Three months ago, I quit coffee cold turkey. For those who know me well, coffee and I have had a long relationship. It dates back to almost three decades. I grew up in a coffee obsessed home, as opposed to a tea loving one. My grandma used to brew her Madrasi coffee every morning and she and Grand Dad had it first thing in the morning. Coffee was one of the first aromas I recognized as I child. Coffee was an integral part of the morning routine in our house.
My father was opposed to the milk mixes like Horlicks and Bournvita. He claimed they were full of sugar, and that all that a kid wants, is a little color in her milk. There we go..that’s when a tiny dose of coffee made it to my morning milk. I was probably six or seven when that started happening. Ever since then, coffee became a routine. Furthermore, it became the only routine that I have followed consistently in my life, thus far.
I barely went off of coffee during pregnancy and kicked it back in mid way through the second trimester. There was this one month when I gave up coffee for lent. I don’t follow the tradition. I was simply giving some co-workers company. During that phase, I used to sneak into a Starbucks at the end of the day to get a whiff of the aroma. It was like passive smoking. I did OK, but I went back to it after lent ended.
What started as a coloring mechanism, turned into an obsession. I patiently waited for my Mom to hand me over the chore of making my milk in the morning. It meant I could add as much coffee as I wanted. I misused my powers. I admit it. I think she knew about it then.
I had coffee twice a day in college. My night time coffee routine of walking through the corridor, beating my coffee in a little cup became famous. I was trusted with the best coffee.
I distinctly remember this one time, when a friend of my brother-in-law’s was visiting from the US. I was beginning to work through my university applications at the time. He tempted me with the thought of free coffee refills in the US. I imagined a big mug and overflowing coffee and was so thrilled at the prospect of me and my coffee in a new country. It was the one thing that I knew about this place, before I arrived. I will have my coffee – freely available – in copious quantities 😀
And then I graduated and started working. My obsessions with coffee doubled when I joined consulting. I felt like I needed it to cope with the workload. (In retrospect, it was what others around me needed to cope with the workload). I became dependent on it. The love became a necessity. I was chained to it. I needed it to start the day and I kept needing it until I slept. For some good reason, coffee never interrupted my sleep. I can drink coffee at 7pm and still sleep at 9pm.
When I Agam and I visited India, the situation became dire. Black drip is not readily available in Delhi. And we were never sure if it is the jet lag or the coffee deprivation that was making us feel drab and miserable.
Now let me just confess something – I don’t like routine. I challenge routine, every single minute of my existence. And this is not because I worked in consulting. I know a lot of consulting folks who love routine. It is in my blood. I cannot change it.
But beware! If you don’t like routine, you are going to face a lot of problems. First off, you have all those mid life crisis solvers who tell you that you have to become a creature of habit, and teach you how to form habits in 66 days. It is hard for me to read those books. I know the human mind needs to be controlled. But routine is boring. I can train my mind. But I don’t like to. It’s a thing of beauty, let’s just appreciate it. I think that training your mind is like micro management. GIve it a framework, and let it operate.
And if I have to I’d rather train my mind to do the right thing. But as the other hoard of writers on the topic of habit claim, your mind is exhausted by the decision making you are subjecting it to, every time you make a decision to do the right thing. And that the mind finally crashes, and leads you to finishing all the leftover french fries on your daughter’s dinner plate. I get it!
I am not denying any of their theories. I just like to treat my mind with a little more respect. And I am not opposed to good habits. Just the routine. Taking bath every day is a good habit. But taking a bath before you prepare breakfast every day, and you shall not fail at following this schedule – is a routine. This habit vs routine is single most compelling dilemma of my life at the moment. As I reflect on it, if that is the one thing I am having a tough time coming to terms with – I think I am ok. It could be a lot worse.
The rebel in me fights routine, but hopes that I will find a way to conquer my bad habits, without building a routine. To list just a few routines I easily get bored with – I cannot follow routines for workouts. Like do these 6 things in a circuit and keep doing that. Scratch that! I cannot make a meal plan and follow it every week. I buy a fridge full of ingredients and prep them,and then I toss them together and make meals. It is a perfectly managed chaos. I cannot keep up with routines of keeping in touch with people on a monthly basis or do weekly phone calls to my mother. I don’t like the routine of always picking up Tara. I like to mix things up.
I am water. I flow. I flow where I see a path, and sometimes I push rocks and twigs and make the path. I love the free flow of water. Water is my nature element.
Back to the topic of coffee..
For three decades I was chained to a routine that I imposed on myself. And it was now beginning to weigh down on me. I told myself that Coffee is not my identity. I am not able to power through my day because of coffee. Or was I? I did not know for sure. I don’t like to ‘not know things for sure’. I need to be certain, every time, about anything that I care about.
The rebel in me finally challenged that dependence and to prove to myself, and only myself, that coffee is what I imposed on me, and not something I desire or need for survival, I quit coffee on Feb 28, 2018.
On most days, I make a cup of tea in the morning and that’s pretty much it. I can also go an entire day without any caffeine. Just not Mondays. If I am yawning a lot, I get a cup of peppermint tea.
And I am JUST FINE! I don’t sleep any better. I don’t miss coffee. I don’t have cravings. I am as energetic through the day as I was before. I don’t get tempted by my co-worker’s coffee. It’s as if nothing has really changed.
Now that disappointed me to a certain extent. I mean coffee is my best friend. We share a relationship. I have invested a lot in getting my cup of my choice for so many years. And just like that, I quit, and nothing changed? Yes. Nothing.
So what does this tell us about ourselves? Well I will let you figure that out. As for me, I am unchained. I am free. And I am so happy that I killed the one routine I thought I was dependent on in my life. I still have to figure out the habit vs routine dilemma. But I am capable of figuring it out without coffee 😀
For me this was a reminder of something my father taught me – I am who I want to be. And how I stuff my backpack is completely up to me. I need to clean up my backpack from time to time and discard things I am holding on to for no good reason.
Shuffle things around. Ruffle some feathers. Lighten up and in turn, brighten up your journey ahead.