#56 Coffee with John

I don’t know if I have a clear takeaway. What I left with was the thought of the stories we leave behind and the stories that precede us – those of our ancestors including our parents and next of kin.

How do those stories shape and define us? Do they inform us? Do the weight on us? Do those stories have any bearing on our lives and future? Do they matter in the end?

As someone that likes stories, I have always been curious about the stories of my relatives and those that came before me.

But what about mine? What is my story?

“…jmm was born in a small town in Colombia..life circumstances brought him to the United States where he lived in New York for XX years…Went to XX college..worked at XX place for XX years. He was married for XX years and had an only child. Not long after turning 45, his wife passed, leaving him a widower. After that, he continued to live in Charlotte NC for XX years until he blah, blah, blah. And that, children, is the story of your great grant-uncle/grandfather/great-grandfather/….”

That’s certainly part of my tale but do I even care if it’s passed down to future generations? Do you think of the story or legacy you will leave behind for the next bloodline?

All I can say is that what matters to me is having a positive imprint in the people around me – my kid, family, friends, colleagues, community and those I come in contact with, even for short periods.

In the end, whatever the story people will tell about me in the future (or even now) is filtered through their own lenses. So, all I can do is live life and write my story as life happens. I leave others to interpret and create their own narrative of it.

I guess the takeaway is that stories of our past, along with us, will fade. What matters is the now and how we chose to live our lives at this moment for ourselves and for those in our lives.

#55 Coffee with John

Coffee with John #55

This was another meet up that had been in the works since the beginning of Coffee with John (CWJ). For whatever reason, it took until this past Saturday morning to come to fruition.

All I can say is that it was a fulfilling get-together on so many levels. To paraphrase the lovely and beautiful soul that made that cold Saturday morning radiant, “the meeting was natural.”

Maybe we would have not talked for two or so hours if we had met before. Maybe, after not seeing each other for 7+years, the meeting would have been awkward if we had met a year go. May we would have not connected as we did.

Lots of maybes but I have no doubt in my mind that the timing was perfect. We were meant to have that meeting when we did.

One of the takeaways from that is that we can’t rush or force things. I try not to push or force Coffee with John meetings on people. If it happens, it happens. Sometimes I might insist but I do try for these meetings to be as organic as possible. Sometimes people come to me, other times I go to them.

There are plenty of people that I have approached or that have shown an initial interest but no dice. And I am okay with that. I truly believe you can’t force things. It’s all good. Let go and receive, right?

The other takeaway from this meeting was a reminder for me to focus on myself again. I have been talking a lot about exploring and focusing on myself but I have been distracted by going out, attending networking events, meeting/dating people or just getting involved with different projects — not that any of that hasn’t been fun. It has been a blast but I have neglected some things I had set out to do a while back.

The conversation reminded me to take the time to get to know and reconnect with myself. For me, my identity as a husband and father is being redefined. I am reconnecting with pieces of myself that I might have forgotten as well as discovering new aspects of myself. There are also aspects of my personality that I want to work on.

We all need to connect with that being that resides within us. Sometimes we take it from granted and focus on other priorities.

The journey to connect with that special inner being can take many forms and we all need to find our path. It can mean reading self-help books, taking personality tests, meditating, challenging yourself out of your comfort zone, exploring poetry, taking time off from whatever distractions, connecting with the artist within or just being comfortable in solitude.

I have rambled enough. If you made it this far, I thank you for reading and send you my love for being you, just the way you are.

#53 Coffee with John

Coffee with John #53

Holy crap! That’s how my day leading to Coffee with John #53 started.

I had woken up feeling dandy, outlining in my mind the rest of the day. I had just gotten out of the shower and I was ready to tackle the morning. I went to look at my phone to find a message reading something like “running late for our coffee meeting. Should be there shortly.”

Holy crap! I had completely forgotten about the meeting, which we had scheduled almost a month in advance and which had been on the works since I began Coffee with John almost a year ago.

So holy crap I had to hustle to make it. Luckily, I called to let them know of my mishap and we worked things out. We had a great meet up and conversation.

But that whole day was just a series of holy crap! I went the whole day commiting a series of forgetful infractions. I can’t even remember but just to give you an example I had forgotten that I had turned the burner on but, luckily, I had turned the wrong one on where I had placed milk to boil. So it went the whole day just like that. All I know is that fortunately I don’t operate heavy machinery for work or else someone might have lost a finger or worse.

The takeaway from the meeting and that eventful day is to be flexible with yourself as somedays things will just not go as planned.

We could have mutually gotten upset and canceled the meet up as we were both running late. I could have beaten myself for not being more attentive to my surroundings or more organized in my planning.

In those situations, you have to take ownership, laugh at yourself and go with the flow.

#52 Coffee with John

Coffee with John #52 was a perfect combination of a Sunday breakfast at a Colombian restaurant, which I had been craving for ages, and coffee afterward at Amélie’s.

The food was great at the restaurant, the coffee not so much. (You would think, Colombian place=good coffee, but there you have it.)

What was great all throughout was the conversation. I have to say that I truly have enjoyed each and every coffee meet up.

Each meeting has been different, some light and others, emotionally heavy. I am always enriched by each experience. I am honored and grateful that people have taken the time to meet with me. And I am deeply honored when people open up and decide to share their personal stories with me.

So, to answer the question, yes. I will continue to meet people for Coffee with John for the next foreseeable future. I do have a magic number in mind to culminate but that’s a long way still.

My takeaway from Coffee with John #52 is that I really enjoy talking and learning about people. I like connecting and sharing.

The other takeaway, which I attribute 100% to what my partner in crime on this coffee meet up said: life doesn’t happen after you accomplish XY&Z.

We often think that our lives will somehow magically be better after we retire, move, get that degree, change jobs, meet that special person, get that promotion, or whatever we think we need to achieve to truly enjoy ourselves and our lives.

Life is happening right now. Whatever you are in the midst of, enjoy the journey. I am not saying don’t have goals. Goals are part of the life path you are taking.
Just don’t think your life will begin after you accomplish that goal. All I am saying is don’t forget yourself and others while striving to achieve those benchmarks in your life.

#51 Coffee with John

This was my first coffee back in Charlotte since Vegas.

Many takeaways from this last meeting but what came through and resonates in my mind still is the importance of self-care.

We can’t sacrifice our physical or mental well-being to meet other people’s expectations, desires, needs.

Sure, there will be special circumstances when we have to put ourselves last to care of those that depend on us for their own well-being but, for the majority of the time, there are no excuses.

You can’t take care of others or take on projects if you don’t take care of yourself first. Not sure if this is an actual Buddha saying or not but the sentiment applies, “Remember to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Self-care can mean many things: resting, exercising, eating well, seeking counseling, or just taking time for yourself away from others. For me, this week it has been about getting that physical done after postponing it for almost two years now –the next step will be making appointments to the optometrist.

Give yourself some love and take care of, you! Listen to your body and do what you have to do.

PS: The conversation just flowed during the meeting and I forgot to take my regular picture to record the moment. So here is a picture from Vegas. Because, why not?

#50 Coffee with John

Fifty is an epic number.

So it was fitting that Coffee with John #50 was of epic proportions. Not only because it happened in Vegas, but also because it was a gathering of people dear to my heart.

While we did have a semi-official Coffee with John on the last day we were all together, I see this more of a series of conversations we had over coffee (and other drinks) at different intervals during odd hours of the day/night. Sometimes all of us a group or other times , one-on-one.

My biggest takeaway: the value of friendships.

Two of the guys that joined me in Vegas I have known since my teens. One of them has been a close friend since the first month or so of me arriving in this country, back in 1985. The other, I met during 8 grade or so.

The third member of this Vegas motley crew was my brother-in-law whom I have known since he first started dating my sister when I was about 15/16 years old.

(The crew did not necessarily know each other before the Vegas adventure. Two of them have been friends for a while but this was really our first time taking a trip of this proportion together.)

The friendship with each over the years has been different, depending on where we have been in our lives. Some times we have been as close as dirt under nails. Some years, we have barely spoke to each other.

Regardless of differences, various experiences and physical distance between us, their friendship has always been a constant in my life, even at those intervals when we were not in contact for whatever reason.

That longevity is something that I treasure. I am grateful to have been able to remain friends after all these years with all of them. It doesn’t matter how much time passes before seeing each other, we always pick up as we had seen each other just yesterday.

The other takeaway from this long-extended Coffee with John: take trips with your friends. You might hate each other after or bond like never before. I know I can speak for my friends when I say that we all learned new things about each other, things we never knew about each other before. Nothing earth shattering. Just about each other’s idiosyncrasies.

So, yes. Value, cultivate your friendships and plan a trip with close friends. Cultivating and maintaining those friendships takes work at times, but don’t neglect your friendships. That’s my takeaway.

#49 Coffee with John

Where to begin? This was definitely a special encounter. So many takeaways.

But I guess the one that predominates is be adventurous, take risks.

If my previous post was about learning to say no, this one is about the complete opposite.

We need to let go and learn to say yes to new adventures in our lives. Excuses abound: I am too old; the place it’s too far; I have never been; what if they don’t like me; what will people say, and what about this and that.

At times in our lives, we need to put those concerns aside and just go with the flow. I am not saying to be careless or reckless but sometimes you just need to go for things in life without much thought, if that makes sense.

You never know where those new adventures will lead. You might end up rolling around in an open field, laughing, feeling the grass and ground underneath your body, and sharing a magical, wonderful moment on a sunny, Sunday afternoon — an afternoon and a moment in time that will fill your spirit and body with joy.

That moment of bliss might not last, but it will be etched in your soul, heart, and skin, informing and contributing to your vase of happiness.

So, go out there and be adventurous. That can mean anything, take a new route to work/home, listen to new music, talk to a stranger….the possibilities are endless.
If you do end up undertaking a new adventure in your life, let me know. I would love to hear all about it.