Sunday, February 24, 2013

coffee mate

Motivation is a funny thing.

I am a stalwart caffeine addict, and I think a lot of my fellow creatives will sympathize. I have been drinking coffee since middle school -- heavily since high school -- and there's very little I enjoy accomplishing it without it. I am actually dialing down the volume a wee bit -- finally feeling the adverse effects on my sleep if I drink coffee in the afternoon -- but it's taken a very long time for the caffeine already in me to subsist to the extent that this is true. I truly never felt jittery or even different with coffee in my system until really just under a year ago. Thus the gentle, somewhat unconscious scaling down as I realize hitting that caffeinated sweet spot of wakefulness-without-jitters takes less than it used to. And that is no bad thing.

It's less in vogue now to be a coffee addict than it was, say, in the late nineties when espresso started becoming readily available. Right now people are apt to extoll the benefits of green tea or kombucha or spinach-kale smoothies. These are all fine and have their place. But I am a coffee person, and as such my first waking moments are often spent mechanically switching on the kettle and getting the coffee grounds scooped into the french press.

Which is why it is all the more interesting to me that I am currently awake -- awake hours before I should be -- this particular morning, when there is no coffee in the house.

We in fact ran out yesterday and I remembered last night, long after any store that would have been able to solve the problem had closed. So it wasn't that rude shock of the hoped-for item not being there. Instead I laid awake for a while thinking, oughtn't I try and get more sleep? There's no coffee waiting for me, and any burst of energy I am feeling now may well diminish -- rapidly -- and I may have to spend the rest of the day in a groggy haze.

But I went to a very enriching workshop yesterday, and met lovely people, and socialized with some of them long after the chairs in the conference room had been stacked and put away. I spent the whole day thinking about books and intent and getting work out in the world, paintings to revisit and modify, ideas for mailers, and absolutely everything an illustrator might want to think about if she weren't spending the whole day making something. I looked at gorgeous pictures that other people had made, learned about some books I need to get from the library, illustrators I need to find online. I crammed my brain full of all these wonderful things, from the very beginning of the day to the very end. So it was no wonder the quiet optimism that fills one at a beginning started to bubble up and gently woke me this morning, long before even I normally get out of bed. And so I got up, because I wanted to stoke this little fire building up under the kettle of my waking mind. Coffee or no.

I wish I could find a source for this, but a friend of mine once mentioned that there is a Hindu (Buddhist?) understanding that the hours of 3am - 5am are the "God's Hours" and that our best energy comes to us at that time. I am certain this is not true for everyone -- there isn't a soul I regularly associate with who claims to be a morning person. But it certainly feels true for me on mornings like this when I pop instantly awake at 3:15, feeling rested despite my raggedy five hours or so of sleep, feeling happy, feeling energized. Impatient to get out of bed and start properly digesting all the exciting things I'm thinking about.

It's mornings like this that reaffirm for me that yes, coffee is just a substance, the energy it fuels probably has to originate from somewhere. Yes, the natural-people blogs I'm reading are probably right, and it's probably good I've been able to cut back, and I really ought to flirt with the idea of going occasionally off the bean -- if only to make, say, future international travel easier. (Wouldn't it be wonderful if the black tea I'm drinking right now would cut it? Wouldn't it be wonderful if just orange juice or water could do it?) That isn't going to stop me from going to a coffeeshop down the road, three hours from now when they open, to get another batch of beans. Rhythms keep us grounded, and as things get more exciting around here I'll need as many grounding elements as I can find. And I love coffee, with a wild artless passion. It's one of the reasons I moved to Portland in the first place, though that isn't the first reason I usually give to people. My blood runs brownish with caffeinated desire. So many of my greatest friendships, memories and views-out-windows have been taken in over a cup of coffee. Any scaling back efforts are going to remain the low-level, back-burner type project they already have been. I have much more interesting projects to look forward too.