Sunday, May 10, 2020

“How Coffee Taught Me to be a More Organized Person” by Sheila Morrison

Coffee, or to be more precise, a forced abstinence from coffee, taught me something about myself.

I adore coffee. My fondest coffee memory is from Gondar, Ethiopia. My husband and I flew to Addis Ababa and to save pennies we hitchhiked, exploring castles and breath-taking purple and blue hills. A handsome barista pumped huge mugs of steaming frothy cappuccino from a beautiful brass coffee maker. We had never heard of cappuccino.

Ten years later, back in Canada and in university, terrible machine coffee kept me awake while I memorized for anatomy exams. Coffee quickly became a bad habit I associated with looming deadlines.

A few years later in Southeast Asia I discovered “sock coffee” made by pouring espresso over a sock-like brown-stained cotton filter which then drips into a tall glass to sit on top of an inch of sweet condensed milk. Stirring it makes a delicious dessert-like drink. I consumed a lot of sock coffee that year.

I never made sock coffee in Canada; the necessary ambience was missing. In the 1990s fancy coffees became de rigeur in coffee shops. I tried them all — hot, cold, frothy, black, sweet, spicy — and settled on organic free-trade dark roast with heavy cream. It became a serious habit. Heading out the door triggered me to plan my errands to include my favourite coffee shop. I bought a French press. I was convinced that drinking a delicious coffee mindfully was a healthy habit.  My body eventually told me otherwise.

My stomach ached. I racked it up to food poisoning from a weiner I had scarfed down on a road trip. I cut back on food, but not coffee. Coffee was my care-giver. A week passed, the pain continued, especially after I ingested coffee. The coffee had to go.

I have never had headaches, which I’d assumed was the only sign of caffeine withdrawal. However I felt unfocussed and lethargic. My normal hustle bustle self was gone. My projects went unattended. Laundry and dishes piled up. I googled caffeine withdrawal and was taken aback. I had four of the top eight symptoms of caffeine withdrawal: fatigue, brain fog, constipation, low energy. I didn’t have the drop in blood pressure (which I would have liked), insomnia, anxiety or headaches.

After the third week of no coffee the stomach ache and the symptoms went away. My energy came back and I tackled neglected projects. I still thought about coffee but wasn’t keen to invite that pain back.

I realized that mindful coffee breaks were my way of frequently procrastinating. Considering that I have been a heavy coffee drinker for over 30 years I feel remorseful when I think of all that I could have accomplished, although I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed my dark roast.

By the end of this week I will have written and submitted a couple of stories, sorted my photographs, and carted off bins of stuff to charity. I make better use of my time, get more done, and have time for a mindful walk. I’m still working on having fewer thoughts about coffee.

Sheila Morrison has been lucky enough to have worked around the world as a teacher, physiotherapist, and mental health advocate. Now retired, she soaks up life in Halifax and writes essays and stories drawing from her experiences as a daughter, mother, wife, caregiver and nature lover. She enjoys the woods and the ocean with her family which includes Jade the poodle, and of course coffee.

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! I, too, love all things coffee and I feel your pain in having to reduce your intake.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.