We told Ruby when she got to the halfway point between her and her cousin/BFF’s birthdays, she could get her ears pierced. She got excited. Us moms and daughters went to the mall to do it this past Saturday.
We gazed at the display of stud choices. I almost choked when I heard the man made birthstone ones were $55. What?! We gently steered the girls towards the lower-priced options. Still sparkly, just less out of our wallets.
My niece Joy, a brave girl with darling dimples, sat on the raised purple stool. The clerk, a girl sporting a blonde bob with pink highlights, marked her ears’ future holes with a purple pen. Joy smiled out at us.
The clerk clipped one ear, leaving behind a glittery cross. A cloud passed over Joy’s face, then the sun shone again. The clerk finished her work and stepped back.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Joy said.
Ruby’s turn. She sat in the chair and shivered. The clerk tried to dot Ruby’s ears. Ruby hunched her shoulders, protecting herself.
“Hon, you need to sit still.” The clerk did her best to corral Ruby. Ruby wasn’t having any of it. She flailed. She panicked. She slipped out of the chair, dejected.
We took a walk around the mall. Ruby kept her head down, frown on her face. Ruby never got the guts to sit back in the chair. I didn’t want to pressure her into it. Getting your ears pierced is optional, as far as I know. I didn’t do it until I was 13.
I asked Ruby how she was doing. I wanted to know how I could help. I’d encouraged, talked about not psyching herself out by thinking about it too much, etc. I’d prayed, too.
“I’m disappointed in myself,” she said. Her eyes mirrored her sadness.
Ah. That’s the worst feeling. I told her about how I’ve run races and not done well. I’ve stood up to play flute solos and sat down again, unhappy with my performance. But you get up and do it anyway. You don’t give up. You think about how pleased you’ll feel once you accomplish your goal. You push through.
“In fact,” I said, “you do it scared. I used to tremble all over when I played. So much so that my lips would quiver. Then I would get mad. You can’t play well if your lips are moving all over the place. But you keep on and do your best. It’s alright to be afraid. That’s what bravery is.”
She considered this.
So when we went to the mall two days later, she sat in the chair. For a minute. Yes, we took another trip around the stores to help her gather courage, this time with purple dots on her ears as a precursor of things to come. Did it help that a 4-month-old baby got her ears pierced right in front of Ruby? No. Really didn’t. But Ruby did it. She sat there, tears falling down her cheeks, but she got the piercing.
“Did it hurt?” I asked as she wiped her eyes.
“Yes,” she said.
The hurt fades, in time. Yet the satisfaction of looking your fear in the eye and staring it down remains. We never outgrow the need to fight some kind of fear. I put on my running shoes this morning and ran outside for the first time in two weeks. My foot feels better. It’s time to move on. I have to stare down my fear, too. Let the satisfaction of besting fear fuel the next dream.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.- Isaiah 41:10