Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Read, Write, Relate...deeply and intentionally

September alway feels like a new beginning for me. With the opening of new reams of paper and colored pencils comes the time when I like to evaluate "things" in my life with a critical eye; to pray about what needs to be picked up, and what needs to be put down.

I made only one personal goal this year, but its going to take my whole life to hone it: Read, Write, and Relate...deeply and intentionally. To start, this means my days of social media (apart from this blog) are all but over. I cannot write or relate on a deep level if all I am reading is status updates and bits of useless information that doesn't intentionally foster deep thinking or relationship.

The biggest thought and time sucker in my life is Facebook. So I'm cutting way back. It's not that I don't think there is room in life for fun or fluff. However, even "fluff" (good fiction books, movies, light conversation and time having fun with actual people) lends to a thought process that runs deeper than pictures of newly painted toes, snarky sayings, or emotional opinions given over the internet that would not be verbalized face-to face. For the record, I'm not talking about politics here. Nor am I nursing a wounded ego from cutting words on the Timeline. This isn't a personal diatribe to vent feeling or frustrations I will not take to someone face-to-face. This post is born out of a deep thinker's need to re-learn the process of thoughtful thinking and living. A gift I gave away when I chose to lend the whole of my thought life to stats, tweets, #ideas in 140 characters, more or less.

The thing is this: I do love Facebook as a means to connect with those outside of my community; to see pictures of growing kids, vacations, pregnancy/good news announcements, and to get prayer requests from those who are hurting. I enjoy seeing updates from those who were a part of my life for a short season, but are no longer even acquaintances. I like that there is a place I can contact people whom I would love to keep in touch with every once in a while.  The truth is, I wouldn't be in contact with this group of friends every day, month or year (and some cases, decade) but its nice to check in when we can.

Then there are my dear friends on Facebook (and in real life) that I rarely get to see, but when I do, its like the distance never exists. Those friendships have stood the test of time and will continue to do so whether I log in every day or not.

Relationships within my community are entirely different. They deserve more than a quick push on "like", they deserve deep and abiding connection while I am here to do it.  Obviously, I cannot do this quickly, or even everyday, but that doesn't relinquish my responsibility in the building of relationships with those within my reach. The lie of Facebook is that it keeps us connected with the click of a mouse and we call it "relating." It just isn't true. We aren't meant to live life this way. It isn't true living. And its killing my ability to think.

The initial concept behind Facebook and other sites was a good one: to serve and help foster relationships and ideas. For me, it has done the exact opposite. It has dulled my senses and strangled my thinking. I am meant to foster relationships in a meaningful and authentic way; not be a slave to the shallow stats of life. To this end, I'm reserving my Facebooking time for occasional weekend check-ins, making more time to think deeply, read thoroughly, write more thoughtfully, and enjoy living life with those who are willing to spend it with me.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Confession from the CoffeeGal

I have a secret I've been keeping for 106 days.

I've told a few people, so its not entirely secret. Two months ago I shared my hush-hush news with the Carpool Queen and her eyes weld up with tears. Her baby blues looked upon me with a mix of pity and unbelief.

In the past I've shared many parts of my life with (what I hope is) transparent honesty. But this... well I just haven't been able to bring myself to write about it.

Honestly, there are still days I can't believe it myself.

I gave up caffeine.

Nope, that's no typo.

I. gave. up. caffeine.

I mentioned a health crises I had in late May. One morning I woke up so panic and anxiety ridden, I was not functional. I was literally sick in the bed. Not sick like the average mama who can run a fever of 104, be completely run-down, but still manages to go to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan  I'm talkin' bout an I-can't-get-out-bed, have-to-call-a neighbor-to-drive-me-to-the-doctor (because my husband was out of town), can't-sleep-eat-or-think; feels-like-someone-hit-me-with-a-mack-truck-after-running-a-marathon kind of sick. I didn't know that anxiety could have such an absolute, complete, head-to-toe physical aspect to it... but it most certainly does. It came on suddenly, lasted for weeks, and wasn't very fun.

It all started early on a Thursday morning while I was out for a run. My heart rate went up, and over, the normal pace, and never came down. I came home, crawled into bed, and stayed there. For the course of a week I was doing nothing more strenuous than getting out of bed once in awhile to use the bathroom or to bathe, but my heart, mind and body continued to race. Even if I had had the energy to descend the stairs to the kitchen coffee pot, the thought of drinking a stimulant was more than I could bear.

Still, I missed it.

I've been a coffee drinker from the tender age of sixteen. For the record, that's nearly a quarter century of early morning roasted deliciousness. I did give it up twice, for nine months each. Enough time to incubate my chicks. The moment they hatched my first "solid food" was a cup of hospital coffee with powdered creme. Not exactly gourmet, but good enough for me.

It was the hot caffeinated beverage that got me through early morning breastfeeding sessions after long nights without sleep. It helped me to stay up late on weekends with girlfriends, when late night chatting sessions were in full swing. Coffee has been the catalyst for many wonderful conversations with my husband, friends, and family. It's been the conduit for a cozy morning read, and warm respite each afternoon.  I've built this blog over the course of seven years, most posts typed with one hand, hot mug in the other. After all, this is La Vida Dulce, named after my favorite coffee (now discontinued) and I am the CoffeeGal. She doesn't drink decaf.

Only now,  I do.

Have I mentioned its been nearly 106 days and I still miss it?

But I'll tell you what makes me grateful.

I used to worry when I traveled: Where would I get coffee in the morning? Would there be enough? How would I deal with the headaches and sluggishness if I couldn't find the Joe?  I was using coffee as a stimulant. I was (although I despise the use of this word) addicted. I couldn't function without it. It's nice to have the freedom to go somewhere and know I won't "need" a fix.

I have been a notoriously "bad sleeper" for most of my life. Having trouble getting and staying asleep.
I still struggle a bit with sleep, but its different. Now I can fall asleep easier, and if I wake up in the middle of the night it doesn't take three to four hours to catch some z's.

My morning workouts feel more productive.  I was waking up in the morning, having a HUGE cup of coffee (usually 18 oz) , and then slogging through a run or workout still not feeling fully awake. I had to have two (or more) mugs to rev up my engine. Now I enjoy working-out more because I feel refreshed when I start.

I'm still drinking one cup of decaf (10 oz - Keurig style) in the early morning, pre-workout. Then having a second cup with my breakfast. Every once in while, when I'm needing the comfort of a warm cup in my hand, I have one in the afternoon. I am grateful that I don't have to choose good health or something good to drink. I think that might be the most amazing part: I hadn't realized how caffeine had drastically changed my health and perspective. I believed the lie that I couldn't live without coffee (because I felt horrid without it.) But the truth is I can enjoy coffee and feel good. I can have both. When you are always searching for the next "fix", you cannot see that truth. I still enjoy my coffee. But now I'm enjoying it while having a more balanced perspective, and improved physical and mental health along the way.

As for the anxiety and panic issue, I wish I could say that lack of "the real stuff" is the cure.  It's not quite that easy. But, I'm doing so much better with the help of a supportive husband, family and friends, and with copious amounts of prayer. Oh, and pharmaceuticals are helpful too... but that might be confession for another day.

La Vida Dulce! 
(The sweet life!)