In early 2018, I began fleeing from unemployment’s indented couch after deciding I absolutely had to have a “change of scenery” and some intimatly therapeutic contact with those who knew my misfortunes best, so I would set my Maps navigation for a destination that was, for example, two and a half hours away, and would, for example, show up at my cousin's apartment in the middle of an agricultural town in Connecticut with no luggage, having left home with such urgency that I didn’t give even a toothbrush a thought, only to sit down on her unfamiliarly- textured sofa and start watching, I don’t know, maybe Friends, and realize, with a desperate urgency, that nowhere in the world was away from myself, and the only choice I had was to drive home, cry, rinse, and repeat.
On that drive home, I realized I had to quit coffee.
Anyone who has followed my Buffalo blog (and let’s face it, no one has) knows that coffee has been, for me, a five-year subject of rumination. When I was 17, I began pre-drinking with coffee before my literature classes because I had suspicions that it made me perhaps the most intelligent Chekov commentator of the bunch. When this narcissism wore of, I just lived in fear that those, what, five days of withdrawal??? would be the end of me. I reckon that I also suffered from a bit of seasonal depression, up there along the Canadian border, and coffee gave me that jolt a good book or sexual disclosure over coffee would have otherwise provided. Sure, I wondered what life would be like without moderate dread, but I shivered at the thought, as this anxiety was so quickly transferred to elation in exciting moments.
I learned from my mother that coffee doesn’t sit well with everyone. Her doctor recommended decaf, permanently, after my mother reported feeling like the world was coming to an end every time she took a sip. I thought that was melodramatic. I now think it’s genetic.
I say this because, after my late teen highs and lows steadied into the rolling hills of young professionalism, after I became comfortable with the circumference of my thighs and the fact that my parents were real people who made mistakes, I was still suffering from what I called “10am mania” and “4pm existentialism.” My moods shifted, loyally, just like this:
5am: Wake up, because when did I ever sleep a full five hours.
7am: Compulsively pound cups of coffee.
10am: ready to run ready to be ready to win why are you speaking to me how can i cope how can i calm to the gym i go to the gym!
12pm: Feel starving to the nth degree or perhaps Parkinson's
1pm: One girl two cups
2pm: Feeling groovy~
4pm: Sylvia Plath would understand.
7pm: Where has the day gone? And what of my youth?
10pm: Feel the kind of tired when it takes more effort to close your eyes than to put down the iPhone Youtube videos
And, with my student loans accruing interest every second of every #$%^&* day, I found it impossible to relax while doing activities that should be meditative, such as driving long distances or showering or breathing. On one particular occasion, during a panic attack, I tried to leave my uncle's house after I believed they’d all fallen asleep, only to find my cousin peeking out from behind the kitchen door as I gathered my stuff with a look of “Is she snacking on our dried fruits or having a crisis?”
I decided to quit on a night before I got horribly ill. During those five days of Z-Paking, This is Us marathoning and relying solely on honey for calories, I obviously did not crave jitters in a mug. Then, when the fever broke, I realized I had gone through the hard part of quitting without even trying. Surely our LORD AND SAVIOR had something to do with it, my grandmother said. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t turn, just half a degree, towards that omniscient narrator.
After that, I felt… Good? Pretty much all the time? It’s hard to believe, and that’s the tricky thing about moods; you don’t get to believe you’ll ever feel a different way, and you can hardly remember what that different way even feels like.
You might be thinking that I’m an idiot for not putting two and two together during that cappuccino rollercoaster… I assure you that my self-narrative is far more critical than your opinion could ever be, but I also have the benefit of loving myself unconditionally and justifying all of my behaviors. Coffee truly is an addiction. I was afraid that my world would be different-- would be less-- if I didn’t have an external source of excitement. I thought I’d be a stupid writer, or fatigue easily, or-- well, maybe I knew I’d be happier, but didn’t want to be, in just the same way that I listened to Mayday Parade as a form of self-sabotage.
But I’m sleeping eight hours now, and my drives to the gym don’t feel like the prelude to battle, and when I sit with my mother on the couch and ask her how her day went, I feel this warm bubble of peace and tenderness and mutual focus surrounding us in a way that my liquid lover would have never allowed.