As I carefully choose my seat between the girlfriends sharing latest news and the gentleman one seat away I notice that he acknowledges me as I walk in his direction. His eyes say "I'm open", he almost speaks but reads me uncertainly and goes back to drinking his coffee contently. I contemplate if I should say hello but when I reach the chair my on again/off again social anxiety gets the best of me and I don't. Why is saying one word sometimes crippling to me, why do I over think it?
I open my book…this is coveted time…I think it's been 18 months since I've sat in a coffee shop alone, with my thoughts, without entertaining a toddler. This is my time. But as I finish a chapter I realize the man is still sitting there, not checking his phone or reading…he's just thinking, watching, open…and I can't help but think…why not talk to him, choose to engage?
So I ask him how his morning is going. He seems relaxed and glad to chat. He tells me he's getting ready to repair a fence on his cow pasture…"they always seem to think the grass is greener on the other side," he chuckles. He's making small talk but I can't help but ponder the simple wisdom he's unknowingly imparted. It's such an overused phrase but it still seems appropriate. He asks if I'm studying, he noticed the pencil in my hand. I'm reading the Creative Habit and underlining sections that "speak"to me (i'll probably never go back to see what I underlined but I like the act of doing it). I tell him that my husband took my son out and I'm taking time to enjoy sitting in a coffee shop like I did before having a baby. I tell him the book is about finding your creative side, how we're all creative in our own way and it's not just about being an artist or painting some masterpiece but that we use creativity every day to solve problems. I tell him sometimes I get lost in motherhood and it's good to read something just for me…to keep learning and growing. He nods and listens…he's pleasant, gives no advice, makes no assumptions…just is. Then naturally I go back to reading and he goes back to sitting quietly. He gets up to leave and tells me to enjoy my time, I wish him good luck on his fence…and he's gone.
And now I'm so glad that I engaged the farmer next to me. And I'm so glad that I ripped out these blank notebook pages and shoved them in my over-full purse…and I'm so glad that I grabbed that pencil so I'm able to scribble so idyllically in this coffee shop…not on my phone, but really feel the paper, smell the coffee drifting through the air and recall where my deep love of this place comes from.
As the chairs around me fill and empty I realize how incredible it is to be surrounded by strangers…how liberating and sweet it is to share the tiniest piece of your life with someone you've never met and how the world keeps turning as it was after.
I miss engaging with the world in this organic, non-expected, non-appointment type way…where any chair, so closely placed near the next, could lead to any conversation…or not. Why am I so afraid to put myself out there, so closed off? But today I engaged…and if not, I never would have been inclined to write …been reminded of what inspires me…people, conversations, feet gliding in and out, life…all so natural…so unforced.
I feel alive, and although my place in this world is such a small one, I do have a place…right here, right now. I'm a mother enjoying a rare moment, I'm the girl writing messily with a pencil, the one who looks up every time the door swings open to smile at the next character in today's plot, the one lost in her thoughts who looks up to notice a stranger looking through her…lost in theirs.Tomorrow this won't be my place or my story and someone else will fill this seat but in this moment it's mine and I feel refreshed…energized..renewed.
…and that's what I love about coffee shops…you can be no one and everyone…you can be alone yet together with the world…where so many memories, conversations and laughter have been made…where my heart fills, my breaths are deeper and my mouth sips sweet whipped cream covered drinks…
…and I smile.