Saturday, January 1, 2011

Coffee Break with God

(My title is shamelessly mooched from a book I've never read, and has pretty much nothing to do with this post.)

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, because I know from long experience that they tend to be swept out with the eggshells and coffee grounds sometime around the end of the first week of January, and I like to save myself the embarrassment that my own broken resolutions cause me.  Sometimes I toy with various resolutions, however, trying them on and then, more often than not, rejecting them.  Here are a few that I'm idly considering this year:

1.  No longer swearing like a truck-driver, if only inside the echo-chamber of my own head.  I almost never swear in front of my son (not in English, anyway, though I have to admit to having said some really gutter things in Italian at times, when I've stepped on a Lego, say, or given myself a paper cut), and I've been very relieved that he's never yet, to my knowledge, said a curse-word (at least not in English).  And yet, we now know that swearing is much more effective at relieving pain and frustration than consciously resorting to blithe euphemisms; the real words just seem to work, and are so much more satisfying emotionally, perhaps because of their taboo status.  I often take myself into another room alone so I can swear out loud in English, but mostly those four-letter bombs are just dropping in the quiet of my mind as I face the frustrations of the average day.  And yet, for all the silence of my cursing, it still doesn't seem . . . seemly to even think those words.  So perhaps I'll silently substitute some corny-sounding euphemisms in my inner monologue in 2011.  Or perhaps not.

2.  Giving up coffee. I consider undertaking this heroic feat every so often, and even went so far as to make it my Lenten sacrifice a couple of years ago, an intention which lasted one solid day.  The truth is, I sometimes go for whole weeks without drinking coffee, but I have no wish to put it away from me forever.  Not only do I love the taste -- it's one of my favorite flavors, the darker and bitterer the better (no sugar, and lightened with half-and-half or cream; if only milk is available, I will forgo the coffee altogether) -- but I also love the idea of coffee.  There is something so companionable about it.  Two mothers having coffee together while their children play are engaging in a kind of conspiracy of community, it seems to me.  Tea, though I drink it, seems insubstantial and a bit fey in comparison, and herbal tea is something I dislike and generally avoid unless there's a medicinal reason for taking it.  (It's crossed my mind once or twice that if I gave up coffee, perhaps I would be able to conceive again; I've heard the anecdotal notion that coffee suppresses fertility.  But the truth is that I was drinking coffee all the other times I conceived; I believe God intends for us to add children to our family through adoption; and the possibility seems strong that conception wouldn't occur, and then I would have . . . given up coffee.  Is this a foolish, fetishistic, fatalistic line of reasoning?  Perhaps.  Maybe I will give up coffee after all, though it will be with great reluctance.)
3.  Being more patient. My son, who's quite advanced in some ways, is quite delayed in others.  He doesn't draw (though he is very specific in directing his parents and teachers to draw according to his designs), partially because of his fine-motor delays, and partially because he's intensely perfectionistic, and melts down completely when he attempts to draw something that doesn't come out as he'd envisioned.  Today I was helping him draw a tugboat puffing smoke.  He was trying to draw circles for the smoke, but, as he said, his circles had tails.  He flung himself down in tears, and didn't want to continue.  This brought me to tears too, because I felt that he had to.  The ability to practice a skill until it virtually becomes ingrained into the sinews of the heart, and the ability to love that relentless practice, are probably the most important capacities I've cultivated in my life.  But how can I teach a volatile, neurologically-puzzling preschool boy to love practice, to love discipline?  I was stymied.  With him, I realize that I will have to take many deep breaths and work very slowly on the same basic skills over and over again, when I want him to dance, to leap, to fly, as the ethos of intense practice has allowed me to do.  He is the sort of child who, I believe, will fly eventually; he is very bright, musical, and imaginative.  But I am so attached to the idea of self-discipline as the means to becoming skilled and independent, and to the notion of becoming skilled and independent as the means to intellectual and artistic freedom.  I suppose that, in 2011, I should resolve to learn how to slow down my own wild thinking and imagining.

Which, to sum up, is why I love this ad from the 1980s.  It suggests that, when you're hitting the wall in your ethos of relentless practicing, and especially if you're a musician whose work is starting to sound like sh--,  you need . . . coffee.  I guess the shadowy forces of the coffee-industrial complex figured, back in those pre-Starbucks days, that Americans just weren't drinking enough of it.


Rodak said...

Giving up coffee. Hmm. I'm with you in not putting sugar, or any other sweetener, in it. But I'll go with milk instead of half-n-half, if necessary.
I've also found, on one those rare days when I've somehow allowed myself to (*gasp!*) run out of coffee, that tea--if one lets it steep long enough--packs a heck of a caffeine kick. (That's real tea, of course, not some kind of wimpy herb packaged as "tea.")
Caffeine is my last drug. The only one I haven't pretty much abandoned. I've cut down on it by drinking it only first thing in the morning and immediately after the evening meal. But that is as far as I've ever considered going.
And I'm f**king well NOT gonna give up cursing. You can f**king forget that sh*t, signora!
Patience, yes. That's a f**king good thing to cultivate. I'm with you on that one--and in great need of improvement in that area.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, Pentimento! Sharing thoughts with you was certainly among the positive highlights of 2010.

Pentimento said...

LOL! Back atcha, Rodak!

elena maria vidal said...

Don't give up coffee! It's good for you!!

Pentimento said...

I remember reading that on your site, Elena. :)

I'm actually pretty reluctant to give up something that's such a big part of my life and culture.

Anonymous said...

I can only recommend keeping any substitutes for unsavory language tucked neatly in the echo-chamber as well - there's no mirror quite like a five year old muttering "whiskey-tango-foxtrot" when he drops his lunchbox on the sidewalk at school.

I have to laugh at your list, only because I have considered (then blew off) giving up coffee, though I did go back to black, which helps curtail the sheer volume of consumption, and the swearing, husband was in law when we first met, and dealt frequently with law enforcement (who I guess are notorious foul-mouths), and said he would put me up against any of them in a curse-off, any day. I tell you the best day would be the one I was also trying to give up coffee and acquire patience.

My grandmother could use the f-bomb as a term of endearment, so I guess I come by it honestly.

Good luck with all that - I will pray with you, for the patience you seek with your boy, to the extent you can fully let yourself enjoy him. A family - mom included - deserves no less.

Pentimento said...

"Whiskey-tango-foxtrot"!!!!! I'm wiping away my tears . . .HAHAHAHA!

My son has asked me more than once: "Mommy, why did you say 'minghia'?" Which I will decline to trsnslate here.

And I think NYC must be the foulest-mouthed city in the world. You can hear the f-bomb flowering upon the lips of men, women, and children, regardless of where you happen to be walking. Suits in midtown say it; stay-at-home-moms in my Irish enclave in the Bronx say it (the latter far more frequently, I'd say, than the suits). It's only being away from it that I realize how often I am saying, nay, screaming it in my own head.

Thank you for your prayers. I need them.

BettyDuffy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lissla lissar said...

We don't drink coffee, here in the Lissar household. Our older son believes all adults come surgically attached to mugs of tea. Large mugs of tea, most of the tea steeped accidentally for at least half an hour.

It's unnerving enough hearing my preschooler saying "Sweet Fancy Moses!". I'm really glad I've never heard him swearing.

Oh, and Rodak, my husband got me Absence of Mind for Christmas, but I've been fathoms deep in a long fantasy epic until about five minutes ago.

Otepoti said...

This may be my very favourite of your posts, Pentimento, and favourite set of comments.

Coffee and swearing, and swearing off coffee, that's what makes a really wonderful cyber community.

Love you all, even though I've not met you. Happy New Year to you all, with copious coffee and as much vulgarity as you need to get you through.

Pentimento said...

I'll have you all know that Otepoti roasts her own. Love you too, O!

Pentimento said...

P.S. I'm pretty sure the girl in the white sweatshirt in the coffee commercial is saying "Minghia!" to her band.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I know that idea of coffee!

During one holiday at my uncle's house, I had the wonderful experience of waking up to cold weather and the smell of brewed coffee wafting all over the house. It was so amazing that I can't really describe it. I'd follow my nose to the kitchen, sit down at the breakfast table, pour a mug . . . and be completely let down. =S For some reason, the drinking never lived up to the smelling and the waking up. But every morning, without fail, I'd do the same thing, believing that that day would be the day the coffee would be magical.

You and I should get together for coffee sometime soon, Pentimento. LOL!!!

Rodak said...

Lissla--I hope that you enjoy Absence of Mind as much as I did!

Pentimento said...

There's hardly anything I'd like better, Enbrethiliel. Happy new year!

BettyDuffy said...

Woke up with commenter's regret this morning. Just wanted to say, I relate to all of these.

Pentimento said...

No need for regret, but if you want me to, I'll delete your comment, Betty.

Pentimento said...

Never mind, I see you've done it already.