I’m sitting in a coffee shop.
That statement alone is interesting since, until my trip to Seattle in May I had been off coffee for, well, years.
And I’m here to work.
That statement alone is interesting because my sweet Tom used to head out every day to Starbucks. He called it his office. And, to be frank, I didn’t understand it. I understood him; his need for commotion around him, his love of people (he became the mayor of that place, attracting people like bugs to a fire; he burnt hot) and I had never known him to not go out into public to write. But I didn’t really understand how it worked for him, how he actually got anything done.
I have been coming to this sweet place within walking distance from my apartment, off and on for a while now. I have a Nespresso machine and make my own daily coffee, but, at first, I just wanted a little walk and some good iced coffee. One day I brought some paper and some tentative yoga sequences and finished them up while enjoying a cappuccino and watching the people. Next I started bringing a notebook to record other thoughts, plans, ideas as well as continuing to work on my classes and discovered iced Americanos. The last time I came and again today, the laptop is along for the ride.
With my laptop and free wifi I can make corrections in real time, I can change my spotify lists easily, I can read and respond to emails and send invoices and, well, work. I find that if I am here for an hour I can accomplish more than what I would do in my apartment in three or four. I can accomplish things I put off or avoid. I mean, I’m actually writing a blog post, right?
(Aside…besides coffee this place has pastries…and I just thought, why not? and ordered one. THAT could be my undoing, but it’s not a bad choice for dinner….OR IS IT???))
When I first started doing this I found myself needing a little escape from the confines of my apartment. Look, I am alone A LOT. And when I go out to do errands, groceries, whatever….I am alone. I feel very alone most of the time. Not necessarily lonely, but alone. The places I don’t feel alone are when I teach and when I practice yoga. I have a regular practice M/W/F, and the class is mostly the same group of us, a lovely little sangha. We laugh and talk and are pushed to our limits and then, mostly, we go home, off to our lives and solitary pursuits. My classes are more focused, of course. I’m in charge (weird…still can’t see that) and I have to be on alert to help students if they need it and on top of my game with whatever theme or idea I am bringing to class that day (and, yes, I am THAT yoga teacher…what of it?). I also have private clients, which is another whole way of holding space and being careful with someone else.
I said I feel very alone. And not necessarily lonely. The truth is that I feel very lonely. Quite a lot of the time.
So enter the Coffee Fix. I’m still alone but there is hustle and bustle around me. People are working, talking, laughing. Sometimes I join in. And, this is really weird, but I like the fact that other people think I am doing something. I know I do things, I’m productive, but when you are as solitary as I am it sometimes feels surreal. I know there are other readers of my blog that work solo, teach yoga, coach…..there is something inherently weird about how we operate in the world. No 9-5, no punching clocks, being responsible for our own opportunities. (The “gig” economy. It’s weird times for sure.) But as I sit and have my coffee the people there SEE me working. It’s weirdly validating and I think partly why I get so much more done here. I’m sitting here alone and yet I feel seen. By strangers, certainly, but I’m seen.
There is a very thin line between being alone and being lonely. Someone completely alone can not ever feel loneliness; someone with a zillion friends and living life large could be the loneliest person alive. I get that. I skirt that line. I like to be alone, a lot. I like to decompress from people and events. I like to veg in front of the TV; dive whole heartedly into a great book, play a game of Candy Crush, roam the internet. Sometimes I am completely content and other times I find myself talking out loud, wanting and needing to be heard and deeply aware that there is no one there. That likely there will never be anyone there again.
It’s a tightrope. Sometimes I’m teetering, other times I am Philippe Petit.
I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately. I’ve been subbing a lot. I picked up two new public classes and am in discussion about a third. I committed to leading a monthly meditation group, sharing different styles of meditation. I still have my private clients. This is all good news. It’s been great. I feel like I am being of service even as I get paid a little (maybe enough to cover the new coffee habit!) And I feel appreciated and seen, in real life and in my Coffee Fix life. But I also feel like this is all I have. And all I talk about (well, and politics, but not going there today). And I desperately want someone to ask back to me.
That “ask” in the previous sentence? It’s a typo. I caught it as I re-read and I’m keeping it there. Because I think it’s true. I desperately want someone else to ASK back to me, not superficially, but out of real interest and because they want to know me, understand me. The superficiality of most of my encounters places my loneliness in stark relief. It’s hard. I talk, ask, am curious and I need it back. I get it from some dear ones, but not on the daily, not enough.
You know, my life is really good and I don’t mean to sound whiney. There’s a fine line there too, I think…being whiney and bemoaning your fate and just being aware of what IS and telling the truth about it. I am discovering in my dotage that I want to tell the truth more and more and, at the same time, there are fewer opportunities.
I have purpose and meaning in my life. And I am alone and, at times, very lonely. That’s the truth. It’s a classic Both/And. There is another tightrope to balance on between those two truths, because sometimes I’m bending one way and sometimes another. One of those ways doesn’t end well, one will continue to energize and sustain me. I’ve got a good grip on the pole most days and am grateful for that.
And now I have added a “working from the office” practice. With coffee.
I get it now.
Maybe Tom was a yogi all those years.