Under the Influence



How coffee inspired my life...for about 3 weeks.

Journal Entry  22.01.2016  Friday morning... Woke up lethargic and blue. Typical for this time of month. I made a bold decision and drank coffee for the first time in over a year. Sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!  


After two days of deepening blues, I indulged. I dove into a cup of coffee and, oh, the elation from this most ubiquitous drug! The feelings not just of goodwill and optimism, but energy and vitality. Even if it’s just the surge of caffeine in my bloodstream, any agitation, movement, or stimulation feels better than none. I have so missed this. Lately, I’ve been reading about the newest findings on the benefits of the black brew. If I was going to take the plunge myself, I wanted to make sure it was consistent with my current commitments to support my particular health issues. So I created an über latté with organic, fair trade coffee and homemade almond-milk-coconut-oil frothy cream, sprinkled with organic cinnamon and a touch of coconut sugar. Delish! But after such a prolonged abstinence and so much progress with my health, can I justify the java? 


Journal Entry  23.01.2016  Saturday... Got my blood tests back yesterday. Researched coffee and hypothyroidism this morning. May not be a good thing. (The coffee and the research.) I am in need of a rationale...or a rationalization.


Shakespeare said, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”  Is the emotional boost of a coffee any less valid than the emotional hit of hormonal imbalance? Is either real? And what is real? Isn’t every perception skewed by both external and internal factors? Maya Angelou said, “Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” Isn’t this reason enough for continuing on the coffee? My experience of life is definitely better. I am getting things done. My mood is good. I’m supporting collective farming and profit sharing! Seriously, what is the issue here?? I may possibly be in a loop. 


Journal Entry  24.01.2016  Sunday... Is this a question of The Matrix? Is coffee the blue pill? A purveyor of artificial gains experienced as real? It’s so much easier to swallow than the red pill. To follow false positives rather than face sometimes difficult truths.


I think I’m trying to manage an over-stimulated amygdala with my prefrontal cortex. It’s like trying to rationalize with a raccoon. I just remembered Jonathan Haidt’s elephant metaphor in The Happiness Hypothesis. According to Mr. Haidt, our more evolved brain was developed not to master the primitive brain, but to serve it. To ride the elephant, to offer it guidance — not to dominate it. I often want to bend my brain to my will. To control my emotions. To contain and manipulate my feelings. But why? Why resist an experience I am having for one I think I should be having?


Journal Entry  25.01.2016  Monday... I am jacked up. It is harder to focus when I’m on the juice, but there’s so much more I get done. It seems I’m trading off mental acuity for physical accomplishment.The other option is to use it while I have it. Then rest my body and allow my brain to take its turn. Find my balance.


I just finished reading H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, considered one of the “10 best” books of 2015. Ms. Macdonald explains that you cannot tame a goshawk, but you can train it. And wild things, it turns out, cannot be trained with a stick, but only with a carrot. (Or, in this case, raw meat.) Extrapolating here, I cannot control my primitive brain. But if I want to manage my amygdala, offer it guidance, I should use reward rather than punishment. But I don’t. My default is to admonish my wild thing. At best, I try to reason with it, and at worst, I try to beat it into submission with disciplined denial. So I will enjoy the ride of my morning mood enhancer and see where it takes me. I am an adult. I can always change my decision.


Journal Entry  26.01.2016  Tuesday... Sweetjesus, I have permission! 


I saw my naturopath yesterday and she told me that if I feel better drinking coffee, go for it! How simple! How profound! How obvious. This coffee conundrum turns out to be an instructive reminder. Not everything needs to be intellectualized and thought through. Life isn’t always reducible to right and wrong. There are actions and consequences and I get to choose. As month one of the Year of the Muse comes to a close, I am reminded that inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. From places both ridiculous and sublime...and caffeinated.



From A Run In My Stocking: Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist     www.aruninmystocking.com ;

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