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10 March, 2010

Tea versus Coffee versus Random Acts of Self-Discipline (Deprivation)

I don't know why it is.

Until March of 2006, I never drank hot beverages. Honestly. I know that's hard to believe. I was 37 years old, and I had probably had fewer than 5 cups of coffee in my life. I had never been much for tea either. Heck, I am not even a fan of soup, except perhaps a good tomato cream soup, with lots of parmesan and some crackers.

In March of 2006, I went to Europe. The time shift, some latent depression that was lurking in the wings, and the cultural shift, led me to deem it appropriate to start consuming coffee. I needed it to function. And I suspected/knew, that with enough sugar and milk, anything tastes good. I recall the first time I had a cup of extremely strong Parisian coffee with my friend Lisa, I found myself running to the bathroom, not five minutes after finishing it.

It was my first experience with the age-old pearl of celestial wisdom: "Caffeine makes me poop".

Of course, so do Heritage Flakes, but on a slightly longer time scale.

After the trip to Europe, my coffee consumption was fixed into habit. I suddenly understood the social aspect of "getting coffee with someone". It became a bonding thing. It became a ritual that was apparently long understood by everyone else, yet somehow foreign to me. The drink of choice has gone through a few different permutations, depending on the degree to which I have allowed myself to indulge in the joyful part, as opposed to the purely stimulatory part.

2% Vanilla Latte... (joy)
Americano... (less joy)
2% Caramel Latte... (almost too much joy)
Drip... (self-deprivation, and/or thriftiness)

And eventually, it comes to... stop. No coffee.

It's happened several times now. I have either allowed myself to creep up from one cup per day, to one in the morning and another in the afternoon. And eventually, I have a cup (usually drip, usually bad) that turns my stomach and my spirit, just so, such that I decide "No more coffee".

And just like that, I am off coffee.

Usually for the first week, I will ply myself with ibuprofen so that I don't get any caffeine headaches. And then I'm fine. This has happened on at least four or five occasions. And I'm in the middle of such a "recess" presently. Well, sort of. Because part of my caffeine abstention always allows for the social weekend coffee. I'm not that into being miserable.

This last time was a bit more of an extreme withdrawal, because I decided to throw away caffeinated beverages of all forms. I had been augmenting my coffee intake with Diet Pepsi (which, ironically, I find kind of revolting, but it was more "interesting" than water, though seemed to have no real stimulatory effect). The soda was making me feel sickly as well. So I eliminated it all.

And in my last stride toward becoming completely feeble, I decided maybe I should drink tea. So now, it's 1-2 cups of English Teatime (with sugar), for the small amount of caffeine that it provides.

We'll see how long it lasts.

Goats gotten

We are all annoyed by things. Some of them, we're keenly aware of. Others, only subtly. Even fewer, completely unaware, yet their effects manifest themselves in various ways. Especially true when the annoyance is inconvenient or, even worse, unacceptable. There are even things that annoy us, of which we are not aware, until someone else points out "Wow! You seem really annoyed by that!" Well, yes. I guess I am, huh?

I started this blog, with the idea in mind of telling you a laundry list of all the things that annoy me. Of course, after re-reading just my intro paragraph, I am pretty sure I can say that the list would either be trite, incomplete, or perhaps offensive.

So let's not go there.

But the thing about annoyance that's most interesting is the realization that things which bother one person may not bother another at all. It's all about perceptions. It's all about individual reality. And thus, it's really about individual experience. Maybe even individual biology. For example, it really bothers me when the guy in the office on the other side of the wall from me has speaker-phone conversations, even though he's alone in his office. Speaker-phone calls make sense when you've got a few people in your office who all need to hear. But if you don't, then basically, the only reason you're using speaker is so you have both hands free, and you're not uncomfortable. The annoyance with such behavior is two-fold for me. The feeling that boils inside of me is the anger that this guy has a nerve putting his comfort and convenience above respecting the need for those in offices surrounding him to have a peaceful environment. That's the annoyance part. And it's where I tend to dwell. I sit here, righteously, thinking about his nerve. And in the end, I feel like he is doing it to me as opposed to doing it for himself. It ends up being an act of commission, instead of an act of omission.

The reality is that I am bothered because I have difficultly concentrating. I cannot listen to music and do work. I cannot read if someone is talking. I just need very quiet and controlled environment, probably because I have some attention issues - tending to shift to whatever other stimuli are around me. So that's the fundamental issue. But I don't dwell there.

And annoyances are often like that. We find some secondary feature of the annoying stimulus, and start making it personal. And that amplifies the annoyance. Then, instead of getting only a little work done, because my concentration is impaired, I get zero work done, because my concentration is impaired and I am mad!

I wonder if I could shed all annoyances? I wonder if "being Zen" would be to just let it all flow through me, and not assign value to it. But to see it simply as action and reaction, internal and external, with no judgment. Would it feel better? Or do I want to hold on to the annoyance because it protects me from something else?