Walking to my flat late Friday afternoon after a chaotic morning, I was confronted with the fact that I hadn’t yet had lunch. I had an empty fridge at home, and was at that specific point of plunging blood sugar where just lying down in the middle of the road and moaning seemed like the most logical and helpful thing to do.
Salvation presented itself just a block up the road in the form of my favourite tea shop, and I stumbled in gasping for tea and something massively full of protein.
While waiting for my lunch to arrive, my already depleted mood plunged even further down, and I started to sink into one of those obsessive quicksands of the mind, from which light and happiness seem only a distant dream. Let’s be honest—my hormones were also probably creating their own personal tornado of chaos and wreckage. Deadly.
And so, I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted to burst into tears or start swearing until I lost my voice. Good thing I couldn’t decide, because both behaviours would have been rather distressing for all the middle-aged ladies having afternoon tea.
I was distracted by the loud voice next to me: an older woman lunching with her friend. “Life is too short to worry about things like that. There is so much joy to be had!”
I didn’t catch the murmured reply of her friend, but I did an interior eye roll. I was not in the mood for chipper cliches about this terrible world we are destined to rot in. I continued munching away at my food, stuck in my miserable quicksand.
The older lady’s voice again broke into my personal space. She was speaking on her cellphone to what sounded like a grandchild. “My darling! I am so very proud of you, and I love you so much!”
I glanced up in her direction—how sweet she sounded! She caught my eye and winked. I just smiled—vaguely surprised—as Londoners are not, in my experience, friendly to strangers.
She got off the phone and leaned over. “That was my niece. She lives in Nottingham. Her mother and I (she gestured over to her lunch partner) are having a London adventure together, and we were updating her on everything!”
I nodded and smiled.
And from there, I found out that the younger lady had been born in Montreal, and that her father had been born and raised in Calgary, where I am from. I found out everywhere they had explored in London over the past two days and marveled at their energy.
They oozed enthusiasm for London. They admitted that the overcast weather can take getting used to, but that it is so full of history and beauty and cultural experiences that it is one of the most magical places to be. “Take advantage of everything you can! Enjoy it fully!”
Then the older woman asked to take a picture with me for her photo journal of the week’s adventures. She put her arm around me and squeezed tight, melting my heart. “You are so pretty and sweet, my dear!”
Could my day get any better?
As they put on their jackets to leave, I commented on the older lady’s scarf. I told her I had seen one like it a few weeks back and fallen in love with it, but not taken the opportunity to snap it up.
She whipped it off of her neck and wrapped it around mine. “Take it! It will bring you good luck.”
I protested; she laughed at me. I reminded her of the chilly weather outside; she said her coat was warm enough. She simply tied the scarf into a knot—“A knot of friendship!”—and then…both women just walked out.
I was left with a vague feeling that none of it had really happened. HOW did any of it even happen? How did a conversation even start? How had I ended up at a table next to two women who reminded me of exactly what I needed to hear? How was I sitting at my table with a gorgeous, delightfully scented scarf wrapped around my neck? The thought crossed my mind that maybe they were angels. Why not?
My mood of an hour earlier was banished. Suddenly I did know that life is full of joy—just as the lady had said—and that I just had to seize it. I knew that I wanted to grow up to be just like them: happy and joyful, enjoying life because life is good. I wanted to be kind to sullen girls in tea shops who are hungry and PMS-ing, and give them surprise presents to make their day full of a little bit of brightness and magic.
I couldn’t stop thinking of them all evening. I walked around with the scarf wrapped around myself, feeling as if I was wrapping myself up in joy and kindness. But more than that, I was reminding myself—and still am—of how important it is to display that joy and kindness and love to those I come across. Always. Because you never know how much it might mean.
Photo attribution: By Астель (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.