I’m writing from a coffee shop, on my phone, which probably isn’t that unusual in the grand scheme of things.
However I’m here on my own, I’m not waiting for anyone. I’ve got my coffee and some breakfast and I’m feeling quite content.
The thought of dining alone, or doing anything alone for that matter, would have once filled me with absolute dread. But today I feel calm and relaxed.
I like that I can be around people. There is an energy in a busy place that is just not there in an empty apartment.
In times of loneliness and disconnection I find I often rush out to experience some kind of connection. Maybe going to the shops and tying to be extra friendly and bright to the person at the till. Despite all my anxieties and fear of embarrassment or judgement it is connection that fuels me.
The reason I write and share so much about my journey is connection. When I first started I knew there would be other people who felt how I did. Anxious people, depressed people – people who would feel empathy and would want to a connect.
I was right. Some people would ‘like’ a story or comment on it. Others would message me privately to show their support and share a part of their story with me. Some have been quietly watching and reading and have chosen their moment to connect. I suspect more still are waiting for their moment.
Reading Brené Brown has helped me to really appreciate how vulnerability is the path to connection and how shame is the biggest roadblock on that journey.
For the moment I arrived thoughts of shame tried to penetrate my mind –
People will somehow know I’m separated from my wife and will judge me for being on my own. Even worse they might pity me.
They will look at me in disgust as I shovel food into my fat face.
These thoughts started to build as I walked towards the coffee shop. They vanished as I stopped and breathed.
It is a beautiful day today in Queensland. It is clear and bright and warmer than a British summer. When the humidity and storms of our summer take a break for a short time it is amazing. There is a slight breeze that I can feel on my skin. I take a deep breath and keep walking.
I am so grateful to be where I am and to have the opportunity to enjoy it. I have nowhere I need to be right now, nothing I need to do. I choose to accept this gift with wide open arms.
That gratitude can defeat shame in a single moment of ‘just being’ is amazing. Taking a mindful breath and turning from shame into gratitude can melt away years of deep engrained shame and anxiety.
For me mindfulness is the door to gratitude. When I practice mindfulness to really be present in a given moment I can’t help but move straight away to gratitude.
I ordered scrambled eggs, mushrooms and avocado and resisted the urge to add halooumi to my meal. For the briefest moment shame attempted to come back as I took the first bite –
You shouldn’t be eating at all fatty.
Be quiet shame, I’m trying to enjoy my breakfast.
I ate mindfully. Savouring every fork, pausing to write as I ate. I experienced the earthy richness of the mushrooms. The fruitiness of the avocado cut through by the sharp citrus of fresh lemon juice. The fluffy nourishing smoothness of the eggs that sat on top of sourdough toast in which I could taste the yeast and the flour. The pepper freshness of rocket leaves and the zingy fruity spice of tomato chutney.
I made different combinations with every bite. Some forkfuls triggered memories of other breakfasts at other times in other places. Some revealed more depths of flavour.
I only realised afterwards how long it had taken to eat. Mindful eating banished any thoughts of shame that tried to appear.
I’m on my second coffee now. Other customers have arrived and left in the time I’ve been here. The seat I chose near the coffee machine overlooks the whole coffee shop. I’m wondering what stories all these people have to tell. Most people are smiling. The staff are working hard but all look content. A chap I presume to be the owner is pitching in and clearing tables, replacing cutlery and napkins.
I haven’t really spoken to anyone besides ordering and thanking the people that brought me my food and coffee. I don’t think I need to today. I feel connected to the people around me just by sharing this space. There will be no deep connections today, no friendships formed. We will just silently share this one moment of one Sunday of our lives. Maybe no-one else will remember the guy in the Ramones shirt that ate slowly and seemed fixated on his phone. It doesn’t matter. We are all connected, we just have to take the time to find and savour the connection.
Turning away from shame and towards mindfulness and gratitude is vital for me to find connection. But perhaps the most important thing is that I honestly feel worthy of connection.
Worthiness is hard to find in a place of anxiety and shame so it can feel hard to achieve.
Mindfulness and gratitude can open that door. I was only able to eat alone today because I actually like my own company. When I practice all the things I’ve learned I can see that I am not a bad person and the fact that I try so hard to find connection and value it so deeply makes me feel worthy of it.
I’ve finished my coffee now. I noticed my car parked across the road. I think I’ll go for a drive. I’ll leave a kindness card and $5 on the way out and I’ll have an awesome day.