Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Coffee, happiness, numbing, and chocolate as a holy wafer of sweetness

View from Christie Cabin


coffee and aspen



It was a last minute hotel reservation, to stay one more night in Cambria, a magical coastal town. The hotel's breakfast was surprisingly delicious for the price of the room - fresh fruit, fluffy scrambled eggs, lightly seasoned and perfectly cooked potatoes. The coffee brewed for the masses and percolated in large metal urns was delicious, with no hint of that bitter, burned church coffee of my childhood. We took our plates to the outside tables, eating quickly while the fresh ocean air cooled our food, agreeing to get a second cup o' joe to go, it was THAT GOOD.

So, why does that second cup always disappoint?  It's so frustrating, that I can't capture again that moment of the perfectly brewed/steeped cup of coffee, steam rising from a white ceramic mug, the taste mingling with my morning breath, or a poached egg and spinach. I want it to be just as good, so I can continue to savor a moment that was clearly fleeting. 

I'm reading Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly.  I nearly skipped the section about numbing as a shield to vulnerability.  Because I like to numb. I don't necessarily want to stop. Brown obviously knows this, because she begins the segment with "If you're wondering if this section is about addiction and you're thinking, This isn't me, please read on."  She continues further in, "I believe we all numb our feelings. We may not do it compulsively or chronically, which is addiction, but that doesn't mean that we don't numb our sense of vulnerability. And numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn't just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can't selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light."

To put it in similar terms that I can relate to, Brown quotes someone talking chocolate. "In her book The Life Organizer, [Jennifer] Louden writes 'Shadow comforts can take any form. It's not what you do; it's why you do it that makes the difference. You can eat a piece of chocolate as a holy wafer of sweetness — a real comfort — or you can cram an entire chocolate bar into your mouth without even tasting it in a frantic attempt to soothe yourself — a shadow comfort."

It's not what you, do it's why you do it.  I'm trying to put that in to practice, to be mindful of my first cup of coffee, so present that I'm aware of the painful experiences as well as the joyful ones, the difficult along with the sense of creativity.  The second night in Cambria was worth it, it was part of the joy of being in the present moment. The second cup of coffee rarely is. I'm not sure what the metaphor is, there, yet.  But I don't need the second cup.  I'll be busy stuffing an entire bar of chocolate into my mouth.  Baby steps of awareness.

(Coffee shot: Flickr by Meeganz, Mountain cabin shot: Flickr by justparts54)

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