What’s in a Name: Part 1

Drink Coffee, Breathe Fire isn’t literally about coffee and fire. Sorry to coffee lovers and pyromaniacs alike. It’s about self-care and passion. It’s about the filling of your own cup (ha) and the infusion of fearlessness and purpose into your day. It’s about knowing yourself and sharing yourself.

Step one: drink coffee.

I am relatively new to the world of coffee. I am one of those chipper morning people. I’m sorry if this makes you hate me already. I promise I have other redeeming traits, charming things like being able to say the alphabet backward and knowing all the lyrics to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop.” When I was younger, my dad, a notorious non-sleeper, would wake us offensively early, often by beating his chest and doing crazy impersonations of a moth being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, an impression that involved him throwing himself, arms flailing, around all the walls of the living room before rolling dramatically across the floor. Being able to wake up happy was one of the few positive life skills I picked up from him, the others being a love of dancing to Texas Swing music and being absolutely undaunted by the number and type of details one might have to navigate in pursuit of a goal. I am productive in the morning, fresh and optimistic. I also love to sleep and happily go to bed early so that I can get a delicious, blanket-cocooned eight hours of resetting.

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I started drinking coffee for more than a pure, occasional treat. It started with mochas from Starbucks, an easy way to get cozy on the occasional cool Texas fall day, or a nice frosty java chip on the innumerable baking hot days the summers offered. When I was 34, my friend and I took a girls’ trip to Spain, my first extended trip away from my then 1- and 2-year-olds. At that point I’d been dabbling a little more into the world of morning caffeine, thanks to two babies in fewer than two years and a husband whose job took him away from home a fair amount of time. But that trip to Spain was a turning point, a milestone in my coffee growth. My friend is a coffee lover, and we started each day with a much moaned and delighted over cup of whatever delicious European coffee we could find. We were two tired young moms dealing with jet lag, and it was her well timed tutelage and guidance that showed me how delightful a morning jolt can be.

It was all downhill from there. Back home, I started enjoying a morning coffee more frequently. It wasn’t that I needed it, it was more that I enjoyed it. I came to understand that coffee is a socially acceptable pause button. Mornings with two working parents and two young kids tend to start at a sprint and even more so when my husband was traveling and I was parenting solo. But everyone gladly paused the sprint for coffee. “Guess I need more coffee” was something I could say to elicit a chuckle and immediate understanding for any minor gaff. “Haven’t had my coffee yet” would, like magic, create a quieter, more gentle interaction between me and others. Coffee became a way through which I could moderate the intensity of my morning. It wasn’t a “no,” it was simply a “not yet.”

More than that, coffee became a cheerleader, a coach, someone to grab my exhausted hand and pull me up, giving me a boost into the day that, sadly, became more helpful than I’d like to admit as I aged. Coffee became the lift chair for my aging energy levels. I wasn’t drinking it every day, and I still made that mental effort to start the day with a smile and a song and a dance party, but coffee made it all . . . easier. And I came to realize that easier was okay. That I didn’t have to pick the hardest path every time. That I didn’t have to muscle and grit my way through everything. That being a little gentler with myself, a little kinder, was perfectly fine.

When I was 35, my family moved across the country. We left hot, cement-covered Texas for the greenery and snow of New Hampshire. We went from huge state with a big village to tiny state with no village at all. We had no family or friends anywhere even remotely close to us. We didn’t know a soul. There was no way to get a break from the kids, then 4 and 5, while we tried to unpack and set up our new home. I spent all day, every day, completely exhausted. It was then that coffee became a permanent, daily friend to me. It was then that I fully embraced the fact that while we may be able to do it all on our own, we don’t have to. There’s no more glory in setting up a house under the sheer determination of will than there is in setting up the house through determination, willpower, and caffeine. That, in fact, I was perhaps more productive than ever through the grace and help of coffee. And that that was okay.

So look. I get it. Not everyone is a coffee drinker. I wasn’t for a very, very long time. The “drink coffee” part of this blog isn’t advocating drinking actual coffee. Do or don’t, whatever.

What drinking coffee has taught me is that it’s okay to be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to have a pause button, and to use that pause button to create space for ourselves, our needs, and our wants. You don’t have to sprint through life under the pure power of adrenaline and determination all the time. You can do things that give you a boost, that make life a little easier, that literally and figuratively fill you up, so that you can face the day a little more effectively.

Maybe it’s coffee, maybe it’s journaling, maybe it’s yoga. My aunt, who has been happily married for more than 40 years, goes on solo retreats frequently, spending weekends away from her husband, her friends, her job, just to fill up and reset. So maybe time alone is your coffee. Maybe you knit. Maybe you moonlight on weekends as a roller derby girl named Sugar Plum Fury. Maybe you are great about daily affirmations, and maybe you just have a running dialogue in your head where you replace everyone’s name with a cuss word. WHATEVER. We all have tools and tricks for soothing ourselves and giving ourselves an extra boost of joy to make it through another day.

Drinking coffee is code for self-care, for taking literal care of yourself, first. First thing in the morning, first thing in your to-do list, first before taking care of everything else. Don’t spend your life putting everyone else ahead of yourself. Don’t become a martyr to the God of selflessness. The self is the most important experience you will have in this life. Don’t sacrifice it on the altar of others. Drinking coffee is code for knowing yourself and making self-care a priority.

Because when you do that, you can get to step two: breathing fire.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name: Part 1

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