I’ve been flirting my whole life. When I was young, I flirted with tall, aloof, disinterested boys who (god-willing) didn’t notice I was flirting at all. For all I know, the flirting existed in my head, but regardless, the image of me testing the waters of my worthiness in another’s eyes resulted in cringing myself to sleep at night.
That was flirting 101, and it was as meaningless as the boys who rejected me. The real deal consists of the flirting I’ve done with showing up for my life in the last thirty odd years.
My thirties were spent flirting with the worthiness it took to deserve a healthy relationship. It took nearly ten years in total just to climb out of my marriage and into a new one which required no flirting, only being (thank you, Jesus).
In my forties I flirted with filling some amorphous void I wasn’t aware of. I had another baby. I tried singing in a chorus. I tried softball. Finally, I found writing, which led to finding myself.
When it became abundantly clear that I needed to stop flirting and get on with what I’m on this earth to do, I started that. Now that was a year of cringing. Go on a podcast, spend the next day cringing. Publish a blog in the afternoon, cringe all night. Do a public speaking gig, cringe the whole plane ride home.
Flirting is safer than being seen. I can flirt from behind a curtain. I can pick and choose the audience with whom I share my work. I can tamp down what really needs to be said (though who are we kidding, I never do that, and of course that’s what brings what I like to call the “full-body cringe”).
Flirting keeps the cringe at bay. This is why I flirted rather than show up for so very long.
In the middle of the night last night, Enzo puked in his kennel. After washing his blankets and letting him out, I crawled back into bed only to find the cringe in my gut where it likes to hang out. Unannounced it showed up, refusing to offer a reason for its existence. What had I done to spawn its wrath? Had I spoken up too directly that day? Did I put myself first? Had I been selfish? Behaved like a know it all? Had I been admired? Did I shine too bright?
Enzo and my husband dropped off to sleep within moments of tucking into their respective corners, but there I lay. I wondered how many people live like this. I went through all the other emotions that may keep people up at night – friends of the cringe if you will – anxiety, fear, anger, righteousness.
I decided I’d take those over the cringe. Fear is pretty paralyzing and a close second, but the Cringe? That coats a gut like denture glue sits on gums.
Then, just as I turned my mind back to deal with it, to talk myself out of all the reasons I don’t need to be ashamed of my existence, ashamed of the messiness of being me, I noticed it wasn’t there anymore. This felt nothing short of a miracle.
I searched my second energy center for it, felt around my gut, looked into my third, careful not to look too close so as to bring it back, but it wasn’t there. It had been replaced by a flood of gratitude.
Gratitude first, for the relief of its non-existence and second, because this was not something I could do earlier in my life. I don’t have dentures, but I imagine the glue is not something easily washed away.
Earlier in my life, the cringe would stick around. If I were lucky enough to fall asleep, it’d make its way into my dream. But now, though it still shows up from time to time, it heads out leaving only a poof of fairy dust lingering in the air.
I flirt so much less than I ever did. It’s just not as good of a look as it used to be. Let’s face it, there are many reasons for that. But somehow hiding feels scarier these days than showing up, even if that invites the possibility of the cringe.
Why not make 2021 the year you show up for yourself and your life? The cringe, fear, anxiety and the gang are only there to keep you small, and you my friend, are anything but small.