Coffee, time, and me.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who works with sensitive people so they can stop second-guessing, make decisions confidently and live the life they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
Recently I gave up coffee for a week.
For somebody who made her first cup of Folgers at age 16 and rarely looked back, this was no small deal.
But as one does when they reach ~ a certain age ~ and stage in life, there has been a lot of questioning going on about the things I have relationships with in life and whether they serve me.
Social media has been under scrutiny for years. Alcohol; you all have read me write about that several times and I also talked about my relationship with alcohol on the Sunday Soother podcast here. (Current status: I have 1–2 drinks one evening a week, feeling good about this.)
Now coffee rose to the forefront, the main question repeating over and over in my mind: Why do I still have a relationship with something that gives me short-term joy but long-term struggles?
I’m a sensitive person, simply meaning I literally have a sensitive nervous system, a sensitive digestive system, and I also recently learned I’m probably also a slow processor of caffeine, making its effects more notable to me than others. It takes a really long time to get out of my system, and if I have even a cup of coffee after, say, 11am, it will noticeably affect my sleep.
Why, then, have I regularly been someone who will drink 4–5 cups a day, even as I got jittery, even as I looked at the clock and saw it was past noon?
Why are we in relationships with things we know do not serve us? What is that about?
In my exploration, I have generally found that these things that we know intellectually are “bad” for us actually are doing something relatively important and substantial for us, something necessary, giving us some benefit that we are unaware of or unwilling to look at.
Social media + alcohol help me numb out and soothe complicated feelings I’m not prepared to sit with. And coffee? I wasn’t sure yet. So after a lot of false starts I went cold turkey for a week to find out.
I loaded up on decaf grounds (I know that they still contain some caffeine), vowed to not walk past my favorite local coffee shop pick-up windows, and said to myself: You only have to do this for a week. You have 25 years of coffee consumption behind you and you can have another several decades of it in front of you. But let’s try these seven days.
As I was hatching this plan and walking around one day thinking about it, a thought struck me: My unhealthy relationship with coffee is linked to my unhealthy relationship with time.
I’m somebody who is often doing 12 things at once, somebody who prides themselves on output and productivity, somebody who has long struggled with developing her worth outside of her doing.
And I realized in that moment on my walk that I was so loathe to give up coffee because I knew it supported my ability to do. And I had fear about how sleepy and slow the lack of it would make me.
That thought sealed the deal for me: My relationship with coffee as it stood had to go. I know I’m addicted to doing and going and have been sitting with the concept of slowing down, being, quietness, silence, everything from moving my body more slowing to focusing on one task at once (for somebody who was like, brushing her teeth, listening to a podcast, making her bed, while also jotting down notes about coaching and writing ideas… this was a lot).
If going without coffee would actually make me slower… well that would be the direction my soul and body wanted to go, if not my mind.
When you try to actually slow down and be present in this life and society, you realize how much you’re truly well and up against. Coffee and the ritualized and encouraged aspects of its consumption encouraged by our society is just the starting point, especially when it comes to our relationship with time.
Deadlines. Working 40+ hours a week. Our obsession with efficiency, with always doing. And when you learn that “urgency” is actually a cultural tenet of white supremacy, it all starts to make a little more sense.
Desiree Adaway, a DEI consultant-facilitator, writes: “Sense of urgency keeps us disconnected: One of the tools of white supremacy is busy-ness. This sense of urgency makes it so we do not connect on a deeper level. It allows no time for discernment, reflection or real repair. We’re busy all the time: We’re busy holding pointless meetings. Busy planning for next quarter. Busy overthinking things and not trusting our decisions. White supremacy loves that. White supremacy knows that when we’re exhausted we remain obedient. And when we’re overworked, we tend to stay quiet. It rewards us for our silence, for not pushing back, for not questioning. Busy-ness doesn’t serve us.”
Did I just finally make the connection for myself between coffee as a tool to be more productive and white supremacy? Yup.
This false sense of urgency that we’re so encouraged to lean into, this lie we’ve been told have never having enough time, I like to call it “the time wound.” Our relationship with time has been so badly damaged:
We don’t trust time.
We’re always racing to grab its fleeting trails as we sense it disappearing out the front doors of our lives. No wonder an encouragement to slow down feels simultaneously like an insult, an impossibility, a joke.
For me, coffee is so pleasurable, and also, the way I use and abuse it (I realize it’s not the case for everybody) I’ve also been treating it as the fuel to speed me up so I could consume more time, only to realize I’ve been going so fast all along I barely remember anything anyways.
So to change my relationship with time, I’m starting changing my relationship with coffee. My relationship with my alarm clock, and clocks in general (I have like, 5 clocks in my 900 square foot apartment. Time to get rid of a few.) My relationship with the 40-hour work week. And we’ll start from there.
I’m not in a race to get anywhere anymore.