I think something as simple as a lack of a tea bag may have altered the course of my life. I must admit to this truth, so humbly delivered to me, because it feels as if a cosmic episode of falling dominoes was destined to remind me of an important lesson. I rediscovered how to be a tourist in my own life.
Recently I made the choice to visit my local coffee shop on a Sunday morning for a cuppa after waking up only to realize just how much I needed to go grocery shopping—there was no tea. I always have tea. Panic not, dear self, because it turns out that this was no mistake and walking into my neighbourhood caffeine nerve centre was the best decision I could have made.
The place was hoppin’ on a Sunday morning with a line nearly out the door. I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding as I was suddenly transported into an inclusive club just by walking through that door. There was laughing, and talking, and that particular humming akin to a hive of activity that you find in public spaces. The energy was palpable; it drew me in like a bee to honey, bringing me into a state of awareness in the present moment that, in hindsight, felt like a freefall I never wanted wake from.
As I waited I listened to the conversations taking place around me. There were two young college-aged girls at a table by the door where the conversation fragment that floated across the room was “nae nae,” causing my lips to quirk into a smile and my imagination to begin filling in the missing details as the girls laughed to themselves in lieu of any more spoken words. The barista was speaking to someone behind me in line about how cute a pregnant woman was, but that she was too caught up in the pains of being pregnant to see it herself. At a table near the middle of the room a woman checked her phone and then tucked it away again. She had finished her breakfast but the child with her was eating on her own timetable, as children do. As I walked by I heard her ask the young girl, “Are you asking what 14+14 is?”
Nearly every table was occupied and I was witness to the beauty of it, the sheer beauty of a Sunday morning in my own neighbourhood. The place was alive and it wasn’t because of the caffeine buzz to be found there. And because we’re all sums of the whole, I was a part of that in some small way; I was adding to the experience of every single person in that room just by being there, in that exact moment, and being a conscious participant of this crazy thing we call life.
I had the distinct sense that my presence there that morning mattered. It was no accident, not even a happy one. I believe that each moment of our lives has a purpose held within its grasp that will reveal itself to us in the right time.
The purpose of my presence in the coffee shop that morning was to remind me of the ability to look at the world through the eyes of a tourist, no matter where we are or what we are doing. It’s the gift of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, or the knowledge that the small things are really the big ones, I mean the really, really big things that will end up mattering in the end.
It’s remembering that within us all we have the soul of a child that we should honour and nurture and let out to play more often than we do, because childhood may come to a close but the need for what childhood represents never leaves us. It’s the reminder that a little spontaneity in our lives won’t kill us (or our schedules!) and that pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone is something we should do more often than just when we go on vacation.
Playing the tourist in your own life doesn’t mean that you don’t know where you are or where you’re headed, it merely means that you’re aware that there’s a short time frame you’re destined to be here and you’re going to take advantage of every moment you can while enjoying the ride! One of the most delightful things about our lives here is the way in which they are honestly a choose your own adventure story with chapter endings that we have the power to influence, to change, and create to our very own specifications.
I’ve worked very hard to learn how to stop in the moment to appreciate the uniqueness of that experience. However, somehow in the past few weeks and months it appears that I had forgotten just how to do that; I felt my spirit leap for joy when I stopped to be a tourist in the coffee shop just a block down from the house I’ve lived in all my life. I felt a part of myself sigh in relief as she returned home to my physical body because I’d been ignoring her, albeit unknowingly. From now on she and I will travel together—tourists bound together by a shared understanding.
It’s amazing to me how such small acts can have lasting and reverberating impacts. All I wanted was a cup of breakfast tea and I ended up with a shifted life perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. Living in the moment is a very powerful thing.
Read more on this topic in MOMENT TO MOMENT: What it takes to be fully present»
by Molly Murphy