This being Lent and all, it only seems appropriate that I confess a little something during this time of reflection:
I think about another man constantly.
A famous man.
Specifically, I can’t stop thinking about having lunch with Elvis.
This Lunch with Elvis notion is so much more than conversation over quesadillas. The heat between us always gives way to memorable moments that are brimming —no, overflowing— with a goosebump inducing balance of sweet, bold moves. Steamy stuff.
Is it a fancying of those Nike-swoosh sideburns? Thoughts of those rhythmic hip shakes? Not at all. What this all boils down to is very real, and the thoughts brewing in my head are filled with enough desire to fuel entire cities.
All Shook Up – A Lent Decision
You see, Lunch with Elvis is actually a coffee at No Joe’s Coffeehouse in Red Bank, N.J. It’s named for the banana and peanut butter hankerings Elvis supposedly developed in his less health conscious, later years – and it’s delicious.
It’s also what I announced I would give up during Lent. Not just Lunch with Elvis (bad), but all coffee (stupid).
Imagine me, whose kitchen prominently features a sign with the phrase, “Coffee is not a drug, it’s a vitamin.” Me, who, despite the sighting of an employee picking lint from her belly button (NOT at the aforementioned café) still walked in and ordered coffee from her. Me, with orderly, British Guard rows of Turkish roasts and ground Hazelnut packages proudly lining cabinet shelves.
This, my friends, is all about what it’s like to go without hot, bold excitement for 46 days (1,104 hours; 66,240 minutes; 3, 974,400 seconds to be exact).
And I sure do miss every bit of those heart-racing moments.
The instant I blurted my declaration, heartache hit. I could have said, “I’m giving up coffee . . . ” then paused at the absurdity and added, “cake.” I’m giving up coffee cake.” But nooooo.
After the announcement, one of my first thoughts was, “I wonder if they make coffee tea?” Is there such a thing as a “Lent Take Back”? Could I go back on my word? Geesh, what had I gotten myself into?
I realized right then and there that if I were going to do this, I’d have to fully unleash my perfectionist, all-or-nothing side. Therefore, I bid adieu to all things coffee related (really stupid). Coffee ice cream, coffee yogurt, coffee infused chocolates – banished.
I was going to do this, come hell or high water.
Caffeine Deprived Confessions
The first three days I woke to a screaming headache just at the base of my neck. I turned to Chamomile tea, you know, the one whose box boasts a bear donning a sleeping cap. Surely images of a carnivore in pajamas, coupled with the promise of a delightful flavor, would soothe my caffeine-depleted soul.
Two days later, the headaches faded, but the yearning for coffee’s wonderful taste did not. Much to my chagrin, not everyone around me chose to give up coffee (the nerve!). And so every morning, the smell of arabica beans beckon. Nothing that my daily ritual of picking up the pot (and yes, inhaling) can’t fix. I wonder how silly I must look, deep breathing fresh brewed java straight from the pot. In some weird way, I almost believe I can acquire taste via the olfactory tract.
Becoming one with the Bean
Other times, I open the bag and draw a sharp breath, hold in the aroma, then steadily release. I feel focused, centered. Someday I will open a yoga center, designed to help others achieve inner peace by becoming one with the bean. Whole bean deep breathing. There, the likes of Suri Cruise and perhaps a cleaned up Sheen will visit, striking poses with names like Bean Tuck and Sunrise Stir.
At home, coffee is reminiscent of a child’s relentless finger tapping. Try to ignore me. Bet ya can’t. Try to ignore me. Bet ya can’t.
At work, coffee presents the same in-your-face dilemma. I find myself discreetly pausing over a just-tossed coffee cup. There, I briefly hover near the garbage can to enjoy a whiff of still-warm hazelnut infused Styrofoam.
Earl Grey, Genghis Khan . . .
Regardless how many tea flavors I have —Earl Grey, Pomegrante Green, Licorice— it just doesn’t impart the same sensory experience as coffee. No matter how robust a tea’s name, it can’t fool me. No Earl, no rooibos, no country or philothantropic endeavored title can trick me into thinking that its flavor is a rich as its name.
Now, a fine blend of Genghis Khan oolong, Cayenne Molasses tea leaves, Horseradish Inferno with a bit of honey. . . perhaps we’re on to something.
This is your Brain. This is your Brain Not on Coffee.
A couple of weeks into Lent, a disturbing notion entered my mind: What if I’ve lost my coffee craving?
It’s Easter Sunday. I’m at my parent’s house and take that highly-anticipated first sip of coffee. Instantly, my face turns red, eyes water, and without warning, I spew caffeinated saliva all over the ham and hot cross buns.
Silence. Droplets of Lunch with Elvis bead down my father’s new Easter sweater.
“Whoopsee,” I muster. “ I guess the taste of coffee doesn’t suit me anymore.”
My Mom, rather than being upset at the mess, hands me a tea bag instead, her kind smile suddenly sprouting fangs as her head spins violently. All the while, the whistling teapot reaches an ear-splitting level, with enough intensity to shatter the eggs right out of their colored shell. Then . . . as far as the eye can see are chamomile fields. Fields in the living room, creeping across the ceiling, blanketing neighbors’ lawns, even poking through the hot cross buns. And in each field, Easter Bunnies with teacups and grizzlies in nightcaps dance together, mocking me.
Hmmph. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I think it makes the imagination just go crazy.
Mostly though, I pretend to ignore the cravings. I’m cool, me and my teabag tag stapled to a string, swaying over the sides of a cup. Carefree, nonchalant. Look at me. Look at the tag twirl in the breeze. I’m having non-coffee.
The Five Stages of (Coffee) Grief
This whole experience reminds me of the five stages of grief, a coping model Elisabeth Kubler-Ross established in the late 60s.
Her model described, in five discrete stages, ways people deal with grief (yes) and tragedy (yes) mainly when dealing with a catastrophic loss (yes again). I find it applies to those giving up coffee during Lent, but who knows.
1. Denial — “I feel fine.” “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
Coffee Grief Example: This chamomile tea is just fine, really. These headaches are just from sleeping the wrong way or something. I feel fine. Some people even say coffee’s not that good for you anyway.
2. Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?”
Coffee Grief Example: Are. You. Kidding. Me? Another coffee commercial. Damn you and your best part of waking up jingle. This is not fair! Why is this happening to me? And you – yeah you with your job loss and divorce and illness- you don’t know pain until you’ve gone without coffee. I mean, have you even HAD Lunch with Elvis?
3. Bargaining — “Just let me live to see my children graduate.” “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “I will give my life savings if…”
Coffee Grief Example: I’d do anything to taste even just a little, please . . . Just let me live long enough to have Lunch with Elvis again. Don’t let anything happen to get in the way of this. Please.
4. Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” “What’s the point?” “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
Coffee Grief Example: I miss coffee so much, the yeaning in my heart is almost too much to take. What’s the point? Why even bother with tea? I miss my one true love, coffee.
5. Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
Coffee Grief Example: It’s going to be okay. I have less than a week to go. I’m going to be just fine until then.
“Until then,” of course, is Easter Sunday.
I’m looking forward to embracing the Spirit of the day. Family. Goodness on Earth. Ham. A time to sit, —perhaps in a corner alone— coffee pot in one hand, a large straw in the other, returning at long last to my true love and the blessed state of caffeinated, steamy bliss that only we share.
Jennifer Lilley, 36, drinks her coffee black, two packets of sweetener, no cream. She thinks “Small” shouldn’t even be a choice offered in cafes and believes there’s no such thing as a bad cup of coffee. Ever. For the record, she does enjoy tea on occasion. Easter will not be one of those occasions.
© Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.