Scene From The Coffee Shop: A Lesson in Writerly Self Care

I never know what my time at the coffee shop will bring. This day I had an impromptu trip and ended up journaling a little pep talk to myself.

Stares at a blank page.

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Rearrange coffee cup, plate, notebook, pen, and cell phone on desk.

Page is still blank.

Play mahjong for 20 minutes on computer.

Listen to background music, wonder who’s choosing songs (and why?).

Realize how cold I am.

Contemplate moving all my stuff to a more comfortable spot (cause then the words will flow).

My thoughts drift to work. A job that’s ending and the exciting, scary, possibilities in front of me.

The room is very cold.

It’s hot day in July and my plane was scheduled to touch down about now in San Antonio, Texas. The plan was a long weekend with three close friends but it wasn’t meant to be. My travel companion didn’t feel well enough to board an airplane. Next time, friend. We’ll get there.

So with two days of vacation already scheduled I have time in front of me. If you’re a writer you immediately think this is the perfect opportunity to dive in for long stretches of writing time. Heck I was ready to write epiphanies from Texas. I was sure they were comin, but that’ll be on hold for now. The nice thing about writing—all you need are your thoughts.

The thinking is necessary but it complicates the writing. Insecurities will creep in over the way I see things, if and how to write it, but mostly how it will be received. I spend too much time strategizing with myself which is a mechanism that’s carried me far in life but I’ve come to realize it’s not a very worthy way to spend my time these days.

Instead of actual writing at the coffee house today I was thinking about the following:

  1. Get the cake. We’ve all seen the meme that life is short therefore you should Eat The Cake. The people who know me know that I’m a very regimented eater. Part stomach issues, part lover of routine so cake was never part of my routine. Since my 50th birthday my new approach is a little more Eat-the-Cake-ish. My coffee shop has a giant blueberry crumb cake that’s outstanding. I bought my first piece and ate it over the course of a couple of days finally throwing the little remaining in the trash. I snacked on the second piece and shared with my hubby. I did buy a third which was inadvertently forgotten in my car and had to be discarded. What I realized was the endorphin fanfare that was going off in my brain as I purchased my piece of blueberry crumb cake. The portion was too big for me to finish. But the little rush of happiness that I felt during the purchase and while I stared at it and apparently carried it, was pretty marvelous. It felt worth it, I thought I was worth it. I want to be a little better about spending money on cake I can’t eat and also the waste, but the awareness of awarding myself this treat and the feeling it gave me was telling.
  2. I know exactly how to keep myself whole and that doesn’t require an apology. I have a great network of family and friends. But when push comes to shove I know what I need. Recently I had a conversation with a friend and I found myself saying “….I know this sounds weak, but I think tonight I’m gonna be in bed by 7. The extra sleep will help me keep my head on straight”. I launched into the reasoning that extra rest improves my clarity and helps me to avoid over thinking. My friend stopped me and said “Tra, you don’t have to explain,” which was a great reminder. I know better, but as women we tend to apologize or justify unnecessarily for taking care of ourselves. When I know that my body needs sleep, for whatever reason, then I’ll sleep. Whether it be with friends, music, meditation, or sleep—I piece myself together.
  3. Talk less/Listen more. I think this one works great in both life and writing. It’s where my writing ideas come from and to be honest it’s less exhausting. I don’t find myself fighting for space in this world much anymore. It is what it is. I probably did the social hustle quite a bit when networking for career, and when my girls were in school. At this point in my life I’m more entertained by listening.
  4. Final thought from the coffee house is: When in doubt I’m gonna bet on me. I try and remind myself of this especially when things aren’t going exactly as planned and I’m a Type A planner. I tell myself it’s okay to have NO believers (even though I always have my true blue inner circle). I only need one person to make moves and that’s me. This can be especially important in writing as well. It’s a vulnerable and at times isolating space. There’s that sick feeling I sometimes get when I press “publish” or “submit” but standing still is not where I want to be. Therefore it’s important to remember, especially in times of doubt, to always bet on me.

My original intention for this vacation was to clear my head and regroup with friends in Texas. It turned out I was able to do that in a better part of an hour at the coffee shop.

If I were to put a T shirt out into the world it would say: Order the Cake, Buy The Flights, Bet On You.

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