Wisdom from a fitting room attendant

It turns out you can receive deep insight in some unlikely places.

Like the fitting room area at Nordstrom Rack.

Making decisions hasn’t always been my strong point. After all, I did go to four colleges in four years—two of them twice. There are some things that I know exactly what I want: froyo flavors, movie theater seats, guys, my go-to hairspray brand, work-related stuff, what my walk-up song would be and a number of other seemingly important things that present a variety of options. But then there are other things that cause me stress in trying to decide: which health care plan to choose, whether or not I really need everything I pick up when I’m walking through Target, how many more miles I can drive after the little light comes on to remind me that it’s time for an oil change, and so many other things that I simply can’t decide which ones to list.

And then there was the dress situation.

This is my friend Laz, who called himself the Black Bond that night.

I went to a wedding Saturday night, and I determined I had nothing to wear to it and needed a new dress. So, I found myself at Nordstrom Rack Saturday, and I ended up in the fitting room with more options than necessary. Somehow I narrowed them all down to two. But then I had to make a decision. Needless to say, this was not a good situation. Add to that the fact that I was in a time crunch, and it’s the perfect equation for a potential disaster. (Yes, I do realize that picking one dress over another is not a life-altering moment.)

I stepped out of the fitting room with both dresses in hand and went to ask the opinion of the fitting room attendant. She said she liked the black one better than the rose-colored one because something about the waist made it look fancier. Then the following conversation ensued:

Me: Are you sure? You think it’s the black one that wins?

Fitting room attendant: What does your heart tell you?

Me: My heart? It’s a dress. I’m not sure my heart is telling me anything, other than maybe that I need to hurry up.

FRA: Yes, but the heart has a way of connecting with your mind in times like this.

Me: Is this like a Grandmother Willow thing?

FRA: Who?

(Apparently she hasn’t seen Pocahontas.)

Me: She’s a tree. So, I guess I should go with the black one?

FRA: I think so. But ultimately it’s not the dress that really matters. It’s the person wearing it.

I’ve never had such an insightful experience while shopping.

When I was at the wedding later that night, I realized how right she was. While I often notice people’s attire, I never think much of it. I’m more concerned with the actual people than what they’re wearing. I don’t think anyone would have treated me any differently if I had worn the rose dress instead of the black one. I know there are certainly times when people are judged and treated poorly because of their clothing, but that doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean we need to care so much about what we wear. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be presentable, but I don’t think I should have had so much trouble making a decision about which dress to buy. Love the people, not the clothes. That fitting room attendant is a wise gal.

And she was on the right track about the heart thing, though I still don’t know that I’m going to apply that in all of my shopping escapades. I remember taking a yoga class years ago, and the instructor told us to lead with the heart. I really like that saying because I don’t always like to try to apply logic to situations in which logic would just ruin things. Some things don’t make sense, and perhaps they simply shouldn’t. They don’t even need the scrutiny of decision making because you just know what you’re supposed to do. You’re being the person in the dress rather than the dress itself, and you’re leading with the heart.

That’s something our homegirl Pocahontas knew how to do all too well—with the help of Grandmother Willow, of course.

Say it—don’t type it

All of the advanced technology we have these days has simultaneously helped and hurt many aspects of our daily lives.

Like our abilities to communicate effectively.

I usually consider myself a pretty good communicator (it’s kind of my job to be so), but there are times when I’m just really bad at getting my message across when I really want to. Sometimes we need to say the things that are on our minds or hearts, even when we’re afraid to do so or nervous about what the other person might think or say back. When I was walking through Kroger over the weekend, I heard O-Town’s smash hit “All or Nothing,” and I couldn’t help but sing it out loud (obviously) but also be reminded how important it is to say out loud the words your heart needs to say.

speech2 edit
Sometimes you’ve just gotta speak

This has always been a problem for me with the fellas. A few years ago, there was a guy who captured my heart, kissed me, then made some pie-crust promises and moved across the country. For the next almost 10 months, I felt really confused and wanted so badly to know if anything would ever happen. Sure, we talked a lot, but it was mostly through texts and nothing that gave me any clarity. He’s the only guy I’ve ever kissed, so I guess my heart was a little more impacted than it should have been. But I never just came out and said everything I wanted to say to him. I let crappy communication win, and I lost.

Sometimes I even communicate poorly with my best friend, my own sister. We had a recent misunderstanding in which she hurt my feelings and didn’t even realize it. All I had to do was tell her, but instead I tried to be tough about it and let it go. Meaning and intention can often get lost in texts, and I should have picked up the phone and called her rather than getting upset and staying silent. But I didn’t, and I wasted time being upset about something that really wasn’t anything. When we chatted in person, it became clear to me how silly I had been in not saying what I should have originally said. I let crappy communication win, and I lost.

I’m not going to say a ton about emails. They are probably worse than texts when it comes to being able to decipher tone, especially if sarcasm is involved. A lot of times at work, I just go talk to the person I need to speak with rather than sending an email, depending on what I need to talk about with that person. I did this a lot when I was teaching, too, especially if it was an email from a parent. I preferred picking up the phone and calling in those instances because it’s a lot easier to be able to talk about such matters when you’re having real conversation.

But for those in-person convos, there is one thing you still need that often gets diminished when you realize you can’t hide behind a screen or turn off the read receipts and take a sufficient amount of time to reply: courage. Last week, I was having lunch in a quiet couch/lobby-type-but-not-a-lobby area of the hotel adjacent to the building where I work, and this very attractive human being sat on the couch next to me and began working on his laptop. We exchanged glances and smiles a few times, and I really wanted to ask him out on a Cheetos date (I have a history of doing that). But I didn’t. I didn’t say one word to him. I got up and left without saying anything I wanted to say, and now we will never eat Cheetos together. Ever. I let crappy (nonexistent) communication win, and I lost.

I think we need to forget about all that technology has become and listen to the advice of two musical geniuses: Michelle Branch and John Mayer. Michelle has some lyrics I relate to entirely: “Well, it’s all so overrated, not saying how you feel. So you end up watching chances fade and wondering what’s real.” And Johnny boy says exactly what I wish I could live by: “Even if your hands are shaking, and your faith is broken; even as the eyes are closing, do it with a heart wide open. Say what you need to say.”

So, say what you need to say.

And it just might be a win for your heart.

We all know what assuming does

Coca-Cola sure knew what it was doing back in 1971.

Too bad we aren’t all singing on hilltops together today.

I really don’t like assumptions and stereotypes. Unfortunately, though, we have been seeing a lot of this lately. Then it leads to others making additional assumptions and stereotypes about the individuals who made the original assumptions and stereotypes. It’s this never-ending cycle that only leads to more hate.

And hate is the last thing we need more of in this world.

We’ve seen a lot of this exposed in the media lately, especially with policemen. I mean, I will admit that in the past my friends and I have joked about how police are the “mean” ones, and the firemen are the “cute” ones. But I’ve never actually thought police are bad people—it’s actually the opposite. I can’t imagine the stresses and pressures they have to deal with on a daily basis, nor do I want to face such anxiety regularly. And I don’t think it’s fair to stereotype all people in this profession.

Or for any reason.

I remember when the attacks on September 11 happened, shortly after there was a lot of prejudice against Muslims in our country. One of my best friends all through childhood and those awkward teenage years was Muslim, and I really didn’t like hearing people say comments against people of that religion. She didn’t like it, either. While what happened on that day was a horrible act of terrorism, it didn’t mean that every single person in a similar category as the attackers was a terrorist.

Assumptions and stereotypes don’t allow you to get to know a person. Instead, you already have these preconceived notions that hinder you from seeing what’s in front of you. This doesn’t mean you should be blind to people who actually might be out to wrong you, but it does mean that you shouldn’t judge someone simply because he or she has been labeled or categorized unjustly.

I took a selfie but not because of insecurities or narcissism, which one might assume

I’m from a wealthy suburb, but I’ve never lived in a huge house, and I’m not rich; I was once a sports reporter, but I never wanted to be “the next Erin Andrews”; I’m 30 and single, but I’m not constantly on the lookout for a husband—I’m content with being single forever if that’s what I’m supposed to be; I’m from Texas, but I don’t have a horse; I’m a runner, but I don’t run a marathon every day (you’d be surprised how often I hear that one); I have red hair, and I have a soul; I’m a woman, but I hate chocolate and flowers.

Those are just a handful of assumptions I’ve heard people make about me throughout my life, and they are nothing compared to some of the hateful assumptions and stereotypes that many others face constantly. I know we don’t live in a perfect world, and people are always going to find ways to criticize others, but why? Why do we have to treat other people as if they are below us just because we think we know “truths” about them?

In some ways, I wish more people thought like little kids. If you’ve ever seen little kids on a playground together, they don’t question skin color or parents’ occupations or house sizes or anything. They just play and enjoy each other’s company. They get lost in their own little worlds where hate and judgment don’t exist and don’t get in the way of forming genuine relationships. I love the purity and innocence before the world gets a hold of them and tries to change their minds.

And you can only hope it won’t change their hearts.

There are certainly evil people in this world, and there are those who make bad decisions and represent something bigger in a bad way. But not everyone who is somehow likened to those individuals is guilty of the same things. When you close off your mind and only use such a narrow vision, you close off part of your heart, as well.

All people are valued. All people are loved. And all people matter.

And it’s time they knew it.