Loneliness and Coffee

Sometimes we just need to be around other people.

I was having an unusually gray morning today. I couldn’t become motivated, I didn’t really want to spend energy making breakfast or doing anything except laying in bed. It was partly exhaustion for sure; I don’t like going to sleep early because it feels like wasted time and I don’t like sleeping late for the same reason (not quite the most logical set of preferences). I was stressed about working so much when the day was becoming so beautiful, and in Colorado — my wilderness adventure ideal.

I decided to leave home a bit early (it’s a Wednesday so I work 9:45-5:45) so that I could get some breakfast en route to the Rec Center. I stopped by a tiny, beautiful European bakery only two stoplights away from 55th street, my last turn toward work.

I had been to the bakery once before, on Monday, and was completely taken by it. I only found it because I wanted coffee so badly; I was nearly at work and my last option for a coffeehouse was to check the mostly-empty strip mall area at the biggest intersection on Baseline. It’s where my bike path morphs from winding sidewalk along the Boulder Creek to hard biking along the busy Baseline Road. I biked along the shops, searching for something resembling a coffeehouse but only finding Chinese and Japanese restaurants, a Safeway, a few banks, and a fitness club until…

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On Monday, I walked in and immediately loved the place. The atmosphere is cozy and there were a few groups of older men eating breakfast together. I walked up to the counter, unsure of myself, and asked if they served coffee. A lovely older woman answered me that they did indeed. I found the coffee menu on the wall and quickly ordered a cappuccino with soy.

It was the best cappuccino I’d had in such a long time. The woman was gracious and kind, and offered to give me more milk; the gentleman behind me laughed understandingly when I apologized for being in his way as I tried to find my wallet. “Don’t worry, dear.” I hadn’t been called “dear” in a while.IMG_1826

Today when I visited, I locked my bike quickly to a handrail next to stairs and walked in. The place was completely empty at 8:30-ish. I walked to the counter and, embarrassed, asked if they were open. The older man there answered in a heavy accent, “Yes open.” A younger woman, dressed in polka-dots, walked out of the kitchen to take my order.

Speaking to people about coffee and pastries can really turn a morning around. After deciding on a soy chai with two espresso shots and debating on using my $10 bill to buy that and an apple turnover or the drink and a blueberry muffin for David, I had thoroughly lost the haze over my morning and felt refreshed. Perhaps its the pastries which bring awakening, but I think it’s being with a person.

My dad and I have always trusted this method for chasing away melancholy, yet it’s easy to forget. We’ve traveled extensively together (within the United States) and have, each time, experienced the loneliness and morose feelings which come as a side-effect of travel. Loneliness, I think it is. It’s hard to identify, elusive to grasp; the symptoms appear far before you can even recall that it exists. The traveler, or at least in our case, believes he or she is brave and open to new experiences and forgets that every human is susceptible to loneliness.

But as soon as it is identified, the cure is a heartbeat away. Being with people, authentically, truly, and openly, solves it. Dad and I used to realize it, a day or two into a road trip and after silence has stretched too long. One of us would mention that we needed to grab a cup of coffee. The other would be delighted and surprised, just then remembering the cure for silences which become isolating. We would stop somewhere small and colorful, walk inside, and order something confusing enough to begin a conversation. It was never on purpose, but I believe our purpose was never to just ascertain a cup of coffee.

I think this is why I love coffee so much.

We are, as humans, an amalgamation of locks for which our task in life is to find the keys — that is, if we wish to be happy. There are those locks which are epidermic: they are easier to find, like perhaps yoga or reading for long hours. For me, this includes coffeeshops to battle loneliness. Then there are those which are deeper, and which will lead to self-understanding and thus more sustainable happiness and peace. These, I am still figuring out. I always will be.

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