the random group of people I was with, clinked shot glasses, grabbed a cocktail napkin in case my mouth revolted, and tossed it back. Somewhere between exclaiming “holy crap” and the slow burn that was working its way down my esophagus I thought to myself, “what the heck am I doing?!”
You see, this was all incredibly out of character for me. Rarely do I throw caution to the wind or do anything spontaneously. I like to know the basic who, what, when, and where when making plans. I’m usually the most prepared too: inevitably equipped with all the “extra” things my friends might need like bandaids or sunscreen or a trash bag at a picnic. My life is well-ordered and managed to a certain extent. I am pretty predictable and responsible. And yet I found myself going along willingly with this night of revelry as the unplanned and unpredictable continued to roll out before me.
A few hours before the Fireball, sitting on the patio of the Heater Allen tap room in McMinnville, OR, I introduced myself to three women and joined them at their table. They were on vacation, traveling through the Willamette Valley, wine tasting and enjoying the PNW. In the middle of our conversation, I received a text that led me to explain how I had ended up “stranded” at the brewery, having let my friend take my car so she could get a tattoo–I had gotten a tattoo earlier that afternoon and the tattoo guy didn’t have time to do hers, so he told her to come back.
I offered to go with, but really wanted to stay–luckily she was totally fine going solo. Instead of getting the tattoo, however, she was currently having drinks with the hot-and-her-type tattoo guy–who, while on this impromptu date, dropped that he had a girlfriend.
Suddenly she was urgently looking to get out of this predicament, but unable to drive back and on a “date” (in a small town) with a guy who was not single.
While texting and relaying the hilarious details of this minor drama to the ladies, we bonded. They couldn’t wait to meet my friend and hear how she got herself into this situation. Also involved in this saga was the brewery bartender–a friend of mine–who planned to take me to get my car once he closed for the evening (editor’s note: that’s me, Jeff Allen, the proprietor of the blog you are reading).
However, a group of people walked in at closing time, delaying our rescue. We continued talking while I updated them on the situation with my friend and the tattoo guy, hoping the newcomers would drink quickly. Long story short: my friend made it back safely sans tattoo and eager to explain. After the lively conversation and just plain fun we were having, none of us were ready for the night to end.
So it didn’t.
And it was great.
Deciding to go to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, we talked about everything from how getting older is (sort of) awful to the Keto diet, our favorite books to swipe/online dating (SOD). We enjoyed the music from a wedding reception at an outdoor venue down the street, singing lines here and there and interacting with people who walked by every so often.
I laughed (a lot), spoke my mind, rarely checked my phone, asked and answered questions, didn’t fuss with my outfit or worry about how my make up looked. I was unapologetically myself, as authentic as the situation called for me to be, ironic because two of these people are friends and three were complete strangers. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone: I simply wanted to engage in conversation and make connections. And while my chill could have been alcohol induced (and maintained), I was fully aware of everything that happened and the lack of insecurity that tends to plague the unfamiliar social encounters I experience.
I mean after 35 years I’m a pro at “faking it til I make it”, but the confidence I can will myself to exude is only a cape that hides the incredible insecurity and fear underneath–much of it stemming from societal standards I do not meet. Even though I fully believe that I was created on purpose, for a purpose, “fearfully and wonderfully made”–that I am chosen, dearly loved, and all of those positive self-talk platitudes you learn in Bible studies or read in self-help books–I struggle to live my life in a way that fully embraces these truths.
And they are truths.
But this night seemed different. And again, though it could have been the alcohol, somewhere between my taquitos and that shot of Fireball, I stopped letting those insecurities get to me.
While we were at a (very dead) dance club in town, a random woman came up to me, telling me how beautiful I am. She was definitely not on her first drink of the night, but she was speaking clearly and intently. She said she had been watching me interact with my “people” and that I seem to have “so much joy”–that my smile lit up my face. She continued, complimenting my outfit and hair, telling me I was one of the most beautiful women in the room. She seemed sincere and though to be perfectly honest I didn’t want to believe her… I did.
She noticed these things because I chose to “shine my heart out”, be myself, and just enjoy the moment. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but after reflecting on that night, that’s what happened.
Living in the world of insecurity I mentioned has made it very hard for me to be confident, especially when it comes to dating and believing that I am worthy of love. This is not a revelation I came to on my own. A trusted friend bluntly told me during one of many conversations about someone I was interested in but too scared to say anything to, “Seana… I think you don’t believe you’re worthy of being loved… you act like you don’t deserve it.”
I really wanted to get mad at her, but she’s right. Deep down, I don’t believe I deserve to be loved, romantically speaking. That somehow I’m not good enough, and no matter how hard I try it just won’t happen for me. All of it stems from not meeting the standards of physical beauty our culture dictates. I constantly find myself worried about what others think, if they’re judging me, and this is especially heightened when interacting with men.
I have male friends, really amazing, wonderful, single male friends, but that’s all I’ve ever had–except for one time when a friendship turned into more than friendship. But it was short lived: he eventually told me he “loved me like a sister”, because he wasn’t physically attracted to me (my worst nightmare, but a rabbit hole to journey down another day).
I know physical attraction is important in romantic relationships. I get that.
But it’s not everything.
And the reality is, I’m obviously capable of attracting people and making them a part of my world. My point is that the rejection I’ve endured has kept me from embracing the great things about me and being confident in them. It’s also caused me to focus way too much on the not-so-great things, which spirals on itself and only produces more self-doubt.
I’ve realized that the more I allow myself the freedom to be who I am, to open my heart to new people and experiences, I find myself starting to believe just how worthy of love I am. I do have a lot to offer this world and the right man–if and when he comes along. I may not currently “fit” (pun intended) a particular mold, one that seems to be partially necessary for attracting a date, but I’m also not twiddling my thumbs hoping things will change miraculously. And to be completely honest, I may reach my fitness goals and still end up single for the rest of my life… but that’s neither here nor there–even rich, attractive people have gaping holes in their life as we’ve seen with Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Robin Williams, and others.
On the other hand, I might end up being someone’s “exception” right? Not someone to “settle” for but someone’s person they never knew they wanted or needed. All I can do is continue to work on becoming the best version of myself and “shine my heart out”.
The “what the heck” moment I experienced isn’t tinged with regret (I did drink more than I usually do, but I was never drunk.) No, this moment surprised me. I surprised myself that night, by allowing myself to be in the moment and not worry about everyone else in the room or their opinion of me. Everyone was having their own version of a “good time” and being worried about them was only going to ruin mine.
As Jeff recently wrote… “Let the world see how heartbreakingly beautiful you are. How strong and proud. The enormity of your heart. Your perfect compassion.
I am heartbreakingly beautiful.
I am strong and proud.
I have an enormous heart, filled with an immense joy I want to share with everyone I interact with. I don’t know about the perfection of my compassion, but I do know that I am done hiding.
I want to keep taking risks, make unexpected connections, reach out, smile, and say hello to strangers. I doubt many of these encounters will end up in a random night in a small town bar hopping with strangers, but who knows? Maybe one of those interactions could lead to a cup of coffee with a great guy? Maybe not–but I can only control what I can control.
All I know is I want to live my best life: with grit and virtue (stay tuned for what this means). I want to “shine my heart out” and not give so much control to my insecurities or let them get in the way of all of the things I have yet to experience…
Or people to down a shot of Fireball with.