Coffee

The wait for a thorough soaking of central California begins on about Halloween. More than four months later the rain has come. This is the first morning of this long dry season where I have awoken to a steady and hard fall of water. I finally got some use from the raincoat that has been hanging in the corner of the room for months. I sat at the kitchen counter sipping a cup of coffee and poring over my Kindle as I listened for the shift of sounds above me. I welcome the rain at the same time as I am trying to curtail my consumption of coffee. It is the second day of good rain, and the third day with only a single cup of coffee.

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Why pick on coffee when it has been such a good friend to me, a solid acquaintance, all these years? In an effort to preserve some health in my old age so that I do not need to spend time in hospital waiting and hoping rooms, or flopped out in the raw on examination and surgical tables, I have been aiming toward eating more reasonably. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, told me long ago me that I should let my food be my medicine. If I eat just the right amount of the optimum food I feed myself, but beyond that I feed my doctor. Coffee has not given me any noticeably ill side effects, but I am reading that since caffeine is addictive my body tends to go through withdrawals when it does not receive the caffeine it expects. My body easily becomes confused by these withdrawal symptoms, thinking them to be hunger pains, so I rush to eat to relieve the withdrawal pain. At least this is what the nutrition expert says, whose advice I have chosen to follow, and so he continues to challenge me to make improvements.

I am a collector of all the worst habits. At one time in my youth adopting bad habits seemed to me like the adult and mature thing to do, because I saw older people bogged down with them and their habits seemed to give them such character, where I was pliable, plastic, immature, soulless, pimpled, searching for some identity and substance. Now I am that adult, looking to be able to dump all the bad things I have learned and succumbed to, wishing I could return to that level of innocent living that I experienced when young. How pleasant it would be to become childlike, to see my life in terms of play and to find wonder in every moment of the day. When I walk on the beach I see kids skip, twirl, laugh, prance, talk out loud to themselves in front of others, while their parents stand back with folded arms in a stoic position that signals the tyranny of maturity.

The first time I sipped coffee as a kid I did so because my mother was a heavy coffee drinker, so I wanted to share in her experience of this wonderful drink. Of course it was quite bitter and much too hot, so I put it down and did not pick up the habit again until I entered college, that place where I learned all of the worst and most damaging behaviors in life. In college the world got incredibly more complex than what I was accustomed to. My sleep pattern was suddenly getting me in much trouble because I needed more hours in a day to meet my daily minimum requirements, so the quick and easy answer was to drink coffee. These many years later of dripping this stuff through my system and enjoying the extra buzzy rush it gives me, I find it hard to accept the idea that I might have lived just as well without it.

I’m still committed to a cup a morning for now,Yuban instant, as a means of slowly weaning myself from the coffee pot teat. The one or two times that I stopped drinking coffee gave me the most horrendous headache, the worst piece of sore head I have ever felt, so now I am trying to sneak up on the idea of letting go of caffeine without it ever knowing that I have tiptoed away. Soon enough I will see how that goes. The whole-food plant-based diet I follow is so loaded with micronutrient eating that, according to the doctor, the author of Eat To Live, I should find myself loaded with a new flow of natural energy, such a sense of feeling good, that the need and desire to grab for extra stimulation will simply disappear from my mind.

Last night was Dharma night, in which the misses and I go eat at a local health food restaurant on the hill above Capitola village. I ordered Bo Thai, which consists of “Organic vegetables and baked tofu sauteed in our delicious sweet and spicy peanut sauce, with rice noodles, mung bean sprouts, green onions, peanuts, and lime.” Not so long ago I would look at a list of ingredients such as this on a menu, and keep scanning through the items or quickly turn the page, looking for a hamburger, or steak and potatoes. Now I drool when thinking of Bo Thai. If only I could make the same sort of transition with coffee, and train the part of my mind that controls appetite and desire to drool over a hot cup of herbal tea.

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