Walking in to the café and scanning the place, it appeared that I had arrived first. A highly unusual phenomenon for some one that cheerily professes that she has “a flexible relationship with time”. I basked in the sensation of ease. This is how punctual people feel. Light. With a pinch of superiority.

The common practice for me, is to put off leaving until the last minute, under the misconception that any destination that isn’t a road trip, can always be reached in 20 minutes (tops). This means that most times, I reach appointments sweating, apologising, and feeling myself shrink the estimation of the person before me.

The waitress approached and I brightly informed her that I would be joined by friends. So, she dragged a table to meet mine, and placed 3 menus and glasses of water and left me to agonise over whether the other two would be eating and if they weren’t, did that mean I could, or could not, order the pomegranate pancakes. To relieve myself from the discomfort of breakfast selection, I glanced at my phone to discover, that 2 hours previously, one of my party had said that they couldn’t make it. Catching the eye of the waitress, I let her know that three had become two and that I would love a flat white, thank you very much.

As I sat, reading the Sunday paper’s glossy supplement. Contemplating soft leather shoes and even softer leather furniture, I had a moment of realising how perfect the moment was. I’d completed a grunty workout, and was sitting in a café that I love, with beautiful décor on a sunny Sunday. I had nowhere else to be and there was nothing else in this moment that would improve it. My body felt like it was bursting, and my mind was at peace. A quick message sent to my friend letting her know where I was sat and I returned to my magazine. All was well.

And then I checked my phone. She had thought that our catch-up had cancelled. Yep. I could understand how that would happen. I would probably think the same myself. No dramas. I was quite happy. A bit of luxury time to myself.

Until my brain decided to launch an attack.

“What will the waitress think? They think that you’ve been stood up. That nobody ever wants to spend time with you!”

Instant mood drop. Instant. A dark cloud had skudded across the sky. In a moment, I had gone from bliss to something akin to despair. My brain was right. Everyone would stare at me because I had no friends. But I couldn’t leave. Because then it would be obvious that just like other people, I could not bear to be in my company. Act normal. Don’t make eye contact with the other woman across the way who seems to be waiting for someone too.

With a little effort, I managed to pull myself back. My friends weren’t there for legitimate reasons. They care about me and enjoy my company. They suggest catch ups with me. My mood lifted after I had challenged the evidence of the situation.Then the woman opposite’s friend arrived and I was back in the gloom. It was better when I thought that we were both forever alone. Obviously, she and her friend were laughing at me now. Feeling sorry for me. Wondering what it was about me that meant nobody wanted to spend time with. Back under the cloud. Back to more energetic fact checking. Wrestling with my mood to get it back under control, and winning this time.

The part that was most transformative for me, was the realisation that nothing had changed. I was in a café, on a beautiful seat, in gorgeous surroundings, on a sunny day with no reason to be anywhere else. 20 minutes earlier, that had seemed perfect, but after I had ascribed a different set of meaning to the same scene, it seemed terrible. At one point, I was at peace, another, I was in conflict.My mood fluctuated over the next few moments as I played with it. Seeing how I could control. See waitress, decided that she has a look of pity, feel sad. Notice that my coffee is perfect and smile at the woman next to me; feel good. Decide woman next to me is looking at the unopened menus and is convinced I’m a loser; feel bad. Spark up conversation with waitress about how beautiful the décor is; feel good. Once I realised that this experience was under my control, I was able to stand-up, walk to the counter, and pay, without taking shame and sadness with me. Instead taking a sense of achievement that by being given time to myself, I had been given a great gift

Polly x