I'm going to get a little personal here. It's okay. We're all friends.
Last week I stopped at the health food store for some things. I picked up bananas, a few avocados, and a package of frozen berries. I knew I needed some sanitary napkins, but I couldn’t find them, and figured the store didn’t sell them. I’d have to make a separate trip to the pharmacy.
My 11-year-old daughter and I went to the back of the very long line. As we’re standing there, I spot the sanitary napkins, next to the toilet paper, at the very tippy top of a shelf near the register.
“Oh, there are the pads,” I say to my daughter. “Way up there.”
“Didn’t you say you needed those,” she asks.
“Yes,” I answer. “But they’re way up high. I don’t think I can reach them. We’ll just stop at the pharmacy.”
“Try to reach them. Or just ask someone,” she says.
I look around. The only people nearby are:
1) The teenage boy working the cash register
2) The very short woman behind the deli counter
3) The elderly couple looking at the veggie burgers in the freezer
I am not a shy person. But for some reason, I just can’t picture myself asking any of these people to get the sanitary napkins down from the top shelf for me.
“I don’t want to ask anyone,” I say to my daughter. “We’ll stop at the pharmacy.”
And then she gives me a look that I’ve never seen on her face before… But it’s a look I have given her many times.
It’s the "You’ve got to be kidding me” look. You know the one. Head cocked. Eyebrows raised. Arms crossed.
“What?” I ask. “It’s embarrassing.”
“I can’t believe you’re going to let that stop you from getting something you want,” she says.
And then I look down at myself to be sure we haven’t switched bodies.
I freeze. My mind goes absolutely blank for a second, and then this thought flashes across my brain like a news flash: THIS IS A LIFE LESSON FOR YOUR DAUGHTER!
If I don’t get what I need, then I’m teaching her some very bad things:
1) Don’t ask for what you want.
2) It’s better to go out of your way than be embarrassed.
3) You should care what other people think of you.
I look at her. Her head is still cocked, her eyebrows still raised, her arms still crossed.
I look at the sanitary napkins.
I look back at her.
“I’ll be right back,” I say. “Hold our place in line.”
And as she’s watching me, I march over the the shelf with the sanitary napkins, stand on my tiptoes, and amazingly enough, I can just reach. I grab a pack, and head back to join my daughter in line. I’m smiling like an idiot.
“See, you did it,” she says to me.
“This is a good lesson,” I tell her. “It’s important to go for what you want, even if it’s embarrassing.”
She rolls her eyes.
And even though it was just a box of sanitary napkins, I hope she translates the experience to everything she does in her life. And I hope I do, too.
I remember how scary it was to share my first manuscript with my critique group, to dive into a big pile of revisions, to send that first query letter to an agent. But if I hadn’t done those things, I would never have gotten what I needed… and I need to write.
So the next time you let embarrassment stop you from getting something you need, remember the sanitary napkins.
And then reach way up high, and go get 'em.