Saturday, August 30, 2014

and the rules are the first to go

Once upon a time, I gave up coffee this past Lent.
I know, I know, it sounds like self-inflicted torture. But it was, surprisingly, one of the best decisions I ever made. Not because I masochistically enjoy depriving myself of the rich, nutty notes of excellent espresso, but because I learned a little bit of discipline (Renee? Disciplined? Cue laugh track.)

Discipline is not my strong suit. In my perfect world, schedules and routines bow down before my every whim; order and structure cave to my desire of the moment; and systems and hierarchies give way to my spontaneous impulses.
Let desire be king, my stubborn will demands.
A typical dialogue with my desires (they're vocal little buggers) would go something like this:
Do I want to stay up late at night watching Sandra Bullock's impression of a Southern football mom in The Blind Side. Yes, I do. Do I have to wake up at 6? Yes, I do. Is it currently midnight? Yes, it is. Is this a responsible decision? No, it's not. Will I do it anyway? Yes I will.
How will I get myself through the next day running on three-ish hours of sleep?
How?
Coffee.
The drug of choice of the over-scheduled and under-slept.

There are so many ways I cut into my sleep, unconsciously assuming on behalf of my poor, beleaguered body that sleep was negotiable, because I could always just slug down coffee throughout the day to keep myself conscious.
But what, I thought, if I didn't have the crutch of caffeine to rely on? How would that change the way I operated? I would have to cultivate that a little bit of discipline. I would have to curb my impulsive inclinations and learn to make prudent decisions about how to spend my time, so that I could give myself the sleep that I needed.

Getting enough sleep is hardly a glamorous task, and doesn't seem like an obvious component of the spiritual life. It is not racy or dramatic, like working with the poor of Kolkata, telling the Pope to get his ass out of Avignon and back to Rome, or saving France from the English. But, that, Lent, I tried to see if this mundane little duty would perhaps help me learn a bit about the virtue that these great saints had possessed.
Lo and behold, if you attempt to live in a certain pattern of life for forty days, that pattern begins to stick. And that is the story of how I stopped worrying and learned to love a good night's sleep, and how I kicked my caffeine addiction. This has probably been one of the best lessons learnt in my attempt to transition from libertine college student to responsible young professional.
Here, however, is the rub:
I have had writer's block for the past several weeks. 
It happens. It was a dry spell. Such is life.
But, the other day, I took a sip of coffee, and I felt the words flow out of me like nectar and ambrosia.
It was like the magical brown liquid had these magical corrosive properties that broke through the silage that had been blocking my creative juices.
Oh dear, I thought. Oh dear. 
What if I'm like one of those writers who's no good if they're not drunk or tripping on acid like Lewis Carroll? 
What if, without coffee, I have no creative powers?
What if, with coffee, I have no will power?
For what does it profit a girl to gain back all her creative powers but forfeit her hard won discipline?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
If I'm going to lose sleep anyway, perhaps I should just put in The Blind Side

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