(Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com)
Today, a certain nosey someone at the coffee shop poked his nose around my table to sniff out what I was doing. He decided that his question was important enough to interrupt my writing flow. I lied. It wasn’t important at all but apparently it was to him. He asked: “Why are you always here?” I replied, “Because I’m stalking you.” Well, I didn’t but I wanted to. Sometimes, well most of the time, my smart mouth doesn’t always work in my favor so I’ve learned to lock it up. Anyway, I politely answered, “I’m writing.” A few questions that followed were a little annoying, so I won’t bore you with those but the question, which stood out to me as funny and a little thoughtless, if you will, was this: “Why write?” He almost suffocated me with his arrogance, almost, but I managed to gasp for air and wave that stinky sticky question out of my face. I simply replied: “I write because I must.” I was short and to the point and he didn’t have much to say. Mission accomplished. With that, he filled up with air and deflated like a helium balloon. In my head, in my head he deflated like a helium balloon. Sometimes my imagination does what it must to add humor to some trying times.
After my annoying stranger-friend found something better to do, something dawned on me. I’m addicted to writing. At least I think I am. I write because I must echoed in the foreground of my mind, venomously. I repeated it over and over in my head. From the depth of writer’s land a flounder of words emerged. I exclaimed, “Damn you coffee shop stranger, damn you.” As I drowned out the relentless echo, I settled my fists of fury and collected myself. Alright, maybe this didn’t exactly happen. Perhaps I should save the theatrics for a game of charades, you say? Okay, deal.
I don’t remember why my addiction started or when it started, but I have an inkling that Stephen King may have something to do with it. Upon researching how to be the best you can be at your craft one day, I came across this quote by him, which read: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” This system has worked, for the most part. It’s become the method to my madness. There’s just one tiny problem. I can’t stop writing. Someone please help! I don’t want to be one of those people sitting across from a group leader who says with a confident grin, “Welcome to Writer’s Anonymous” and I don’t want to be one of those people who replies: “Hi, my name is M.T. and I’m here because I’m addicted to writing.” Is there even such a thing? Geez, what if there is? Should I check myself into rehab, into W.W.A? How much is too much? I suppose the first step to getting clean is admitting you have a problem. Here are some of the dreadful things I’m guilty of…
1.Five minutes before 5:00 p.m. I get all jittery and excited. Am I excited to see my drop-dead handsome dream man for our fancy shmancy date? Nope. I’m all jittery and excited to leave work to go write (cue in wah, wah, wah).
2. If I’m inspired, I have to write. There’s no doubt about it. Thank goodness for memo-pads on cell phones. It’s saved this crazy addict from diving off the deep end for a piece of paper and a pen.
3. When I’m on a roll I’m sure as hell and ready to annihilate anyone that interrupts me or even sneezes in my presence.
4. I won’t rest until I write.
5. Sometimes I write like the end of the world is approaching and the only thing left to do is write. Although, if the end of the world happened, my writing definitely wouldn’t survive it. Well, you know what I mean- it’s a figure of speech people!
6. Is it bad to admit that I’ve cancelled plans once or twice when I’ve felt a good idea brewing? Pathetic, I know.
7. My notebook looks like a crack head went AWOL.
8. I often, well more than often, find time during the day at work to write. Shh, my boss doesn’t know. Well maybe he does, but he won’t say anything because of #3. He knows.
9. My mood swings and irritability are a result of not being productive enough or not completing my writing goal for the day.
10. It gets my heart-a-racin’, especially after I’ve completed a perfectly formed sentence, found the right words to match my ideas, or when I’ve managed to pull it together after an all-nighter. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a coherent chef-d’oeuvre of words. I get a rush that surges through my body. It’s an exhilarating feeling most would compare to sex. Did I just compare writing to sex? Oh. My. God. Maybe this is worse than I thought.
Alright, so maybe I am addicted to writing, just maybe. The list above could be a pretty clear indication, I suppose. Most of this post is far-fetched. I’m sure you could sense that. Maybe that too is a characteristic of an addict. Anyway, some people have used writing as their means for recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, but what happens when writing becomes your addiction? Is there another outlet you can plug into to wean you off of writing? Is it safe to say that writing is a healthy addiction? I suppose I’ll leave the questions to the experts. Excuse me while I end this post. I need to get another fix.
Question for you: What is something that you would hate to go without for a day? For a lifetime?
Tales from a Coffee Shop…
I had the pleasure of meeting the kindest man named Jackson at the coffee shop yesterday evening. His infectious warmth and contagious smile is hard to ignore. He seems to light up the coffee shop whenever he enters it and he’s always addressing people as dear or lovely or sweetheart having never met them before. It always makes me smile. I had seen him a few times before, typing away on his lap top but I had never spoken to him until yesterday. I’ll definitely be adding him to my mug of coffee shop friends. I suppose you can already tell since he has found a place on my blog. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is how the story goes…
A tall and lanky elderly man grabbed his coffee, walked by my table, paused and took a few steps back towards me.
“Hellooo. Watcha readin’?” he asked.
His grey eyes and face graced with wrinkles introduced a feeling of warmth and sheer happiness. He was an old fellow with a young soul and heart of gold. You could just tell.
“I’m reading Letters to a Young Poet,” I smiled holding the tiny book up.
“Letters to a Young Poet? Do you write poetry?”
I turned a little red and answered shyly, “I write some.”
“Aah so you’re a poet. Nice to meet you, I’m a writer,” he said.
It was interesting to see that he hadn’t introduced himself by name; rather he identified himself and I by our artistic endeavors. I asked him what kind of writer he was. “I’m an aspiring writer. I’m writing a book,” he told me with poise.
“About what?” I asked.
“It’s about the yearnings of life. We yearn for love. We yearn for happiness. We yearn for whatever our heart desires. So I’m writing a book about that.”
Such is life I thought. Come to think of it, it had never dawned on me until this moment. Jackson had a point. We spend most of our lives yearning for things that aren’t there. We try our damndest to end our search for love, for happiness, for success. It’s part of who we are as human beings and it’s part of the journey we call life.
The conversations we have when meeting new people make our day anything but dull. I find it fascinating and inspiring. Sometimes there’s a reason behind meeting an unfamiliar face. I always welcome new conversations with acquainted strangers. The people we meet along the way give us something to think about. They even have the power to inspire us. Jackson inspired this post.
Freedom. How sweet it is. You speak of freedom, I speak of freedom, we all speak of freedom- a word that often rolls off of slippery tongues. This idea of freedom is merely a myth and still resonates in a dream often re-created in stories or poetry. That itself is proof that freedom is something most are still in search of and desire. The explorers and storytellers? -The Def Jam poets. They’re like their very own poet’s society where they cease the moment when they’re on stage and reveal an organic representation of their struggle to find freedom. Embellished with emotion and awe-inspiring voices that send chills up your spine, each poet redesigns the stage into a political platform where matters like racial identity, gender identity, crime, poverty, violence and greed cannot be ignored. I’d say they’re rebels without a dangerous cause, just a cause. Their poems are a peaceful demonstration for intolerance, giving a voice to those who are tolerant of what they no longer have the strength to overcome.
In light of a poetry session that took place (to my surprise) at a neighborhood coffee shop in the middle of suburbia, I decided to write this post. Writing in a coffee shop- you just never know what you’re gonna get. That’s what I always say. I was excited to listen to some poetry from some fellow suburbanites. I often poke my ears around the city for some heartfelt poetry sessions so I was pleased to see that one was happening right here, right in my own backyard. I love me some poetry. It’s my weakness, I have to admit. Maybe I got it from my Pops.
These poets were my saviour for the night. I didn’t think I could bear another corny 80’s love song relentlessly piercing my ears (
courtesy of the coffee shop owners). The coffee shop poetry sesh sort of inspired me to write this post. I went home and submersed myself into some spoken word courtesy of Def Jam Poetry. It’s not hard to fall in love with most of them. I’ve been a fan ever since a professor of mine had our class listen to a poem by Jill Scott.
As much as I love the written word, there is something immensely powerful about transforming the written word into the spoken word. Here are some very powerful poems that touched me (Explicit Content Below).
I’ve always been inspired, enthralled, and moved by Def Jam Poetry. The power of the spoken word relieves us of silence and has the power to move you and the power to leave you speechless. Writer’s write what they know. Never shy of a surprise, these poets establish a social climate in a room where issues like oppression, racism, and identity are confronted. An intellectual outcry, their poetry gives the streets a life of their own, translating real-life problems into prose. Because Def Jam Poetry is reaching such a diverse audience made up of different races and class backgrounds, often the message is either misinterpreted or gets lost in translation. This is what troubles me. Often you’ll hear critics stripping poets of their expression saying “they swear too much” or “they promote violence” or “they promote misogyny.” To the culturally ignorant: these poets are narrators of reality- their reality.
Now, the point of poetry isn’t to change the world. Most poets know they aren’t going to conquer the world with one poem at a time. Poetry is about one opening up the world they live in and letting others in. It’s about reciting true accounts and making history in ways that will reach many people (the oldest form of sharing and remembering information). In return, what does the poet wish for?-An outsider’s appreciation for their story.
On that note, “How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.” -Robert Penn Warren
“He whom God has touched will always be a being apart: he is, whatever he may do, a stranger among men; he is marked by a sign.” -Ernest Renan
TALES FROM A COFFEE SHOP: A Story Within A Story
I often get approached by the strangest people in coffee shops. I haven’t figured out why this is the case but I assume they feel that I, a.k.a lonely girl sipping coffee by the window clearly stuck in thought, am the best candidate who will listen to their obscene analysis on anything small but enormously important to them. Today I had an entirely different experience meeting a stranger. It was what I would consider bittersweet and beautiful in its own way. It was just what I needed. You know that moment of bittersweet clarity, which makes you sigh and go “hmm”? This was one of those moments.
I sat down with my coffee and opened up the paper to read the obituaries, as I sometimes do. Some would find this morbid but I find them interesting. I’ve been fascinated with death and stories about those who have passed since I was a kid. I always wondered where we go when we die. Do we turn into dust and nothing more? Do our souls leave our bodies and venture off to other places, or do we come back as someone else or something else? Everyone wonders about life after death. It’s why we place so much emphasis on living the one we have now, to the fullest. We are given life and then we spend the rest of our lives searching for its purpose or meaning.
So I sat down with my coffee and opened up the paper. An elderly man dressed in a beige peat coat and a hat walked by my table, smiled and said hello, as he usually did. I often saw him there alone. He’d stare out the window and smile. I never really knew what he was smiling at but I admired him for his happiness. Maybe he was deep in thought and was reminiscing about something lovely? He didn’t seem complacent or worrisome, yet there was a particular sadness that followed him, a certain kind of sadness that made me wonder what his story was. Unlike any other day, today he stopped to talk to me. When you’re a regular at a coffee shop and you see other regulars, they are bound to turn a smile into a conversation at some point or another. That’s exactly what happened today. He walked up to my table and asked me what I was reading. I looked up at him and pointed to the paper “I’m reading the obituaries.”He looked at me with sadness and asked me if I had lost someone recently. I told him I hadn’t and explained that I occasionally read them because I find them interesting. He couldn’t understand why. He said I was too young to be concerned about death. I explained that one is never too young at all because death can happen at anytime, whether you’re young or you’re old. I figured I may as well reciprocate with the same question, so I asked him if he ever read the obituaries. He replied, “Everyday.” I wondered why. He sat down and asked me if I had time to listen to a story. I smiled and said “Sure, have a seat.” It was always a pleasure to listen to a story, especially a story from someone I had never met before.
He began to tell me that the reason why he loved to read obituaries was because his heart had never completely left the woman he once loved. I was confused. Had she passed away? Had he lost the opportunity to tell her that he loved her? He began his story by describing where he had grown up and talked a lot about a lady named Eva who had grown up with him. He said that they were practically neighbors. They attended the same high school and college and became very good friends. He was always too shy to ask her out but finally after college he worked up enough courage to ask her to the graduation dance. They dated for a year after that and then her family moved away- somewhere up north. He missed her tremendously. They called and mailed letters to each other but eventually the phone calls stopped and the letters came every so often until there were none. He had hoped that she’d call or write, but she never did.
A few more years passed and he heard through a friend that she was teaching at a school in Toronto. He decided to pay her a visit at the school. He waited across the street and watched her line up the boys and girls for home time. He told me that she looked as beautiful as she did when he last saw her. He described her as having milk white skin, dark brown hair and light green eyes. He said she was absolutely divine. His conscious was at war with him as he watched her from afar. A part of him told him he was crazy and begged him to turn around and go home. The braver part of him told him to sit tight and wait. When she finally emerged from the school doors his heart started beating so fast that he thought it was going to leap out of his chest. He called out her name from across the street. He said that she turned around slowly and smiled like an angel and mouthed his name. He was so happy that she remembered who he was, even after all those years. After a long-winded explanation for how he had caught wind of her teaching there, he asked if she’d like to get a cup of coffee. She frowned at him and declined. She explained that she was engaged to be married. She said that although she appreciated the effort, it would be indecent of her to be fraternizing with an ex-boyfriend. He told me his whole world had crashed and had fallen down on him. When I asked him what he said or what he did, he replied “Nothing. I just smiled. I had to be happy for her if she was happy. I wish I had told her I loved her though. Maybe that would have changed things. Maybe not. I’ll never know.” He told me that he had never loved any other woman the way he loved Eva and that he should have listened to the skeptical voice in his head telling him to go home. He had humiliated himself out there in the street in front of the woman he loved so much. I told him that he would have always wondered about the what if. He smiled and agreed. So I asked him what his story had to do with reading obituaries. He told me that although he had never run into her after that, there was hope he’d see her or hear her name again. After all these years and old age getting the better of him he thought maybe he’d see her name one last time in an obituary. I thought this was a little alarming. Why would anyone want to hear of someone passing away or see someone they knew in an obituary? He said he wasn’t sure when his moment to pass would be and explained, “I’m getting old and I could pass away any day now but perhaps if I see her name in the obituary then maybe I’ll feel better about dying. Maybe our souls will someday re-unite and we’ll get our chance in heaven.” I looked at him in awe and with sadness. He said, “You might think I’m crazy but I’m telling you it’s better to love after than to never love at all. So tell the one you love that you love them because you may never get that chance.” After that, he got up and thanked me for listening. I was glad I listened. It’s a beautiful story that I think I’ll tell anyone I meet. After all, we all have a story to tell, whether it’s our own or a story which belongs to someone else.
On that note, I think its time to leave this coffee shop.