Lessons from a cowboy

Who are your heroes?

Those people you looked up to when you were younger, or maybe still do now you're older. The people who's words, actions or attitudes made a resounding impact on your life, or inspired you, motivated you and encouraged you. If we were each to make lists I'm sure we'd see a lot of names we recognise, there may even be some cross over between us, people we both held up as heroes. But there's one person on my list who you won't have heard of before; Snow Patrol Cowboy.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to go with my sister to see Snow Patrol perform down in London. We were stood close to the front pretty much on the centre of the stage when Snow Patrol came on to start playing, and somewhere between the second and third songs I looked around the arena to take in the crowd. Something caught my eye, up towards the upper seats, almost in the rafters, right on the end closest to the stage, and it took a few moments to register what my eyes were seeing.

There was a man, dressed in a full length jacket,right to the floor almost, wearing a big cowboy hat and sunglasses (yes, inside a dark concert arena). He had something clutched in his hands and I couldn't make out at first. It took a few moments before I realised it was an inflatable guitar, only this one was almost entirely deflated. His appearance was quite striking, you could even say odd (it was far too warm in that arena for a long jacket, never mind the hat too) but it wasn't his look that had caught my eye. It was his dancing. This man was standing up, dancing along, playing his deflated inflatable guitar, strutting his stuff and having the time of his life. It was strange, confusing, unusual, bewildering, and utterly, utterly glorious.

For the full two hours this man never sat down, never stopped dancing, never stopped playing his guitar. I think I watched him more than I was watching the stage. And when I left at the end of the night and I was driving home all I could think was "I wish I was like Snow Patrol Cowboy".

All too often we are concerned with what others might think of us. How our actions might be perceived, will people think us foolish? Will they laugh at us? Will we feel shame or embarrassment for our actions? We sometimes sensor the things that bring us joy because they don't fit in with what is considered "normal". Sometimes that can be our hobbies, or interests, things we like to do, and sometimes it can be something that is more a part of us, like our sense of humour, our hopes and dreams. It can often leave us feeling like there's something wrong with the way we are. And this leaves us in a conflict between doing the things that we love, being who we genuinely are, and the need to be accepted by others. I know this is a pull that I feel, pretty much every day.

And here was a man, who's attire was not considered normal, who's actions and behaviours would have marked him out by many as being odd, who didn't care about any of that. Who for a few hours allowed himself to be free from the constraints of other peoples judgements and could just follow his hearts desires. And who wasn't going to let the small matter of a deflated guitar stop him. I doubt anyone in that arena had a better night than he did.

I often think of Snow Patrol Cowboy, usually when I'm about to do something that puts me in the spotlight, or I'm worried what people might think of me. I have no idea of the mans name, no idea what he sounds like, but I imagine him handing me his deflated, inflatable guitar and telling me to just go for it. Because what makes your heart happy is more important than what people think of you. And sometimes you need a cowboy to remind you of that.

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