Thursday, August 8, 2013

How I Saw Coffee as Weakness

My mom is a coffee drinker.

She has been this way since I have known her. 

I imagine she was not always interested in coffee.

I imagine I am not guiltless when it comes to her reasons for needing it to wake up in the morning - I especially see this connection since now that my brother and I are out of the house she has mostly switched to decaf... 

Anyway - I don't have coffee in my house.

I do not own a coffee maker.

I got a one-cup brewer as a wedding gift and kept it in the cabinet only for when my mom was visiting and no other times.

I drank cappuccino all through college, but never in my room - only purchased at the convenience store and never just straight coffee.

Here's the thing:  I like coffee.

No - I really love coffee.

I love to drink it from Sheetz.

I love to drink it with friends at Starbucks.

I love how it smells and how it looks and I love all the cool flavors you can put into it and how there are more descriptors for gourmet coffee than for wine and I love ordering a tall mocha at a local coffeehouse and I love chatting with friends over a cuppa.

But I refuse to have it in my house.

I never thought about this very deeply until my husband suggested the other day that we get a coffee maker.

It hit me in all sorts of ugly ways.  I did not want a coffee maker in my house.

He had been drinking coffee at work every morning from the company pot, and he had a hankering for it now that he was working from home.

I sort of panicked.  Coffee does not belong in my house.

Through gritted teeth, I told him we could get one if he really wanted one.

"I figured you would want one too."


"You love coffee.  You're always going out 'to coffee' with someone.  You're happier when you drink it."

I felt a wave of sudden nausea.

No.  I did not need coffee to be happy.

I had convinced myself that I was a tea drinker.  I have scads of tea.  All sorts of herbals.  And I have acquired a taste for all of them.  Sometimes this was harder than others...

Tea is what is brewed here.  Not coffee.

And it hit me then.  Coffee... is a weakness.

Coffee is an addiction.

Coffee is not being able to wake up in the morning without it.

Coffee is telling your kids you need a cup and a few moments of peace in the afternoon to make it through the rest of the day.  Coffee is scrubbing your teeth with anti-yellowing paste because the coffee is staining them.  Coffee is artificial creamers and instant glass containers and lugging it with you to relatives because they might not have it and you...  need it

And needing something is weakness.

All of this came barreling toward me during the coffee maker conversation.

And it struck me as so foolish.

That I had labeled my mom's coffee addiction as this horrible thing.

And I wondered why I had done that.

My mom is not a weak person.

She is a strong person.  She doesn't take crap from people.  She tells it like it is.  She would be my excuse if I didn't want to talk to that boy on the phone anymore.  She made me tea and toast when I was sick even if she, too, was sick.  She kept the family together even when my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine and my father was diagnosed with his own chronic illness in the same year and she had to have a hysterectomy. 

Even writing this blog I am wading through the thickness that is this belief in my mother's weakness through her coffee drinking.

I think I relate it to our society's obsession with addiction.

I don't take addiction lightly.  Addiction is real.  Addiction to cigarettes and alcohol and hard drugs and gambling and yes... to coffee (caffeine, really).  I went through withdraw from caffeine after finals week in college.  Got the shakes, headaches, the whole shibang.  But the truth is, while there are some extremely unhealthy addictions, there are also things that are just fine, and there are also things that aren't even really addictions.

We say a child is addicted to TV because he watches the entire series of a Netflix television program... and yet, as adults, we are apt to do the same and just call ourselves "interested" with a bit of time on our hands.

We say that people are addicted to the internet (yes, I realize this can be a real addiction, as can all of these) when they spend a lot of time on Twitter or Facebook or blogging or news sites - yet reading all day long is totally fine and talking on the phone for lengthy periods is being friendly and "keeping up" with the people you care about.

I was told in school that addiction is terrible and that people who are addicted are terrible and that they need help and that they are weak.  I was told in school that caffeine is a drug and to look at my parents and see how addicted they are to that drug and how they act differently if they don't have it and I saw those things and I thought "my mother is a weak person because she needs coffee".

I certainly would never need coffee.  I would be independent of all of those addictive behaviors.  I would get enough sleep every night and eat all of the right foods and exercise for sixty minutes a day and have all the right clothes and the right degrees and marry a down to earth man who was just the right amount of boring and all of my frivolous interests would fade away into nothingness and I would be the perfect mother who would even cut pancakes into perfect one inch squares.

And now I am grown and I am a parent and I have a master's degree and I have been through all of those things and I have stayed up too late and then had to make cupcakes for a birthday party or fake my way through something I'm supposed to smile at or be in charge of and I have had to deal with my own grouchiness and I am a hell of a lot nicer during those times when I just have a damned cup of coffee.

And it doesn't make me a weak person.

It makes me a smart one.  A rational one.

A person who knows that there is something that can help me and that if used in moderation there is nothing wrong with that thing: a tool.

A person who has read studies that say that women who drink coffee have less instances of depression and a person who knows that there is a history of clinical depression in my family and maybe my mom is smarter than any of us because she figured out how to self-medicate.

Yesterday at the grocery store I allowed myself to look at all of the different coffee choices and coffee filters and I even looked up some coffee makers online - just to price them.  I found some cute coffee makers and some bags of organic fairly traded coffee and (don't tell Mom) I just might buy them. 

My family's trip around the country in a converted school bus has run me up against time for reflection on my life as a woman like no other time before.  I've been reading more and thinking more and I wonder if we ever take enough time to figure out just who we are and what we're doing here?  What are the irrational things in your life?  Do you see coffee drinking as weakness?  Did your parents have coping mechanisms that you didn't understand?  What are your coping mechanisms and how do they mirror (or refract) your parents'?

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