Eavesdropping at the Namaste Cafe

Last Thursday was overcast, not really threatening to rain so much as grey and okay with it. A chill was forming in the air, leaving a delicious sense of suspension between fall and winter. It made me crave a warm mug to wrap my gloved fingers around.

It was a perfect day for the Namaste Café’.

English: Masala Chai, Masala Tea, Spice Tea
English: Masala Chai, Masala Tea, Spice Tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Namaste Café’ was originally a Himalayan tea house owned by a Nepali family. I suspect, based on the abrupt departure of pots for their chai in favor of large overpriced cups, however, that the original owners sold when they moved from a niche of Franklin to a house on Hennepin. They did at least leave their tea recipes behind – a precious gift, worth the price of the restaurant.

The less than half mile relocation has led to a change in the nature of the shop and its clientele. Now it’s not just college students, twenty somethings, and South Asians that go there. It’s a different, much older set of customers (at least it has been when I’ve visited the last few years.) While I was not the youngest person in the café Thursday, I was most certainly not the oldest.

There without a companion, I found myself utterly unable/unwilling to draft my endless lists of things to do, achievements to make, machinations to machine. So I sat and listened to what went on around me. The friendly waiter that not only made eye contact, but discretely offered me extra water when I started coughing was gently considerate with the elderly man sitting across from me.  A family of four coaxed their children through the hunks of meat, rice and spice. Two women in their fifties sat in front of the window, talking about their lives in an emotional, feeling way that I can’t imagine women my age using to talk to one another.

One woman was louder than the other. She was talking about her strained relationship with her sister, and how her sister raised her children. “When one of them was upset, she would remind them – what is this a house of? This is a house of love, and delight, and I can never remember what the other thing was that she said.”

Her sister sounds awesome.

She then started talking about her relationship, how it was difficult.  She described her sister, concluding with “You don’t dare call her sensitive…” and it was clear she didn’t recognize that calling someone sBest to do list ever.

ensitive is being dismissive, she didn’t put together why that strained her relationship. She didn’t understand the problem for years, then an older woman who knew them as children had started reminiscing about them, about how she behaved with her sister. The woman talking finally put together that her feelings and intentions weren’t what mattered to her sister, it was her behavior that had caused the rift. “She would do things, and I thought I was correcting her. I had no idea that it came off as controlling. I thought I was being loving and protective.” She then went on about how now that she realized it, she wanted to make amends with her sister – but only on her own terms, rather than on terms that her sister could choose to accommodate or not.

It was both healing and maddening for me to listen to – it helped me understand a little bit more about why people are the way they are, and it maddened me that this woman wanted so badly to learn from her mistakes but she didn’t want to accept them as mistakes. She didn’t recognize she was still dismissive of her sister, she just knew that things weren’t as they could be. She was starting to consider that her sister had her own experiences, an improvement. She must have made a major breakthrough on the correct/incorrect issue. Demanding “correctness” from others, expecting children to act “correctly” rather than like children is controlling. It establishes authority where authority isn’t beneficial, and then leads to alienation and abuse when unchecked.  It doesn’t matter that she thought she was showing affection with this behavior; it wasn’t received as affection because control/ordering a person around just isn’t loving OR protective. If anything, it establishes that one person has reason to feel unsafe around the other. This woman was definitely suffering from the consequences of alienating another person because she had put her belief in being “correct” above knowing her sister in order to have a relationship with her. But she wanted to catch on. She wanted to be better. She had an inkling, the barest glimmer, that her sister did not experience her the same way she experienced herself.

This helped me to understand some of the human beings I understand the least. It also helped me forgive myself. One of my greatest regrets is all the grammar-correcting I did to my peers as a child. It was controlling, and inappropriate – and not for me to define what was “better” for other kids.

Also, my typos and grammatic errors make people crazy now.  So that just came back around again.

Synchronicity struck again, this time with a little drive-by healing.

I turned my ear to other conversations. Next to me, a woman was explaining how Taoism did not conflict with her Catholicism. The old man that had stared at me a few times had left. On the other side of me, another pair of women were discussing  volunteer organization, intermingled with spiritual concerns.

The Namaste Café definitely has magic embedded in its walls.

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