When Coffee is not just “Coffee.” Awareness, Attachments, Anxiety.


So I’m about 10 days into experiencing this clean eating / diet detox and I have to say that for me, it’s not about the food. I don’t have attachments to food; blessedly, I’ve never been an emotional eater, I actually think I have a good relationship with food (“Hello sandwich, how are you today? I will eat you when I’m hungry…”), but I have determined, that what I do have, is an attachment to tradition; an attachment to attachments.

Because I’m not a big coffee drinker (as so many writers are — I simply can’t do it: my body / GI can not handle the huge thrust of caffeine, so I have one serving a day), coffee was only a loss to me in terms of my inability to have something warm and served in a cute vessel as I walked my son to school. Lots of moms and dads walk along the path to school with their kiddos holding an open mug or a travel mug or a thing as they saunter through the dappled sunlight or amidst the drizzle of these gorgeous and cool autumn mornings. I wanted to be one of those people; they looked so together, as though they’d just stepped out of a JCrew catalog or in their fitness wear, enroute to or just from the gym, but with their coffee in hand. (Hell, I could be completely wrong: maybe it’s vodka.)

So I morphed myself into being one of those people. Even though it was occasionally inconvenient: you can’t always hold a dog leash and a kiddo’s hand and a cup of something. So I found myself on days when the boys wanted to bring a dog vacillating between my cute mug of weak-ish coffee or Irish Breakfast tea and a leash, or holding a hand. When I wanted to be a be-hooded cute coffee mom and we were running late (which is often), the coffee would stay home and so began the understanding that it was more about being SEEN with the coffee, and somehow fitting in with the other moms, than actually enjoying the coffee.

Another thought that comes to mind is the obvious: if I choose to walk with the coffee, then I’m rejecting something else. Never has one of my sons asked me to leave the coffee at home to hold his hand. Not once. So what am I rejecting? Possibly my sense of just being ok with being plain old young me.

So when the detox started, I shifted gears: I put my detox tea (some horrid unique combination of lemon poison, dandelion venom, toxic licorice, and thistle milk in the vessel and the hell with it: I added some organic raw honey to sweeten the deal) in my cute vessel and guess what? I didn’t feel at all as though I was fitting in. Even though no one knew what was in my mug, and no one dared ask (because we all assume we’re coffee lemmings) I didn’t feel “cool” anymore. I’d’ve rather had no mug than carry a mug loaded with a potion which was displeasing to me. So instead, now I make my detox tea and slam it down when it reaches room temperature to just get it over with. Some attitude, I know. Then I look for a bathroom.

I don’t know what any of that means — the lack of the coolness, hipster, fitter-inner. I know that it came with some small relief upon later examination though, because I haven’t really fully enjoyed a cup of high-test coffee knowing what the caffeine does to my system. It was always a guilty pleasure. I make jokes about “coffee first” a lot; but mostly it’s for affect, and so I see that I’m being inauthentic when I say things like that because I simply can’t drink as much as others seem to be able to. It’s like the “she can’t hold her liquor” thing too … I can’t. Two drinks and I’m very comfortable — but not always: if I’m on edge in prep for an anxious moment (say expecting a weirdo to show any moment at a social event), the alcohol simply doesn’t take effect and so then, what’s the point of any of it other than a crutch? So this begs the question: what’s the point of any crutch?

A lot of this is deep, I get that. If you read my most recent post, it was my birthday and I was suffering with major headaches from the diet detox. All my friends and family who called and texted and emailed me throughout the day said to “take the Advil. It’s your birthday. You’re going to a rock concert and you’re gonna have the time of your life tonight. What’s up with the headache — ease your pain!” So, yes, against the advice / suggestion of the detox manager, I heard my older brilliant brother (as opposed to my equally brilliant younger brother): “if the technology exists, why not avail yourself of it?” So I did reach eagerly and mightily for the Advil and it was such sweet relief, so subtle and kind, that I pondered: What the what am I doing to myself? Why must I suffer to improve? Is it really improvement if this vise-like, compressing, deeply painful headache that has lasted almost 7 days and only meagerly subsides upon my laying down, makes me I wish I weren’t here?

….I know….

I’m a yoga teacher and practitioner of almost 16 years. I know deep breathing. I know staying in the moment. I can get you to relax on a mat in less than five minutes and have you hovering in the twilight, almost-all-the-way-asleep but still conscious and have you listen to the sound of my voice. But only if you’re willing… I simply couldn’t breathe / legs-up-the-wall / lavender oil / uttanasana these headaches away. Because the headaches were Other Than. The headaches were about my relationship with the detox when I’m already a mindful person, in very good health and already extended as a mom and wife and person.

So I am spinning this on its lactose, gluten, glucose and starch -laden head: we don’t need to suffer. We really don’t. These things, these GOOD things in our lives needn’t always be painful. Because the pain creates anxiety. Because I find that I already eat pretty well, that I have an occasional cheeseburger blanketed in a gorgeous square of sharp New York cheddar (sorry) I can tell you RIGHT NOW that my anxiety is reduced tenfold because I decided to listen to my Spirit last week. I heard her Loud and Clear: you needn’t suffer; this is an elective experience and suffering is always elective. True dat, but also pretty harsh. But back to true dat: it is. Suffering is a choice. We have a choice. The choice to breathe deeply, quiet our minds, close our eyes, feel the slow, soft and steady inhalation fill our chests and the calm, gentle and loose exhalation lower our ribs and chest quietly, gorgeously and so so so lovingly or become enchained slaves to the thoughts and fears and anxieties which rip through our psyches and tear holes in our spirits and send us on a panic spree about things that may or may not happen (well, something’s always gonna happen…) with and without our tender, evanescent influence … the choice is ours.

So yes. The choice is ours. Sorry. It’s like listening to music: you can crank up the Iron Maiden (which has its moments, I’m sure) and flood your head with all the synchronicity of what’s coming out of the speakers or you can switch to Jimi Hendrix, who has high energy, but more control and technique and simply get lost in his jam and not feel quite so disoriented upon the end. Or you can just listen to the clock tick and the birds sing and the refrigerator switch on and off as it cycles robotically through its existence.

The key for me is this: don’t let the shit that gets in your head own you.

For starters: I subscribe to the Daily Om — I highly recommend it. Read it.

The other day, one of the Oms was about awareness and fully experiencing that which we see. If I hadn’t started my day reading it, I wouldn’t have taken a moment to fully and truly see the man in the weighted-down minivan with the rooftop storage box pull into the public free parking lot. I would’ve missed his van barely squeak beneath the clearance bar and see the tailpipe scrape along the lip of the driveway. Then I wouldn’t have seen his furtive preparations to reverse his van into a parking space; his reverse lights didn’t work and so I had to wait, which was fine because I got a glimpse of his face which was so worry worn, so heavy and twisted with ennui, emotion and anxiety; each crease its own decades-long story. His hair, it was short but chunky and blonde, like a beachcomber’s, and his skin was leathery as though he’d lived outdoors all his life. The interior of his van was covered with all manner of life: wrappers, newspapers, coffee cups, magazines, a flip flop, stuffed animals… The windows of the van were tinted, but I could make the outlines of mounds of objects round and small and square and large. A battery-powered radio was wedged between the cracked windshield and a haphazard stack of periodicals. Here I witnessed: either a genius with serious hoarding issues, a lost soul with nowhere to go but the library on a sunny day, a criminal perhaps?, or just another guy whose emotional state is literally on the fringe. I would say he looked as though he were about 48 years old.

God has exposed me to two people in the last week who I am convinced were placed before me to keep my eyes open and my mind more open-er. That man in the van and a woman at Target who reminded me so much of my mother in her younger years that I find myself a bit dazzled by the timing of it all.

The woman was so peculiar to me. Twenty years ago I might’ve felt harshly toward her. She was wearing saggy cotton, faded black and lived-in pants, and a loose zippered off-white hoody. Her sneakers were simple Keds (Mom wouldn’t dare wear Keds). The cuffs of the sleeves were stained, as though they’d dipped into a dirty sink to wash coffee or tea or broth out of a pan or mug and I noticed that her hands were shaking a little; it was very subtle — almost like they were vibrating. Her hair was loose, shoulder length, black-brown with scant silver strands peeking out and it was oily near the scalp. I thought maybe she was out and about after feeling unwell for a few days. From her shopping basket she placed on the belt: nine cans of Campbell’s Hungry Man soups in all varieties, all with clearance price stickers on them. A ceramic table lamp, as though for a child’s room. It was white with lavender stripes and polka dots on it. The shade was inverted for storage and it was white with matching lavender velvet piping along the top and the bottom of the shade. She also gingerly took out of the top part of the cart, where little kids like to sit, a clearance-marked / on-sale pleather rust-toned backpack purse (which made me want to find out where it was because it was sort of cute but seemingly too large for my taste) which she examined closely one last time before she released it to the cashier. Then it came time to pay. Coupons. Lots of coupons (Mom couldn’t be bothered with coupons) but it was the way she paid. Her hands were more animated but deliberate in their stops and starts. The shaking was easier to see. She passed the coupons to the cashier and reached for her credit card which she then ran through the console. Her head was lurching forward, protectively in an almost vulture-like posture and she stared at the monitor as her tally ran up and then down with the aid of the coupons. Her only words, “I wish I had that Target card for the 5% off…” and then a gentle resigning laugh. She could be wealthy beyond all compare and still wanting the sale price. Or she could be a tangle of anxiety, OCD, doubt and fear. Judging by her pale, soft skin and the few gray hairs she had, I’d say she was likely 35.

I saw them. Like “Avatar” I see you -saw them. I saw them with my heart and my soul. They both those people exhibited a sense of loss, anxiety and woe to me that I could feel reverberate off them. I found myself breathing slower, more mindfully in their presence, simply to do what I could — consciously or not — to lower the vibration in the space I shared with them probably because they evoked such memories in me that I had to do what I could to calm myself down. I silently offered them both peace with each breath and have thought of them each since although the weight of their images fade with each day.

So after all these years of yoga, it’s impossible for me to not See people or feel them. I could revert back to my old ways: being hard, not caring and not getting involved, even on a witness level, but that’s false. I realize I have to be careful to not feel and see so much, and so that’s where the awareness of the awareness comes in.  So it’s that moment for me: taking myself out of my sense of expectations and attachments which enables me to fully live and fully release. Today in yoga, the quote from a book I read was this: “The hardest asana is letting go.” And so I realize, that even with all that compassion, I have to let it go or I’ll go down too.

What can you let go of today to help you be more present and to know that everything is happening –with and without you– as it should?

Thank you.

10 responses »

  1. First off, caffeine hits me the same way. I don’t need it. And second, it’s vodka in most of those cups. I’m sure of it. How else to explain the crazy malaise of most of my suburban cohorts? Third, so are you still on this cleanse? Because I’m on Day 13 of one. I’ve lost 7 pounds and some cravings, which is great. But how to keep up eating this way stymies me. I take it one day at a time. I never realized how much I relied on a ham & cheese sandwich with some Fritos and a diet soda for lunch. My “healthy” hummus still comes with pita chips. Oy vey. I’m going to check out Daily Om right now, in fact:).

    • i have to (and am pleased to) agree with you about the malaise. i’m a little freaked out by it frankly. lots of glassy-eyed, flat affects around here.

      YOU’VE LOST 7 POUNDS!?! i’ve lost 2. there’s no way i can / want to keep up this way of eating. i just signed up for a 5k rowing regatta next sunday so i have to amp-up my eating. they want to go totally raw all next week and i can’t do that. my body can NOT handle all the fiber. i’ll eat some fritos for you.

      how long is your campaign, er, cleanse?

  2. Life gets shorter and shorter with each passing day…. it’s great to take on challenges, but if it becomes suffering by choice, then phooey! Who needs THAT?!
    My mother has ALWAYS said, “Moderation…” which, for me, has always been difficult, but perhaps that is the best challenge.
    I am so glad that you listened to your guiding spirit and paused to realize that you have many demands on your physical and psychic energy. : ) You are nurturing and energetic and creative and it takes some calories to maintain that!!!

    • i agree totally Cathy. i noticed thursday when rowing that i simply couldn’t keep up the pace with the lack of calories and fat in my body. i’m all about moderation.

      i have learned a lot about myself though through this so the food i’m missing has given me food for thought. but not nearly dense or sating enough!!

      thank you for being such an amazing friend to me. i really treasure you. a lot.

  3. The conditioning to pay such close attention to other people and to “feel” their feelings in anticipation is really hard to let go of. I guess because it has been a survival mechanism for so long. I’ve been trying to practice that pause of self-awareness too and to see it for what it is and to let it go. I was thinking today about another post I read by a friend complaining about how therapy always has him circling back to the same problem of being fearful to ask for what he wants. It reminded me how we often want to make a decision to become a completely different person and to just do it and that’s the end of it, but that’s not how it really works, is it? We will likely always find ourselves doing these things at times. It will be a life long effort to change. Self-awareness is a life long commitment.

    I love the way you dissected the morning coffee. I found it so amusing. How often are we doing things to create an image for the world to see? T.S. goes to a school run by some hippies. Very crunchy. I found myself choosing the contents of her lunch box hoping to “fit in” with the school crowd I imagined she would be bumping into. Then one Friday afternoon I ran into her classmates family at McDonalds. I have been laughing at myself ever since.

    • The French fry: the true equalizer.

      Thanks Lil. Self-awareness can be so taxing. I feel as though the cleanse is one more method of opening another fold of my being. I did it because someone else needed to do it and she thought it would good to do. It is, in its current form, another method of growth for me. I practice so much awareness so often, that feeling “without” (in its truest form, the opposite of within) allegiance to a set or group because of a slice of cheese or a corn chip … Is really taking it all too far for me. I can be happy and eat a Tostito now. I really can.

  4. Ha! I liked it. I see what you meant about ‘dense’ – you packed a lot in, but the threads were coherent and it was nice to follow your thoughts. Thank you!

    I suppose we’ve all bowed to social pressure to fit in. I daresay many have even kept at a ‘thing’ for the sake of achieving it, even in the face of common sense. I know I tend to get hooked into that kind of thing at times. I’m glad you were able to take a step back.

    As for the feeling and mindfulness – I’m the least yogic person ever, but I do understand compassion, and I know that other people’s feelings can affect me very deeply. As to the ‘suffering being a choice’ – perhaps, to the extent that it’s easy (and natural) to run over and over those painful events, and wish they were different, to the preclusion of moving forward, but in being able to let them glance off one – to square one’s shoulders and just move on – it might be possible but I don’t think it’s always realistic. Life hurts, sometimes.

    • Hi Lizzi! Thanks for reading. It was one of those posts that I was chewing on for couple days for the most part. I feel, with this cleanse thing, that I was somehow proscribed from writing about it; even though that would be a silly thing to impose on people. That’s why it came out as chunky and hearty as it did.

      Re “suffering & (supposed) choice” I agree with what you’re saying and I do tend to think that way for the most part, as in, “everyone at their own pace” and “live in the other’s shoes” — in this context (and I need to be clearer about it) it was really about me. I was suffering … And it occurred to me at that moment; that I could allow the notion that I chose to get myself looped into the cleanse, also due in great part to social pressure, and that I suffered for it because it simply wasn’t for me (post to come: that’s the big aha! moment for me and I’m reaping benefits I couldn’t have imagined…). The cleanse group is going “all raw” and fully vegan this final week and I’m out for the most part; I felt like a wisp last week energetically and that’s so not my norm. I row and teach / practice yoga several times a week and by Thursday I felt like crap. So I decided to have more food and some with mayonnaise!! And my life changed.

      Thanks for reading and especially for commenting!!


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