Coffee shops do wonderful things for my soul. I could sit in a coffee shop for three straight hours and do nothing but watch other people’s lives and listen to John Mayer sing “A Beautiful Mess”. It’s one of my, “Amy, go reset yourself!” songs. Somehow I think that when Starbucks on Lake Blvd was being built, God smiled and thought, “this place is gonna do Amy a whole lot of good!”
When life gets frustrating, I start tackling it like a floor full of building blocks. If I can’t master the blocks, they turn themselves into clouds of irrational ideas. I’m terribly professional at strategizing how to right things whose “wrongness” is questionable. From blocks to clouds, I’m an over-thinker, and heads quickly become tails. The best reset button I know for such an occasion is an afternoon alone in a coffee shop. It doesn’t solve my life’s problems, but it does help to evaporate the ones that don’t actually exist! And that’s precisely what a day (or week) spent battling the blocks and clouds needs.
For all the wonders that a coffee shop can work on my head, I’m not there often enough. I have whole pockets full of things I know make my life richer, and yet I do them infrequently. Things like being alone, or taking a walk when it’s almost dark. Things like driving down back roads listening to classical music with the windows down. One should almost always drive with the windows down. You take in a lot more of the world that way—a world you are otherwise too occupied to see. These things bring me life. Every time without fail, I come back thinking I should do them all the time. But I don’t, and it’s because I don’t often feel like doing them. I have to twist the arm of some person inside. It has been a sobering observation of mine that we don’t do the things we want as often as we might presume. Rather, we do most often what we find to be comfortable and easy. A good deal of the things we truly want are things we have to tell ourselves to go do. It’s as if the best parts of our lives are dark leafy greens—really good soul food that sits healthy on the inside, but lacks the “eat me!” charisma.
I used to think that discipline was simply to help me do things I didn’t care for. It could perhaps be an elementary revelation, but it surprised me that our passions and desires demand discipline too. Things most valuable to us don’t automatically slot themselves into our lives. We have to schedule, and form habits around them. I used to think that if I could just clear away all the things I didn’t want, then in that great space I would begin to do all my passions. But no, the only things that fill giant spaces, are things you do without thinking—things of comfort and habit. Everything else, regardless of how important, has to be chosen and worked into our lives. It’s a strange concept to me to build schedules and habits for things I thought I could do from sheer inspiration. But it’s making the days richer, shaping my priorities and my life to look more the way I want. I am no longer depending on empty spaces that never come or the presence of inspiration to bring what’s important into my life. It’s there because I put it there, and it’s worth buying a few more grande iced teas for…