Slow down, enjoy life

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My caramel iced latte hits the spot this afternoon. Once again, I perch in my corner of the East Tennessee Coffee Company, watching people come and go. Today, I almost stayed at home thinking no one would really care if they saw me or not. At home I know so many people that I almost always bump into a friend everywhere I go. It’s different being in a place where nobody knows my name.

Actually, a few people do, but not very many. I usually meet someone friendly when I refuse to give into shyness and go out alone. Today is no exception. The jolly guy with the long beard who also frequents this establishment grinned when he saw me. With eyes twinkling he teased, “Did someone get your spot? You aren’t in your usual place!”

My waitress nodded my way and said, “How is your writing going this morning? Do you have something new for me to read?”

Tabitha was in a talkative mood and proudly showed off her new tattoo. I’m not a tattoo person, myself, but it was very pretty.

Tabitha chattered excitedly about the upcoming housewarming at her new home. My young friend is probably in her 20s and has a precious 2-year-old little girl. As we visited today I was surprised to hear Tabitha describe herself as quiet and withdrawn.

“I really don’t talk to many people,” she said.

“You’re kidding. You are always so friendly and outgoing.”

“Well, I only feel really comfortable with you and about five other people who come in.”

This beautiful young lady had gifted me with her friendship. I felt honored, and it made me realize anew that looks can be deceiving. Someone I perceived as so friendly and outgoing battled shyness, as well. We all have to deal with shyness, insecurity, jealousy, or something.

It’s only when I push out of my own comfort zone that I am truly able to see others. I’m so glad I didn’t stay at home and feel sorry for myself today. When we are vulnerable and show our humanity others realize that they are not alone.

The coffee shop conversation floats by, and I listen as I write. One fellow recommends his morning companion to a family therapist. A lady in a booth nearby shares happy news of her family. Another woman declares the challenges she faces in making time for important things in life. A young lady receives council concerning her future career path whether she wants it or not.

Between the chatter and laughter something wonderful happens. People of many ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ages all mesh together in this beautiful thing called life.

I have learned invaluable lessons by spending time in a new place. It has opened my eyes to the benefits of speaking less and listening more. That is quite a revelation for a big talker like me! These quiet moments have caused me to realize that everyone has a story, and is waiting for someone to care enough to listen.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at