I am spending my afternoon in a coffee chop nearly 30 miles from my house. Several things had to line up just so to bring me here.
First and foremost, I skipped out on my plans for the morning. I was supposed to go to a morning prayer retreat. Well, I say “supposed” but what I really mean was planned. I didn’t have to register or pay. A few people were expecting to see me, but only because I told them I would be there. The alarm went off this morning – the only morning in two weeks when I can sleep in – and I decided I needed a “me day.” And more sleep.
The second thing is that I have been feeling restless lately. I know myself well enough to know this feeling creeps up on me, often get this way in the spring and fall. Something about the equinox makes me want to hit the road, get away, be someone else, be in a new place. Migrate. I have a theory I evolved from Canada Geese. Adding to that restlessness is my ghosts. My ghosts have been active lately. This too happens occasionally, but not as regularly. I find myself thinking of people I have not thought of for years. Distant relatives, deceased family members, long-lost friends, old loves, that weird guy in college.
Both these things used to sort of freak me out. I worried there were deep dark issues that I needed to deal with. Perhaps I was suppressing something big and awful. Maybe I was obsessed. A text book enneagram type six. Now I see these restless feelings are not “crazy” but “human” (although one does not preclude the other). I work on accepting these moods, welcoming them even. Sometimes they move on, as restless things tend to do. Other times they linger, pawing at me like a lonely dog until I make the time and space to indulge them.
So that was the plan for today. I wasn’t quite sure what that was going to look like. I wanted to get away, if only for the afternoon. But I also had to do some cleaning. And some laundry. And there was – as always – some work in my briefcase. I had just read, for the umpteenth time, about the importance of taking time away at least once a week. And the deal I had made with myself when I silenced the alarm was that if I didn’t go to this retreat, I would not waste the day going round and around the same mental hamster wheel I had been in.
But still, I could not give myself the permission to just walk away, even for an afternoon. There was work to do, maybe I should just get caught up . . .
Then came the call.
It was not an important call, or even a very long one. A work friend and I had planned an event for tomorrow. But the young woman who was the reason for the event broke her arm. Within 5 minutes tomorrow’s event was canceled and all attendees had been contacted.
Suddenly, a weekend that just 24-hours ago had felt like a part of the work week was a free! I am playing hokey! I have a snow day! I have been given a total of six or seven hours. They lay before me like sheets of blank paper. The walls of the little rut of my life came crumbling down before I had time to notice they were there.
Permission granted. Time to move.
To understand the final thing that brought me here, to this coffee house (quite literally, it is in a house that’s on the historic register) you have to understand something else about me. I am the Coffee Shop Queen of my home city. I am working on expanding my realm to the greater metro area. It’s a gift and a curse. I can triangulate (Okay, I’m here, you’re there . . . give me a sec, okay, Coffee Bueno is about halfway on Elm and 42nd) and recommend (What are you doing to do there, study? Undgrounded has great tables and is pretty quiet. Buy your mom a coffee? Bakes and Beans is really cute with great baked goods. Blind date? Espresso-a-Go-Go is well populated, well lit, has comfortable seating and has a back exit, just in case). I also have an uncanny ability to sense where a coffee shop should be, thus making me able to easily locate a coffee shop in unfamiliar surroundings.
The curse is that after a while, there are no new coffee shops under the sun. I have my three or four usual spots. Then my “something different” spots. And even a third tier “I need to break out of my rut” spots.
None of those would do for today. I needed a change of scenery to give my ghosts the space to roam about and myself permission to think new thoughts and write my own words. A quick internet search showed me three recent articles on the theme of Best Independent Local Coffee Shops. And I knew every one of them. They were all on my inner two tiers. Every. Last. One. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and all that.
So here I am in this coffee shop. I have been here twice before, I think. I found it by accident maybe eight years ago, when I was out here for a school event and had a few hours to kill. It’s in a suburb I don’t particularly like. It’s okay, but not really worth the drive. But there was a drive, and on roads I don’t usually travel. I don’t know any of these people, even by sight. I have no associations with these rooms or the view out the window. No great thoughts were thought here. I shared no meaningful conversations nor wrote any brilliant words. Still haven’t. But that’s not the point.
The drive, the distance, the location, the strange view, the new faces. . . that’s all it will take. Already the restlessness is easing. I feel myself expanding, getting lighter, reconnecting to both past and future me. I can go back home soon. I’ll bring the ghosts with me. I will listen to them tonight as I clean and wash clothes. I will hear what they have to say to me this time and they will fade away. I will be able to write my own words at my own kitchen table again.