A couple days ago I was sitting in a morning meeting and noticed everyone else had a cup of coffee in front of them, and I’m there going without, yawning and slouching and rubbing my eyes. I don’t mind starting the day a little groggy; it wears off after a little while. But sometimes I wonder if I’m making other people uncomfortable by being so counter-cultural. I mean, even vegan health nuts drink coffee.
And it’s not just caffeine: I’m also reluctant about consuming alcohol, over-the-counter painkillers, and vitamin supplements. Basically, I don’t like the idea of using mood altering substances, no matter how useful and socially acceptable they may be.
And I was just reflecting, perhaps the best way to explain it is I’m afraid of losing touch with my “true state of being.” I mean, what does caffeine do but mask the symptoms of sleep deprivation? If I’m waking up tired and can’t get going in the morning, I probably haven’t rested enough.
At a formative age I was repeatedly exposed to the idea that pain and discomfort are to be welcomed as a signal that something is wrong. You wouldn’t really want a pain-free life (the argument goes): look at people with leprosy: because their nerves have been deadened, they can’t tell when something is causing their bodies harm, so they don’t change their behavior to protect themselves from further damage and pretty soon they’ve become all crippled and deformed.
So I internalized the principle of viewing pain and discomfort as helpful information and as inspiration to alter course.
The only problem with that is … sometimes the behavioral changes necessary to bring an organic (rather than artificial) end to my suffering are just too f***ing difficult to manage. And maybe at that point I should just concede defeat and drink a cup of tea.