What does one do when they realize that there is a void in their life that they have unintentionally created? I can tell you what I would do. I can do this because I most recently created a void in my life and yes it was unintentional although not unforeseen.
In my last few posts (not just the 8:30 am cappuccino, November 14th, 2011 and finding fabulous friends, November 15th, 2011, Stories from the cafe….November 16, 2011) I described my wonderful experiences at a particular cafe, Leva Cappuccino Bar in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where I became friends with and met so many other some fabulous people. This experience has helped me to define community, something that has always been important to me and a focus of much of my work over the years. The experience for me is a “touchstone for what we can achieve in our connections with others and for what community can look and feel like”.
Now there is an element about this experience that I have not focused on in my previous posts. However, this element is the very reason for the posts existing at all. I have often thought about writing on the subject of what I call the Leva Experience and other people have encouraged me to do so but this task never seemed to make it to the top of my to-do list.
Let me explain. You see while I was in the midst of that wonderful happening I decided to move to another city. I take full ownership for the decision and note that the move was completely optional. The decision to move was not job related it was heart related. It was a long-time coming….I had wanted to live in this city for over (should I say it?) 40 years. At that time in my life living in Vancouver just wasn’t in the cards and quickly life took over and the idea to move went to the back of my mind. It surfaced again several years ago and took hold about two years ago. It was time. The fact that two of my three children lived in that city was also a draw.
So now I live in the city that I had wanted to make my home for so long. After the honeymoon period (a little over half a year) I started to feel a void developing, the void I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. I missed my large extended family but did have opportunities to visit with them since the move. But there was something still missing. It was not long before I figured out what was causing the emptiness. I was looking for Leva! And I was having trouble finding it!
I was looking for the Leva Experience. I was looking for that place where I would feel welcomed, valued and recognized as Irene. I was looking for that group of people who like me wanted to take time to connect, to have conversations about a wide variety of topics, to share our thoughts, dreams, feelings, and fears. I wanted my friends! I also wanted a place that I could go to anytime where I would feel I belonged, where I could have some laughs and fun, and where I felt supported and loved.
I was looking for a replacement for Leva in my new city and I had actually started that search soon as we moved here even though I may not have been fully aware that I was doing so. In retrospect I am not sure I was using the correct search criteria. The problem was that there were too many places that I would go to for coffee, lunch or whatever and I liked them all. I never seemed to go to just one place on a regular basis. So I had a dilemma, which one would be the replacement? I did get to know people working in all of these places but it still didn’t feel like Leva. I determined that the missing piece was the connections with the other patrons of these places. I was missing going into a place seeing someone I knew, joining them, being with them and having a chat or a lengthy discussion and probably doing it again the next day.
At one time I thought that it might not be possible to find a replacement. I began to think that the only thing I could expect in my new city coffee cafes was casual connections at best.
It was at this point that I decided to write a piece on “Looking for Leva” to describe my feelings of isolation and loss. As I was thinking about the piece and I started to delineate the things that made Leva so special for me I started to realize something else.
It was not a place I should have been looking for. One special place would be a bonus but it was not necessary. I realized that the things I found at Leva could be found in other places and in many places. I came to recognize that I had in fact found these very things in other locations in my previous city of Edmonton. I become conscious of the fact that finding these things depended on me. How I acted with and responded to people was the key. I realized that I needed to be open enough to connect with people I came in contact with and I believe that the Leva Experience has helped to strengthen the skills that I need to do this. I also believe that through this experience I am able to be more open in developing new friendships. The Leva Experience has made me less fearful of rejection and has defined new rules around what it takes to develop a friendship, who I could become friends with (all ages and interests) and what it means to be friends with someone. It also made me understand that most people want to be friends with others but like me most people find it difficult to make this happen. We share that vulnerability, that invisible barrier that prevents us from getting the very things that are so important to us. The things that are the Leva Experience. With this new awareness I feel more confident in moving ahead in my search for Leva.
Although I will always love Leva Cappuccino Bar in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada I am starting to get the sense that I am close to finding all the right things, right here at home.
Irene McDermott © 2011