I am taking a moment to share a human connection moment that left me beaming. Even though it took me a while to get my bearings, adjust, and have fun. I always encourage people to do three things: To be present – you gotta show up to be authentic and tell your best story. But we don’t always take our own advice.
Recently, I went to the Crestwood Library in Westchester to attend a “Po-Jazz on the Hudson” event. As the title suggests, it combines poetry and jazz in a freestyle format. The group is led by Golda Solomon, a kick-ass performer and teacher. She’s a friend, writing mentor, and now Poet Laureate of Yonkers, NY. I could only attend the latter part of the session. When I arrived, I noticed that the poets were numerous and ranged in age from high school forward. I wasn’t surprised Golda attracts people and makes them shine. So, it wasn’t unexpected when I walked in that Golda queried from her perch in the front, “You’re going to read from your book, right? You brought it, right?” The book is The Learned It In Queens Communications Playbook – Winning Against Digital Distraction.
Clearly, one couldn’t answer “No,” or “I’m just here to observe and appreciate.” That does not happen in Golda’s world. So, I said “yes,” and listened as a jazz cellist riffed off the poets while they read. At the same time, my Inner Queens Girl (aka QG) posed her recurring questions: “What the heck are you going to say to these people? What are you going to do? What will make sense given the few minutes you are getting?” So, I went to my go-to place in a pinch for pre-performance panic and planning – the ladies’ room. I needed a brainstorming session, fast. After some intense, tortured internal dialogue, I accessed my go-to three suggestions. I realized that I could apply them here.
I knew I had to explain the evolution of the humorous book from a complaint that “the human species had mutated and had turned into a living-in-a-bubble species.” This is because our heads were always in our mobiles and not always present for others. Also, I had to mention the use of Queens for my writing focus. It came from the “what the heck am I going to say to all of these people” when I found out I was going to give a presentation for 500 people on “The Big Stage” for a conference keynote speech. And not the casual chat with 100 people I imagined. Then I wanted to give Golda a shout-out for being one of the people who championed my writing and voice.
“Okay, this is getting to be a lot,” I said. Then I thought, “Heck, I’m being myself, and these are my best stories.” However, QG noted, “Girl, you need a focus!” So, I decided to use the central message in the book: when we are having communication challenges, we should pause and seek opportunities to connect. Or, for having “Front Stoop (Queens and Brooklyn term for front steps) Moments.” These are “in-your-space conversations” versus “in-your-face interactions” designed to encourage listening. They are a great way to practice “full-on focus” in challenging situations.
So, I emerged from the ladies’ room and started to share. I projected calm and being myself. I chatted with the audience and improvised on my best stories. Great moments connecting with the group followed, and I enjoyed the energy in the room. Then it occurred to me that Christopher Dean Sullivan the bass player wasn’t riffing along with me as he had with the others! So, I turned around to him and said, “Hey! Where the heck is my music?” He fell over with a great big full-body belly laugh and said, ” I was too busy listening to you, and I forgot to play!” Big hugs and a room full of laughter resulted!
There it was another lesson in how showing up and being yourself led to the joy of unplanned moments of connection. Christopher Dean Sullivan the bassist, and now new buddy’s comment, best feedback ever. So many lessons. So much to learn and learning it in rooms full of people who are raising their creative voices for the good of others.
P.S. Happy Birthday Golda! Rhyme on!
Julienne B. Ryan is a certified AccuMatch BI coach and the author of “The Learned-It-In-Queens Communications Playbook — Winning Against Digital Distraction” and an applied, narrative storyteller, speaker, trainer, and coach. She believes in the power of listening and is on a mission to improve how we communicate with each other, one authentic conversation at a time. Click on this link to learn about her services.