Yesterday I was talking to a friend who was about to finish up with a retailer she’d been working for for over 10 years. A larger company had bought the store where she had been employed and her position was now non-existent. So, she was bemoaning the end of one job and trying to work out what to do next. During the conversation my friend looked at me and smiled, frowned, or laughed while she spoke; I kept glancing out the window, all the while wondering what was so great about my life and other questions starting with how, why and what.
I didn’t express this, that would probably be considered rude and also it would make her uncertainty seem less in a way, maybe. I really don’t know, but it did seem that telling her wouldn’t solve anything for either of us.
This morning when I woke up I couldn’t decide what to do about breakfast, nothing in my kitchen looked very appealing. So I left the house and strolled along the streets, until I found something that was appealing, a small café with bad lighting! I ordered and took my breakfast to a table as far away from other people as I could. Still, a tall, bearded man came and sat at the table next to mine. He seemed to want to talk to someone and it appeared that someone was going to be me.
As man sat at the table next to me he started tipping sugar into his coffee, smiling to himself. While stirring his coffee however he opened up with, “so this is a happy coincidence!” I was a little bemused, I’d never met this man before, but he was talking like he was happy to meet up with me again, funny thing is, I was intrigued, so asked “how so?” The man looked at me and said, “well you’re eating breakfast and I’m eating breakfast and we’re sitting next to each other, do you want any more sugar I got too many?” I must have looked confused because he continued, “I’m happy to have the chance to sit next to someone who I can talk to while eating my breakfast”. “Oh”, I replied. “So, do you need any more sugar?” he asked. I shook my head.
Once the man had finished stirring his coffee and taken a long gulp, he looked at me again and said, “I was out on my usual morning walk and it started raining, so figured I’d come on in. The food’s okay, you know Gloria’s across the road is probably more to my liking.”
“So why didn’t you go there?” I asked. He smiled, “I don’t know, my legs just took me here. It’s a nice day don’t you think?” I looked out the window at the drizzling rain on the pavement and the grey clouds above and answered, “it’s raining.” He laughed, “yes, but it won’t last, it never does and you know, the sun continues to shine above those clouds, that you can be certain of. There are a lot of things in life to be certain of, like the sun shining, the moon rising, and even if you can’t see either, you know they are there. It’s like communication.”
I was a bit surprised by the last sentence and wondered out loud how the sun and moon were like communication. He laughed and replied that he didn’t mean that they were like it, just that they were always there, even if you couldn’t see them.
“You see”, he continued, “we are all surrounded by people at times during our days, whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or strangers”. We decide how we communicate with them and we decide how that communication will take place. Will we smile, wave, turn our bodies away from theirs; will we say one word, two or more? Sometimes the less we express verbally, the more we are actually revealing.” This was something I’d not given much thought to before.
Of course I knew about using non-verbal communication like body language, I’d just never dwelled on the idea that one outweighs the other during interactions. I smiled at the tomatoes on my plate, and also felt slightly guilty. I thought of my friend and the changes she is going through. Even though I’d sat with her, I wasn’t fully focusing on her. I was there in body, but I’m sure if I were able to look at myself during our connections from another table, I would see someone whose body language said that I was not wholly present. So ultimately I was more than likely communicating my actual thoughts or feelings, just not in words!
The man next to me interrupted my silent reverie by saying, “you know, just by looking down or away, you are communicating however in your smile I know you are listening. I looked directly into the man’s eyes and smiled. “Thank you and you are right, it is a happy coincidence that you have sat next to me.” He smiled back and continued to eat his sausages.
We ordered another coffee each and sat talking about the day and what we both liked to do. He was a painter and had just finished the inside of a very large house. He felt he needed a few days off before starting the next house. I hadn’t really given my day much thought past breakfast. The man laughed and said between sips of his coffee, “that is a nice thought”. I didn’t follow him, and said so. To which he replied, “you have the whole day to do whatever you choose, if I were you I’d look to enjoy myself, therefore choose anything that brings me joy!” I nodded and affirmed, “that makes sense, I do have the whole day and as it’s such a nice day, I will begin with a walk around my favourite park.” He gave a throaty laugh and answered “well, what are you waiting for, enjoy your day”. And with that he stood up, gave a nod of his head and walked away.
I left the café with a spring in my step and inspired by the day ahead. As I walked towards my favourite park I made more of an effort to walk with my chin up and smiling at people who looked my way. The why’s, how’s and what’s really didn’t matter so much, just the question, what now!