I ended Tuesday’s post (“On Overcorrection, Part Two”) with a question:

It makes me wonder if choosing the correct path (vs. the overcorrect one) is easier when you’re working with someone you trust and/or love.

I am pretty sure I have the answer to that, but I’m not sure I want to write about it yet.

Instead, I want to write about what happened yesterday afternoon, when I went to a coffee shop for the first time in over a year.

I got the Johnson & Johnson (aka “Janssen”) vaccine on Tuesday, April 6.

According to the CDC, maximum protection kicks in at two weeks — so I marked Wednesday, April 21 on the calendar, and then I decided to mark the date by buying myself a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop that had been shipping me bags of small-batch, single-origin coffee since I moved in with L last summer.

I’d never been inside this coffee shop.* It was the only thing I could think about, the entire night before I went; how it might be like it used to be, even though it couldn’t possibly be like it used to be, even though the only thing I wanted was to go into a coffee shop full of people and noise and good smells and the opportunity to start a conversation, even though that was a substitute for what I actually wanted, which was for things to be like they were before.

I know, by the way, that things will never be like they were before. Things rarely are; especially after illness. We are all changed. We are all still changing.

Except for the parts of us that remain, resolutely, the same.

Because I rarely started conversations in coffee shops even when I used to go on a more regular basis. Not unless I was meeting someone there on purpose. Not unless I saw someone I knew well enough to say anything beyond “Hello!”

And I didn’t say anything to the person who was working the counter beyond what was absolutely essential to getting the coffee transaction completed, plus a brief pleasantry about how I hadn’t heard ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” in forever. We were both masked, and I didn’t want to linger long enough to make anyone feel anxious or uncomfortable, but I doubt I would have started an actual conversation even if there had never been a pandemic.

Even if there had been anyone else in the coffee shop besides me and the person working there.

I drank my coffee outside, under an awning, as it started to rain.

Then I went back home and cried, because it hadn’t been what I wanted — and because the reason it hadn’t been what I wanted was partly the pandemic and partly me.

I should have waited until L and I could have gone together. It was one of those deals where I didn’t tell him much about what I was doing and why I was doing it, because I knew that if I opened my mouth I would let the fantasy escape — and I had to protect my own delusions, for whatever reason, until I understood them on my own terms.

But when I did tell him, he and I had a very interesting conversation that he has told me I will have to write about someday, first because he always says that the purpose of life is to learn something and pass it on, and second because it ties right in with everything else I’ve been asking this week — whether two people, when they love and trust each other, can help each other become better.

Not just at correcting vs. overcorrecting, but at everything.

And I’m pretty sure I already have the answer to that. ❤️

*Fun fact: I am currently living in a mid-sized Midwestern town about 20 miles from the tiny town in which I grew up. Since I moved in with L during the pandemic, I found myself in the interesting situation of living in a place that I used to know like the back of my hand — while being completely unable to experience both the parts I remembered and the parts that had changed. That’s why I had never been inside this particular coffee shop, and one of the reasons I was so excited to go.

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