Not-Dying vs. Connecting...Coffee Bean Epiphanies

I've been exposing my authentic self by working on art in public. Recently I took a booth at a restaurant so I could eat and keep working. People stopped intermittently to compliment my work, and I said, "Thank you!" 

And I meant it, and I didn't get all awkward, even when someone wanted to discuss further. I Advanced the Discussion. Gimme a patch for that.

Sunday morning I checked into Beanetics for a French Press, a pastry, and a table to work. This is where the magic happened.

The little Barista-chick who likes my illustrations is leaving; next Saturday is her last day making our coffee. We - she, I, and the other regulars - joked about getting matching coffee bean tattoos on our wrists.

The Scottish guy doing genealogy work at the next table was polite or uninterested, but a dancer named Heidi leaned in close to check the detail of my work. Her mom appeared later and asked whether Heidi had seen my work; yes, she had.

Heidi's mom is named Margi, hard G. She and I had what I suspect is a conversation old ladies are especially good at, going from item A to question K-L-M with only a few mental leaps. She, too, lost a family member to a brain tumor, and another to dementia. I told her about the book I'm writing: it's for us, I said, the survivors of someone else's illness. I'd never been interested in joining a caregiver support group, I said.

"Or a grieving support group," she added.  "I don't want to hear other people's problems." I get that. I am selfish with my pain. It's private.

I thought about my Uncle John, who tried to attend a few Veteran support groups but stopped. He was a River Rat - he'd been up and down the rivers in Viet Nam. He couldn't commiserate with these guys who were still mired in the past. So maybe it's not so much privacy but perspective? Or do privacy and perspective reinforce each other?

Heidi's mom told me she understands the value of connection. "You have to talk to another human sometime," she laughed. 

So you see? That part doesn't change, the aversion vs. the need, even when you get to 81. She told me about her one confidant, someone she knew from a completely different social sphere, who became her best support when she was deciding to put her husband into hospice and later when she decide to bring him home, "because I liked him better that way." These days she connects with one or two friends who are avid quilters.

"There's an annual thing, maybe Heidi remembers the name," she mused. "The theme is always on some sort of emotion. I have a hard time coming up with something that hasn't been done so many times. Maybe you can think of something for me and I can quilt it."

The reason I hide, that I never liked to show people my work is that they say one of two things: "Why don't you be an artist?" or "Can you do this for me?"  It wasn't awkward this time. Heidi's mom hit on my favorite thing:  my work being translated by someone else. I told her I'd think about it, but I didn't have to think for very long. She had given me a gift in the conversation, and I was merely reciprocating. I sketched this picture, and I asked her to email me what she came up with, if she comes up with anything.

The side-plot here was at the table between mine and Heidi's: The Scottish guy was counseling the Bolivian Barista on genealogy and career path. Boliviano is very interested in psychology, and all of us encouraged him to pursue his dream. Like Paulo Coelho says, the Universe will conspire to help you.

Heidi's mom showed my illustration to Boliviano, and asked for his thoughts. He studied it for several minutes, and then turned to me.

"I have only one question." 

I assumed he'd ask what thing was being cradled, what that meant, but no - he was perplexed by the connection he saw in the aura of the woman seeming to go into the lotus. Coming up from her soul, he said. 

"The only thing I can come up with is there is one kind of lotus which blooms twice." Heidi's mom and I looked at each other, impressed. 

He continued, "So all I can think is that she is having hope, and she is giving it to the lotus so it can bloom again."

Damn straight, Barista. When you're busy caregiving, you forget to have hope while you focus on the day-to-day. Every survival score is measured against the patient: on a scale of one to ten, how much are you living through this? How much are  you not the one who's dying?

I hadn't created the message with words - it rose from my subconscious. Already the work of my brain trying to reconcile complex feelings had been translated into another medium.

"He's better than I am," Heidi's mom said, nodding. Me, too, and I drew the picture.

A second blooming. Second Spring is even better than second breakfast.

Further Reading:

The Meaning of the Lotus Flower - Town and Country Magazine   My neighbors used to grow lotus flowers in containers on either side of their long driveway. I'm not sure how that worked well for the plants, but I might try to grow some  myself this year. 

Book of the Dead Transformation Spells - The British Museum   My, how I love archaic literature! 

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho  I've probably given this book away more than any other. I'm still looking for my scarab beetle.

Friendship vs. Dying - An Excerpt from my upcoming book  - from this blog. Please remind me to keep working on the book!

Virginia Meetup:Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Saturday Book Club

We meet biweekly at Mosaic. Please come over. Don't worry about what you've missed - we've been reading the same book for over a year.  We're getting T-Shirts to reward ourselves for our enthusiasm and diligence.

Gödel, Escher, Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid
Buy the book. 


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