Sort of Like A Runner’s High, But Better

A quick recap of how I forced myself to say something nice, despite feeling really weird about it:

A few evenings ago, I ran up to Whole Foods for just a handful of things.  I was anxious to get in and out. The sun was already edging past the horizon, threatening to mute the most beautiful light I had ever seen.  This was not good.  I was determined to go for a nice long jog against the backdrop of a watercolor sky; by my estimation, I had maybe 15 minutes to hit the pavement.

Hugging some bread and a jar of almond butter, I picked a spot in the shortest line I could find.  Of course, upon my arrival, this also became the slowest line.

Of course.

I craned my neck to suss out the source of the hold up.   It seemed to be a senior member of the Price Police, haggling with the young cashier over what might have been a ten-cent difference in expectations.

I watched out the window as the sky began to morph, ushering in an inky purple to slowly diffuse  over top my canvass.   Priceless art selling for a dime, apparently.

Anxious to initiate damage control, I mentally drew out an alternate route — if I cut some of the cul-de-sacs, I might still get in a decent run, I reasoned.

But the line seemed only to move slower.  More haggling, paired with missing coupons and an indignant insistence to pay by check — by check! — and I realized I might have to scrap my plans.

By the time I had taken the “next-in-line” position, I was visibly irritated.  I am quite certain I was wearing an unfortunate face.

Watching the cashier move food into bags, I tried to concentrate on the notion of progress — I was hoping the forward movement of it all would settle my nerves.  Seeing things “getting done” is somehow deeply satisfying to me.

So I watched, and as I did, I couldn’t help but notice more than just the harried hands that rushed to grab and scan and ring and pack.  I began to notice the face.

And it was hard to not see how pretty it was.

The most striking cheekbones plumped up against creamy milk-chocolate skin.  Flawless skin, really. The kind of skin I have in mind as I slather on the latest “it” cream and hope for some sort of miracle.

As I put my groceries on the counter, I felt that tug at my chest that told me I ought to say something to her.  I should tell her what beautiful skin she had.  And why not?  How often do people ever really say what’s on their mind, especially when it’s something this good?  Not too often, I would guess.  And, I happen to know that there is something extra special about a compliment gifted to one woman by another — it has a way of settling into the very fiber of your being because you can actually dare to believe it.  It changes you.  In a good way.

I quickly cobbled together the right words in the right order, so when her eyes met mine, I could offer up my sentiment seamlessly.  Things like this need to be executed just so — awkward and stilted turns “kind ” into “creepy” rather quickly.

But every time I felt I had the moment locked, a tug — this one in my stomach — told me I ought to hold off.

Oh, I don’t want to make her feel weird, I thought.

Maybe there’s a language barrier, and my words will just hang there all garbled and confused and completely unabsorbed.

And that guy in line behind me is really encroaching on my space.  His hovering is just making it all rushed and ruinedDamn you, annoying, hovering guy.

It’s funny how something so small can turn into something so unnecessarily big.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I just say it?

Okay, just say it, I thought as she punched at the keyboard to ring my total.

Say it now — 1, 2, 3…now! 

Nope.

Okay, here we go, as I swiped my credit card.  Say it….now.  And….now!

Silence.

At this point, I was feeling really lame.  Completely ridiculous.  And, a little exhausted, actually.

Alright, whatever, this is so dumb.  I’m doing it for real.  Right now:

“I couldn’t help but notice you have the most beautiful skin,” I said as I signed my receipt.  “You’re so pretty.”

Casually glancing up as I snapped the rubber pen back into place, I watched as her face completely transformed.  Beautiful skin further illuminated by that “change” I mentioned earlier.

Putting her hand to her heart, her chest caved slightly, as if absorbing my words like some kind of unexpected blow.  She took in a deep breath that caught a little in the middle — you know, from that particular kind of gratitude you can actually feel squeeze at your throat.  You know the kind I mean.

“Oh my God, thank you so much,” she laughed.  “You have no idea how nice that is to hear.  You just made my whole night.”

I smiled and grabbed my bag.

I could still hear her “oh-my-God-ing” as I passed through the exit.

The sky was now too  murky to attempt a jog.  But the air smelled really, really clean.

I sensed my heart racing a little faster, and I swear I could feel the endorphin rush of that runner’s high I had been craving all day.

And it didn’t take 45 minutes of pounding the pavement, negotiating my way up punishing inclines and around cars parked too far from the curb.

It just took ten seconds of being brave enough to say something nice.

 

 

 


11 comments

  1. debi

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story, so beautifully written! It is amazing how a few kind words can be so wonderfully powerful. ” Words of Positive Impact” Once again you express so eloquently your feelings and again have me saying to myself ” Yes that is how I feel” Hesitant to approach the person at first but feeling such satisfaction afterwards! I make it habit to approach those who serve our country by saying, I just want to thank you for your service, as tears begin to well as I see the expressions of surprise followed by “Thank-you Mam, it is an honor to serve”
    Ok now I am wondering why it is so hard to give someone a compliment but so easy to express words of anger!

    • Lauren

      D,

      All good points. You’re right — it is harder to express nicities than anger. Not good, but so true.

      And thanks for the kind words. See — you expressed something nice 😉

      L

  2. JR

    Another great piece of story telling. I have been in the same position – however it usually involved complementing some dude with a nice car at a stop light.

    • Megan

      Haha, I’ve felt that before too. But some people are driving such amazing old cars you know they’re so proud of them, I feel sad to think of no one saying anything (especially if they’re driven by a grandpa!)

  3. Megan

    Oh, sweet! I can picture her reaction so clearly. It really brightens everyone’s day to share something kind, doesn’t it? Recently I was working at Anthropologie and sometimes a woman would say something so unexpected and awesome that I would feel charged and happy for a long time…. I think those compliments from strangers almost mean more because you know they’re genuine. I’ve worked hard to get over feeling shy over the years and that has led to so many positive moments and the best of friends that I force myself to kick it up a notch whenever I feel nervous about talking to someone. : ) Good job Lauren! ; )

    • Lauren

      M,

      Yes, I so agree — compliments from strangers, but most especially women strangers.

      Glad you could relate, and glad you enjoyed the post. As always, thank you so much for reading.

      L

  4. Dianne

    Great post that I can totally relate to. I think there’s something deep down in ourselves that triggers that protective, nurturing instinct in situations like the one you described that compels us to slap a verbal band-aid on a troubled soul. I’ve reached out as well, but typically my balm of choice is humor. I always attempt to tease out a smile while I compliment their steadfast patience in the face of stupidity or frugality and I’m typically rewarded with a grateful grin and knowing nod. Keep on doin’ whatcha doin’ !

    • Lauren

      D,

      Thanks! Also, I love your instinct to offer humor in all situations. You kept me in stitches all throughout our on-line MC experience. Remember our chat sessions dissecting Antiques Roadshow?

      Love you!

      L

      • Dianne

        I can’t watch that show without thinking of you. All those people just straaaaaaining to photo bomb the frame and get on TV – too funny! Also your unhealthy obsession with Sister Angelica *siiiiiip* LOL good times 😉

        • Lauren

          D,

          YES! You hit the nail on the head with the “photo bomb” comparison. That is exactly what is going on. People are so predictable.

          I am still obssessed with EWTN and Mother Anjelica. Love her — ssssiiiiippppp.

          L

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