Today I sang with Santa Claus. Today Ashy got woke.

Let me explain. 

I've always enjoyed live music. Growing up in a musical family, I always had an affinity for an acoustic guitar and any person that played one. My dad instilled in me this incredible love for expression, and music was one of the ways I connected and found joy.

So of course I ended up at a boppin' Potbelly Restaurant during this Santa Claus lookalike's lunch set. I waited in line mumbling 90s lyrics as the jolly man in plaid sang Eagle Eye Cherry. I chewed on my chicken salad sandwich and hummed bars on Van Morrison's Moondance, and polished off my chips while harmonizing quietly to Five Hundred Miles by Peter, Paul & Mary. 

"Get up there," said that little voice in my head.

"No way, that's embarrassing," said me to myself.

Now I don't know what it is with impromptu sing-alongs in strange settings, but I ALWAYS have that little voice telling me to get up there. And I'm always telling that little voice to shut up, nuh-uh, not gonna do it. 

(Which is totally strange because anyone who knows me knows I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself in the name of entertainment. But it has to be a WELL-PLANNED, WELL-REHEARSED and WELL-EXECUTED rap video, keynote speech, class lesson. I don't just do things on the fly. My top strength in StrengthFinders is Intellection and while you may think this means smart, um no, it just means I overanalyze the hell out of everything. I'm a thinker, not a doer. I'm a dreamer and a visionary who needs that Activator best friend like I had in high school who makes me do dumb stuff that I may or may not regret later. This explains why I had the vision of singing with a random person, but never actually followed through with it. Add to the fact that I'm not really a singer but very much a perfectionist, and YOU GET ME.)

Until today. 

I got up to leave and the moment of truth happened: Santa started playing the opening chords of "All I Have to Do is Dream" by the Everly Brothers. If there was ever a song that was a sign for me to get up there, it was this one. A sweet old tune full of harmonies that my sister and I tried to nail down gosh, probably 15 years ago now. I can still remember drawing the arrows on the lyrics so we knew who would sing the high parts or low parts. It was a daunting task for two sisters who used to fight over the slip-n-slide, and we gave up after an hour.

If hearing that small voice in my head was a nudge, then recognizing this tune was being played specifically FOR ME was the epitome of being struck by lightning.

I get it. I need to do this. Okay. Deep breaths. 

I smiled at him, and looked over to the podium for his sheet music. lyrics. Deep breath. He looked at me with this warm eyes and we started singing, my voice wobbling from sheer terror. I'm sweating. I look around and people aren't really paying attention to me; they're more into eating and talking. Great. My heart's still pounding. A busboy gave me this look like "You go girl!" Or maybe it was "What is this chick doing?" Either sentiment means about the same in my world; I'm used to it.

Santa strummed the last chord and embraced me in a hug. "Thank you for joining me!" he said. "Thank you, I had fun!" I answered him. Yall, I spun on my heel and trotted myself outside of that building so fast. I got in my jeep and immediately burst into tears. 

This past year has been marked by my struggle with fear, and my attempt of overcoming it. 

Today I overcame a fear.

Sharing a duet with this white-bearded fellow in the middle of Potbelly's lunch rush was a sweet, tender moment I never expected to have. It was an eye-opening experience whose lessons will stick with me for a long time. 

It also made me remorseful for the other joyful moments I never had.

There's lots of things I love to do...but am I doing them?

Let's take the yoga hot room, for instance. I love it. But if I'm being honest, I've had a struggle committing to this thing I love for over 7 years now. I injured my lower back last year, and the fear of reinjury is enough to keep me inconsistent. Come to think of it, I've had a struggle being consistent with anything because of fear.

Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of commitment. Fear of getting hurt. 

Today's lesson made me question myself: What kind of life am I living if I am not doing those things that make me sing/soar/sore? If I'm not experiencing all of the goodness that makes me, me?

Modo Yoga's "Be Accessible" pillar invites us to feel all the feels (which apparently I'm all about this season). Their lessons of openness, inclusion and support teach me more things off the mat than on it. Modo addresses a peaceful way of experiencing things you may initially be uncomfortable doing, whether using blocks and straps to your limited postures so you relax more (hello back injury) or sharing a special connection with a loved one (or in my case, Santa Claus.) Being accessible literally means 'able to be reached and entered'. That's it. Yes, we need to be open to experiencing what a specific moment would like to teach us. But first, you have to get yourself into a posture of receiving.

Are you posturing yourself for unexpected encounters? How is being afraid limiting you from being accessible? How is your fear of being uncomfortable keeping you from experiencing true freedom and joy?  

Being open to new things is scary. A friend of mine says yes to random, zany experiences (instead of overanalyzing things and eventually saying no like I tend to do) because you just NEVER know who you might meet. You never know how a newfound connection will impact your life. His 'say yes' mentality made me quietly jealous. That's when I knew it was time for a change.  My encounter with Santa was a stepping stone into the right direction. Overcoming my fear of singing in public allowed me to accomplish my next task -- saying no to a project that wasn't the best fit for me -- with more relative ease. But remember, life isn't meant to be easy. It's meant to be lived wide open, completely embracing all the ups and downs that go with a full, whole life. Will there be challenges? Sure. While uncomfortable and uncertain in the moment, these tests offer the most growth and perspective.  How can you have deeper experiences this holiday season and beyond? Say yes. Honor whatever is nudging you. Be accessible and open to the adventure of life. Your presence is the greatest present you can give.