Many writers (and readers, for that matter) can be divided into one of two camps: coffee people, or tea people. While I do not universally dislike tea, I definitely align myself with the first group. Luckily, there are several places close by to satiate my coffee cravings, despite the fact that I don’t live in a place with a distinctively strong coffee culture (Oklahoma City and the surrounding metro areas are not exactly known for having an abundance of coffee connoisseurs!).
I also struggle from time to time with writing discussion posts; sometimes I just want to talk about something that is not directly book-related, but when I sit down to do so, I can’t quite figure out how to get started or what it is that I really want to say. But there is something about the ambiance of a coffee shop that helps the words flow. So, I thought recently, what better place to set and write a rambling, not-quite-book-related post?
Supporting local businesses is as close to my heart as supporting indie authors, so I’m going to start this post with introducing you to one of my local coffee shops, tell you a little about it, and then share what’s on my mind. I don’t really know how this will end up going, and I would love to hear any feedback! Are you already overwhelmed by this third paragraph? Should I stick to writing things that are entirely book-related? If you have any strong feelings at all, either positive or negative, please leave me a comment!
Where Am I?
Open Flame Coffee Company + Roastery
This is currently my absolute favorite coffee shop. It’s housed in a renovated car repair shop, which gives it a unique layout. They roast their own beans in house, and if you’re here at the right time, you can listen to and watch a good amount of the process. Seating is easy to find but difficult to pick: there are comfy chairs in the corner, bar stools lining a wall filled with windows (this is where I usually prefer to sit), taller tables that are perfect for playing one of the board games kept in-house, and a flat screen TV that usually just plays relaxing scenery, like a beach or fireplace.
How’s the Coffee?
I’m drinking an iced Sugar-Free Caramel Macchiato. Yes, it’s entirely sugar-free, and it tastes AMAZING. Open Flame is the first place I found that offers sugar-free caramel drinks and it changed my life. Okay, it was a small change to my life, but still noteworthy. They offer a VAST selection of coffee and tea drinks, as well as pastries from a local bakery, smoothies, and – my personal favorite – chocolate covered coffee beans. Yeah, that erases the benefit of the sugar-free coffee. But it is so worth it, at least once in a while. My favorite thing about Open Flame is the way they treated me the first few times I came: I had heard good things, but was hesitant to try someplace new because of my need for things to be sugar free. The barista spent a few minutes talking with me and told me which of the drinks were automatically sugar free, which could be made sugar free, and even why some of them cannot be sugar free. She was very helpful and pleasant, and represented the shop in an extremely positive manner.
What’s On My Mind?
Okay, now that you’ve read about my favorite coffee shop, you’re probably more than ready to get to the point of this post. Or you might be ready to run out and get your own cup of coffee before continuing. If that’s the case, go ahead! I can wait. This post will still be here.
Now, you’ve got something cozy to drink? Pull up a chair, or settle into the sofa.
If you don’t read anything else that I have to say in this entire article, read this sentence: Life is beautiful. I know, you’re going to roll your eyes and say “you don’t know my life.” And, you’re right! I don’t know your life. Maybe the details of it are not beautiful at the moment. Maybe it’s hard, and you feel desolate and lonely. Maybe it’s painful. There is nothing I can say to “fix it” or take your struggles away, but I will stand by this truth: life is beautiful.
Let me start again another way.
I watched the new(ish) Little Women movie this weekend. The 2018 modernized adaptation, not the one that’s currently still in theatres. The book is one of my favorites from childhood, so when I checked it out from the library I felt the dual anxieties of What if it ruins the book? and What if it’s everything I could possibly want in an adaptation?
It wasn’t perfect, but I really did like it very much. In the end, after I had let it throw my emotions around all over the place, I realized the meaning of the story isn’t something as simple as growing up and looking at how sibling relationships change. The strongest point brought out through this adaptation is this: you have to romanticize your life in order to keep from becoming stuck. By “romanticize” I don’t mean anything mushy or sensual, I just mean you have to look for the good things in life. It’s easy to see the difficulties because, as another author wrote, “pain demands to be felt.” I can’t make the point in nearly as lyrical a way as the movie, so I’m not really going to try, but I do think it is good and important.
Someone else (I forget who) said to “look at your life like it’s a Studio Ghibli movie.” If you aren’t familiar with Studio Ghibli (I’ve only seen a few, but it’s enough to get the point of this quote), they are known for making beautiful animated movies. Seriously, Google “Studio Ghibli wallpaper” to see some of their work – it’s incredible! But the thing is, they don’t always paint incredible things: often they take mundane things and make them beautiful, or they add fantastical things into mundane things, as if they were there all along. This can definitely be taken the wrong way, or taken way to far – but, do you understand what I’m getting at? It isn’t denial that there are weird or bad things in life, but prioritizing the good things in order to get through life sane. It’s watching the cherry blossom petals float to the ground before taking a deep breath and continuing to cram for the test you aren’t prepared for. It’s being aware of the moments you get to spend with your friends, even if you aren’t doing anything exciting together. It’s knowing that, even when everything is uncertain, the sun will rise again. The joy that is coming is so much better than anything we face today.
I read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity last week, and I think the combination of these two works is beautiful and unprecedented. I don’t think I ever would have thought to put the two together, but honestly, they work really well. Little Women teaches the value of life, especially of growing up and learning to become an adult. Mere Christianity may be a bit more on the existential side, but it also teaches how to live a good life, in much more specific terms. Little Women sets the reader up to think critically (but also to think artistically) about life, and Mere Christianity gives the reader something to think critically about. I suppose it wouldn’t do any good to notice all of the good and beautiful things about life if you didn’t know why they are good or didn’t have a foundation for understanding why it is good for things to be beautiful. It would take quite a few more posts to flesh all of this out, and I probably wouldn’t do a very good job of it anyways, so I’m going to leave this section with this: Life is beautiful only when it has true, unchangeable meaning. And there is no doubt in my mind that life is beautiful.
So, will you do something for me? Watch this movie. Or, if it isn’t your cup of tea, read something for the pure enjoyment of it. Then read something that you have to think critically about, something that challenges you or your worldview. Stop and smell the
coffee roses, and after you recognize the beauty of the roses, wonder why they are beautiful. Don’t sit around moping about how hard things are. Look at the sky, feel the wind, feel your own heartbeat and know that you are alive and that is beautiful.
Until the next chapter,
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