We walk into the coffee shop with masks on. This coffee shop used to be pulsating with voices and music, packed with tables, just enough space left open for a line at the register and those waiting for their drinks. Now, the front room is empty, with markers on the floor showing us where to stand. I place my order “for here” and the barista asks to see my vaccination card and my ID. They hand me a laminated card that says I can sit in the back room. When my coffee is ready, I open the door and slip into the quiet room. This room used to be full of tables and you’d still be lucky to find one. Now, it’s about half full and there are a few open. I find one that says “clean” instead of “needs to be cleaned” and I sit down and wait for you.
Soon you’re sitting on the other side of the table and we take our masks off to drink our coffee. It’s been a while since we’ve done this.
“Hi. I’m Crystal.”
And we laugh, awkwardly. It’s part-joke, but also it’s been so long. Do we know each other anymore?
“How’s your family?”
You fill me in on yours and when you’re done you ask me the same. Everyone is doing well. One relative has had some surgeries recently. They’ll be fine, but it’s been pretty intense. We went in for Moh’s Surgery at the end of November and they weren’t able to get it all because it was close to some areas that could have caused a lot of damage. They were referred to a few specialists who tag-teamed a follow-up surgery to get the rest. We’ve been lucky and the worst-case scenario didn’t pan out. They’re healing from two recent surgeries and then they’ll have some reconstruction and hopefully, this will all be behind us. It’s been stressful, but we’re thankful for how it’s gone compared to how it could have gone.
Once again, you fill me in and when you’re done it’s my turn.
Work has been extremely busy since the pandemic started because I was filming, editing, and posting worship services for two churches each week. In 2021 one church started to live stream, and at the start of 2022 another started to live stream, so now I can breathe a little bit. It’s nice to have those weekly deadlines off my plate. I spoke at a conference in February of 2020 and I spoke there again this year. I had three talks this year, which was a little exhausting! I’ll definitely pitch only two next time.
“Have you done any traveling recently? Do you have any travels planned?”
Traveling seems like such a touchy subject these days and yet traveling can also be really good for the soul. I’m reminded more and more how life is short and how the world can change practically overnight, which fuels my desire to see all that I can see before I can’t travel anymore.
You tell me what you’ve done to get out and then you ask me.
My conference was in Phoenix and I flew in the day before it started, so I made sure I flew in early enough that I’d be able to get out and visit the Phoenix Art Museum. That was a fun museum to visit because I got to see some art that isn’t typically found in some of the art museums I’ve visited recently. As for travel plans, everything has been up in the air because I was hoping to get to Japan this summer. A relative will be there for a few months–although for a while we weren’t sure it was going to happen. With the potential for a quarantine, however, and not a lot of time for them to stay once the reason they’re going is over, this year probably isn’t the year to go. I do have a few ideas in mind of places to go and I’m researching two of them right now. I’m excited about some of the possibilities!
Also, I just heard about the Frida Kahlo Immersive Exhibit, so a quick trip to Chicago might be in order. I absolutely loved the Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit and can imagine that Frida Kahlo’s could be somewhat of an emotional experience.
“How are you?”
And if this wasn’t a written coffee date, this is probably the question we would have started with, but sometimes it also feels like it might be the hardest to answer. How am I? I’m doing well. In some ways I feel like that shouldn’t be my answer; that’s not the answer social media tells us we should give. We should be stressed and on the verge of a mental breakdown. And yes, there are ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like I could run the world and sometimes I feel the opposite. There are stressors in my personal life; things that cause anxiety sometimes. The world is just really hard to exist in sometimes as we watch things like what’s happening in Ukraine right now. I’m also researching different ways I can be supportive of Ukrainians because that’s what I like to do when I’m sad and afraid and feel helpless. (We’re not helpless; there’s always a little something we can do.)
But also, I am well. I have people who I love and support in my life; people who love and support me. I do work that I enjoy. I finally learned to slow down and take time for myself: to sleep and to work out and to just sit and pet my dog while listening to an audiobook. And those moments make a big difference. I’m learning how to become a morning person. 😭
Okay, so maybe I’m not okay. 😉
When I’m down, I let myself process that. When I’m not, I take advantage. And when I’m in between I search out the good. This isn’t the first time in history we’ve experienced upheaval, but it probably is one of the first times that the various forms of social media that we live on have given us such up close and personal footage of it. We can see and hear what’s happening in real-time and we have to intentionally put our devices down (or as my dad accidentally called them the other day: our vices) in order to look away. Not looking away as in ignoring what’s happening, but looking away as in my scrolling Instagram 24/7 isn’t going to help me or anyone else and that time and energy might be better spent elsewhere. (But if you, too, spend a lot of time on Instagram, come say hi!)
I honestly didn’t anticipate ending on a “look for the good” or “choose joy!” moment but I guess that is somewhat ingrained in me because that’s what flowed from my fingertips today.
People are starting to leave. We used to be able to stay here until late at night, but now the coffee shop closes midafternoon and it looks like we’re nearing that time. We gulp down the rest of our drinks, put on our masks, and flip the sign on our table over from “clean” to “needs to be cleaned.” On our way out, we put our glasses by the trash and toss our laminated “you checked my vaccine card” sign into the basket. Once we’re outside we remove our masks and smile at each other.
“It was good to see you!”
And we’ll ask if we’re comfortable giving a hug and if you are we’ll give each other a quick one.
“I’ll see you soon!”
And this I can say to you. I have some posts I’m excited to share, so we’ll see each other again soon. Also, tell me how you’re doing.