On (not) drinking coffee

Over the course of the pandemic, my daily coffee intake slowly ramped up. I was already using a stove top espresso maker without really having considered that two cups of espresso is not really the same as two cups of coffee. And I somehow completely overlooked the cup of green tea I was having most afternoons — in spite of the fact that it was matcha, meaning whole leaf and therefore quite a bit more caffeine than the steeped stuff.

And then one Saturday morning, I woke up, became absorbed in some other task, and forgot to make coffee. By the time I thought of it again, I decided I didn’t really need it. And eventually it was too late in the day for me to caffeine. It was then, of course, that the headache crept in. I’ve read the pain of this type of headache as being like “a vise grip”. The was not accurate for the pain I was experiencing. This image is one of my head placed in the grip and an external pressure exerted. But the ache I was experiencing was very clearly coming from inside my head. And the cause was clearly that I had denied my body the substance it had come to expect everyday, at the same time, in great quantities, over the last year or so.

What had made me increase my intake so much? Was I looking for some sort of “normalcy” in the face of major shifts that the pandemic brought? Was it that I felt I deserved maybe even craved a little “treat” in this pool of seeming deprivation? Was it simply that as it grew cold, I wanted something warm and warming and a little cozy-feeling in the discontented winter of 20-21?

The book I’m currently reading is Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon, which probably would go well with coffee, but I’m not having any right now. The book is just as good without it, which is to say: fantastic.

Probably all of this and more. I suspect I was also at the time (and perhaps always am) particularly susceptible to of comfort scrolling (through IG and Twitter) and there I created this image of my head of coffee as being some sort of flag of normalcy and “everything is fine”.

This is not my first time going off coffee and it’s probably not my last time drinking it. Although, hopefully the few days of head and muscle aches that I experienced will give me pause before I head down that road of copious consumption. And I’ve definitely had periods of time in my life when I haven’t been drinking coffee on the regular. (See: I did spend some time in a refugee camp where there wasn’t electricity much less coffee makers and where making a cup of coffee would have involved making a fire to boil the water.)

So how has it gone, no longer consuming coffee for nearly two months? It’s honestly been good. I no longer really miss it, most of the time. I bought some lovely green tea that was grown in Shan State and from time to time, I’ll have a cup, just like I used to when I lived in Karenni Refugee Camp #3, which was located not far from Shan State. Luckily, I don’t need to make a fire to boil the water. I might have a cup a week or so, just when I want to feel cozy and comforted.

No one else in my household drinks coffee so I don’t miss the social aspect of it and it doesn’t exactly feel like I’m denying myself anything as I’m not really surrounded by it. For the time being, I’ve been able to use the time I was spending grinding beans and brewing of the stove for other things: proper breakfasts and exercise. My mom mentioned recently that coffee is supposed to have some components (antioxidants perhaps?) that are good for health, but I feel pretty good about replacing that time on things like exercise that are supposed to be just as good if not better for your health.

After that initial withdrawal period, my energy through the day feels more even than it did when I drank coffee or, at least, I think I have more productive ways of getting through those periods when my energy lags (like, napping if I need it or going for a walk). A thing that I really enjoy now is not feeling tied to having to have something in order to feel good. I enjoy not wanting to grab a take out cup from places or even just putting one on the stove.

The other day my daughter made some cookies and my husband was enjoying one when he turned to me and said, “These cookies seem like the type of thing that would be good with a cup of coffee.” (Yes, my husband doesn’t even drink coffee). “Hmmmm…,” I said to him. I didn’t really know how to answer. Coffee hadn’t crossed my mind for a while. Which was probably — no definitely — a good thing.

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