Monday, June 14, 2010

Coffee Lovers Anonymous (8.21.08)

At our house the summer of 2008 will be memorable for lots of reasons. Nora had her first stint at day camp. Mia learned to tread water for a few seconds at a time. Our family triumphantly returned to Gilbert's in Lake Geneva for the entire meal! Mia recovered from her first sty! (Warm compresses and washed hands and ta-dah! Gone! in three days.) A first family camping trip. Mia's first sleepover!

And Mommy gave up coffee.

I suspect I would find this post much easier to write with a warm mug of a certain powerfully caffeinated beverage by my side. Or perhaps, since today is warm, a tall glass with cold milk over ice. I can just see the shiny drops of condensation dripping down the side, hear the tinkle of the ice as I upend it to get the last bitter drop.

Lot of things became easier with Mother's Little Helper - shuffling the mail and school paperwork and bank statements into smaller and neater piles; collecting and bagging outgrown books and clothes, then depositing them into the basement to be forgotten once again; feeling full of fizzy energy while I clicked faster and faster through web pages...

I gave up coffee in July after a spring flirtation with the hard stuff turned into a full-blown affair. I had always been a decaf girl, occasionally joining my husband in a weekend cappuccino just to be companionable. Then Starbucks had that promotional month of free Pike's Peak. It didn't take long before I was fully immersed. Addicted. By June I was jonesing for a real strong cup every single day. And feeling the pain when I didn't. Denial is a river that flows to the sound of "I'm okay because I can stop at one."

Oh that warm toasty smell. The deliciously burnt bitter taste that makes sweet companion foods so much sweeter. The virtuous feeling of ordering "skim." The congeniality over a mutual addiction - sharing an appreciative laugh with parents who also bear paper cups at the playground, offering exaggerated gratitude for a fresh pot at playgroup.

It made me smart. And ready to dance. But irritable and overly sensitive. And feeling resourceless before I had my daily dose. How much it giveth, but oh how much it taketh away. When I caught a clip from a movie about a man with rage issues that sounded a eensy-teensy-scary bit too familiar, I knew it was time to let go.

Aimee Lee Ball in this month's O (that's for Oprah) magazine writes about the brain chemistry that may hard-wire women for greater emotional sensitivity. Ball's article, "Women and the Negativity Receptor," identifies the physiological culprits for the judgmental thinking that women often fall prey to: our larger anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain that responds to social cues; cyclical hormonal surges that affect our reactivity to emotional nuance and a more sophisticated brain circuitry system that helps us read the emotions of others. Our uniquely female brains can make us skillfully empathetic, able to decipher the particular cries of our infants, but for me, an added stimulant on top of my feminine cerebral superpowers just made my skin too thin for comfort.

Right now, my work is with my children. My A-game needs to be about patience rather than spark. I need the bone deep calm that comes from a workout, a shower, deep breaths and a belief in the importance of what I am doing, not a skittering dance on the surface of my thoughts provided by high-octane rocket fuel.

Now I've become a green tea kind of person. Prairie Grass in Northbrook even serves their iced tea with a tiny pitcher of simple syrup. Mmmm.

No comments:

Post a Comment