Goals, Realities, and a Coffee Comfort Contradiction

January passed a mere 5 months and eons of seconds ago. Somehow it’s the sensation of eons that stick. Way back in January your dedicated contributors posted some thoughts about goals. February passed. March. April. May remains, for a bare week more. This is my first post in eons.

I enter every school semester intending to write at least once a month. It feels like a realistic goal. One piece of something—probably a Today’s Author post—once a month. As I end every school semester I realize I wrote less than the semester before and I acknowledge to myself that I defined my goals before I understood the realities of my schedule.

A friend recently commented that my creative self must be screaming. Yes. Oh, yes. And at times—not too often, but occasionally—it screams itself into an outright tantrum that would make a 2 year old take notes. It’s oddly self-defeating, as the internal monologue of “when do I get time for MEEEE” steals the very time and energy so necessary to the creative process.

During this school year I ran into this. I found myself thinking, in the stuttering fashion of the often-interrupted, something along the lines of “I’ll have some coffee while I grade this, then when I get to the end I’ll still have energy to write!” Or, even less realistic during a grading and planning intensive semester, “Coffee now will be smart, then I’ll still be alert enough to write while the kid is falling asleep.” Then I’d drink more coffee, grade furiously, get within one or two assignments, and have to pick the boy up from school or go in and assure him there were no monsters, no real monsters, and wait in his room, twitching—not to get back to writing the monsters away, but to the grading so there was space in my head for monsters to even lurk.

It finally struck me one day, reaching for the dregs from the coffee pot after a short bout of yard work, what a contradiction a strong relationship to coffee can be.

When my son was little, and a determined non-sleeper, coffee was the fake energy I pulled from throughout the morning. He sleeps now, mostly. Yet still I look forward to that first cup, and still I pull the dregs from the pot hours later. And still I expect that humble little cup of darkness to produce miracles.

Here’s the contradiction: it’s a stimulant. It keeps the brain awake even when the brain would like to saunter off into deconstruction mode. Yet drink too much of it and I become grumpy, jumpy, and fidgety – all behaviors that doom me creatively. Then I become tired, yet unable to sleep.

Miracles do occur, by the way. I wrote a poem during the semester. It remains handwritten; I think I know which notebook I jotted it in. Still, I wrote a poem, in the early evening, while my husband read books to our son in the other room, on a day I left the coffee pot behind at 7 am, and taught and graded, and ran errands, and generally juggled the dishes of daily life. The secret to miracles, it turns out, is a peaceful interlude.

Sitting in my son’s room waiting for him to fall asleep doesn’t appear to count, by the way. My creative side flatly refuses to see it as time to myself.

Sometimes I find my goals lay themselves out before me, stepping stones through the chaotic garden of thought. The first stepping stone is to rid myself of my delusions – such as coffee’s usefulness in creating interludes. The next is to find, within the realities of my life, the consistent moments where I am my own person, one where the monikers of “mother”, “wife”, “instructor” or even “woman” do not exist, or at least do not take precedence. In other words, I intend to find and to create peaceful interludes. To do so requires I change, not my space, not the realities of my daily life, but my expectations of my space.

A friend once told me—a writer and instructor like me but with far more experience in both—that summer was his time to reflect and regenerate. Summer has begun for me and so has creative regeneration. I’ll share my writing reflections here this summer.

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12 thoughts on “Goals, Realities, and a Coffee Comfort Contradiction

  1. Did you try to write at night? For some people it’s the best time.

    • JF, have set up that particular expectation many times and failed — but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

  2. We all seem to have our contradictions 😉 Coffee could very well be one of mine also. I love the concept of finding peaceful interludes, not even necessarily in the physical moments of our chaotic days, but also from an emotional and mental perspective. It is amazing how many times it has been so very difficult to write that first word on a given day. But once the first word is penned, the second and third snowball into paragraphs and pages. And in a serendipitous way, the process of writing helps in the creating of those peaceful interludes. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to peeking into your world of reflection over the summer.

  3. So so so so true. Every word. TRUE.

  4. Perseverance, persistence, and passion are three ingredients I would like to be stirring in my coffee a lot more. I have things to say, and the ability to say them — my fingers still work, my eyes still work, my brain at least shows up — but don’t sit down and do it enough. I have written about coffee on my blog, trading one addiction for another. Not sure it makes much of a difference in my writing, but it sure tastes good. Thanks for these thoughts Jessica.

    • Yes, I often forget to stock those ingredients too. Wish I could pick them up at the grocery store and use them instead of sugar, or caffeine for that matter. Trading one addiction for another is a big problem, something I too have been guilty of. I’ve criticized myself for not trading the caffeine for the addiction of writing, but that’s just not how creation works, is it?

  5. You and I are going through much the same stagnation tho mine quagmire is fueled by slightly different circumstances. Still, I like your approach to “creative regeneration.” You have a strategy I’d like to adopt. Here’s to both of us.

    • Sharon, I’m so sorry you’re in the stuck in the same. Quagmire and stagnation are exactly how I feel about this just now. I hope you’re able to find a way to get some regeneration in your own way.

  6. Jessica,

    I’ve been exactly where you are, which I will describe as dedicated, passionate, and busy. My advice? Do the things you do with love, and the rest will fall away. Sometimes we get stuck in Shoudville. I know that you will find your balance.

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