#104 Coffee with John, Virtual Edition: The Past Colliding with the Future

Memories of times, circumstances, and people from our past are tricky, especially if three decades have passed in between.

We hold memories frozen in time, a permanent canvas we have affixed through the paintbrushes of our truths. We seize in our timeline circumstances and people, giving them attributes we still think hold. How they spoke, behaved, or looked, we hold in our mind as if time had not transpired.

Whenever I connect with a person from my past, my memories collide with theirs, forming and amplifying my affixed canvas with their own brushes of paint. The painting takes a more expansive view with new context, hues, and realities. What they remember, how they perceived me and their experiences add to the memories, giving me a glimpse into new perspectives.

Not surprisingly, the image of who the people I knew them to be at 15 or at whatever age our past selves had crossed, crumbles as well. Physical attributes might remain, but whatever image or memories of who they were, are but a mirage when looking through the lens of the now,

Questions of genuine change come to mind when I think of all this: how have we ourselves have changed without ourselves considering the passing years? Are we the same deep inside? Are the fears, insecurities, awkwardness of our youth still lurking on the surface, holding us back from becoming the better versions of ourselves? Physical appearances wave but, at the core, can people change?

I know I am not the same person from my youth or even from three or two years ago. Along the way, I have confronted fears, hang-ups and have faced life circumstances that have shaped who I am at this moment. Still, the journey continues. Lots of work to go.

I appreciate my coffee mate for sharing his past and present self with me. I am honored and grateful for his honesty in letting me into a window of his life as he confronts personal and emotional challenges. The upward stream we all face in the journey of life can become part of our core and what can as our cataclysm for change, a change for the better.

#103 Coffee with John: A Reckoning

Three years into the project with 40, plus coffee meet-ups to reach my goal. The journey leading here has not always been smooth: lack of energy to move forward, questioning my drive and desire to continue.

Why am I doing this project still? With passing of time and grief taking a different hue, what drives the project? Is the project changing from its original iteration? What is the driving force behind my motivation now? Are there any other takeaways I can gauge without repeating myself?

Meeting number 103 helped me address some of those queries. My coffee mate shared part of his story and talked to me about his personal and creative outlets – powerlifting, photography, film, vlogs.

The challenge of pursuing a passion, personal endeavor/goal, fitness goals came up in the conversation. Recently, I saw a friend post on their social media a meme about choosing your hard. That echo with the sentiments we had discussed. All can be hard, depending on how you look at that one thing that keeps eluding you – losing weight, seeking relationships, overcoming personal challenges, pursuing artistic goals. Each pursuit can be a challenge for different reasons: time, money constraints, professional hurdles, limiting believes.

How we overcome those challenges, and how much sweat and energy we pour into them become part of the equation of how we choose to live our lives. Part of my path since my wife’s passing has been creating connections and pursuing different personal artistic ventures. Coffee with John is part of that journey.

My coffee meet-up reminded me how much I enjoy engaging with people, hearing their stories, and learning and being inspired by the conversations. The original drive that inspired me to start this project is evolving. I am not the same person from three years ago. What iteration will this project have when I end is to be determined.

For now, I will continue to enjoy the journey.

What is your journey? How do you choose to live your life? What pursuits challenge you?

If you are interested in hearing others wrestle with those questions or even being part of the conversation, I encourage you to listen to my coffee mate’s podcasts Create Inspire Explore on Spotify or tune into his YouTube channel.

An Invitation – What is your Story?

When was the last time you told your story?

This is a question poet/author Mark Nepo asks in his “The Book of Awakening,” entry for September 5th, page 303.

The question is an invitation to share your story as a way to heal, mend the heart, and come to terms with the past.

Telling your story can save and liberate you. Write down your story or tell it, over and over again.

My only word of caution is don’t become your story or overindulge. That’s always a fine line to walk, one we might need to cross to fully understand and come to terms with our story.

So tell me your story?

A Coffee Break: Let’s be Frank

You!

Yes, you.

Look, I don’t care.

I have to be honest with you. I don’t care if you like me or not. I don’t.

So here it goes.

I wish for all of your dreams, aspirations, and hopes to come to fruition in this lifetime. I wish for you to be happy. I wish for you to be prosperous. I wish for you to have health.

I wish for you to be happy. I wish for you to be free from suffering. I am sending you love, and best of wishes for this day.

Happy Friday!

Have a magical, wonderful day today and every day.

#102 Coffee with John

The introvert, my penultimate meeting, and the extrovert, my most recent.

The former, a self-proclaimed introvert, did not mind aspects of the pandemic. Acknowledging her good fortune – health, economic stability, and other blessings in her life – the circumstances of social distancing and the limited social engagements provided opportunities for personal healing, self-discovery, relaxation, discovery, and a much welcomed slower pace of life.

On the other hand, the self-proclaimed introvert, also aware and grateful of her good fortunes, had a different experience. The pandemic provided a set of unwelcome challenges and tribulations.

Two experiences through different lenses.

The experience of meeting these two incredibly warm and grounded, yet different individuals highlighted and reminded me of the importance of connecting with others.

No matter how we experience, sense, or interact with the world, making connections at the individual or at levels that fit our comfort level nourishes the spirit.

Both of them ventured to meet and connect with me for the first time. Our respective interactions provided a point of accentuation – a break in our daily lives inviting us into a journey of laughter, conversation, and discovery.

Hearing their divergent experiences opened my own lens of understanding, compassion, and sympathy/empathy.

It is easy to isolate, get caught in our daily routines, or stay in our lane without venturing to talk to strangers or meet up with different communities from ours. The challenge is to get over those hurdles. Jumping over those obstacles is a personal journey but I bet the introvert and the extrovert in you will appreciate the leap.

Reflection of Gratitude

This post showed up on my Facebook Memories recently, conjuring up bittersweet memories of what seems like a lifetime ago.

A sentiment that comes across is the immense gratitude for all the people that supported and carried us through those difficult times.


So many to fully and properly acknowledge, from the team of doctors, nurses and hospice workers who showed compassion and care, friends who accompanied my wife to her chemo sessions, the folks that started meal trains and fundraising campaigns, to those that were there to console me when my wife passed.


In between, there are so many people that helped my family and myself get through.
I will forever be thankful to the kindness, love, generosity and love we were grateful to receive.

I give you my gratitude a million times over.


Gracias mil

Interlude: Catching Up

Today, after a year and a half or more, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of my first CWJ coffee mates.

In addition to being an amazing Zumba dancer with the kind of energy that brightness up a room, she is a trailblazer, a wonderful soulful friend, and a gem among stones.

In her own words, check out her video on how at 38 she joined the Air Force, confronting fears and doing something not a lot of people would think of doing in their late 30s.

What fears do you feel you need to conquer? Do you have a dream, yet to chase?

#100 Coffee with John, Virtual Edition

The 100th meet-up! I have arrived at a point of accentuation, a milestone in a journey leading to connections, both old and new in many senses of the word.

I could not have planned for a better companion for this benchmark in my ultimate goal of 150 coffee meet-ups with different people. We caught up for about an hr, talking about our daily lives, kids, and nothing in particular. I typically don’t go into details about my coffee mates but, making the exception here, let me introduce you.

She is a Vassar graduate, an MBA from the University of Michigan, Goldman Sachs alumna, author, consultant, board member of countless organizations, international speaker, the first woman to serve as CEO of the Dominican Republic Stock Exchange (BVRD), making her the first woman to hold such a position in Latin America.

If that was not impressive enough, I am honored and privileged to announce that my coffee mate for my 100th CWJ is at 52 years old getting ready to embark on obtaining a master’s in public administrations from Harvard University. Not only has she gotten accepted into the program, but she has also received the prestigious Presidential Kennedy Fellowship awarded on merit.

But most of all she is my sister-in-law. Our connection is that of shared memories, blood connection between her children and my son, and our deep love for her sister, my wife. We are bounded by an invisible thread of kinship. It is that human connection that transcends the accomplishments, accolades, successes, and all those identifiers/qualifiers/modifiers we carry around as our identities.

On paper, I find we are sometimes intimidated to talk or even approach a person we see with an impressive resume or a life filled with accomplishments after accomplishments, placing them on a pedestal and forgetting that we are all humans with a capacity to bond with each other, even for brief moments. The opposite can also be true where we are the ones thinking we are above a certain level to converse or bond with a person not within our social strata.

We all share that magical thread, the thread of love, suffering, experiencing loss, and all the emotions that makes us human. It is that space where I find beauty in sharing a moment and a conversation. Hope you too find that beautiful space as you step out of yourself and connect with others.