Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Those Increasingly Frequent Rare Occasions

Over the weekend, I told Joe about my sudden inclination to drink pop.  I only drink pop on rare occasions.  Really.  It's just that suddenly, those rare occasions are coming with increasing frequency.  Joe thought that was a very funny ways of saying it, but it's true.  I don't consider myself a pop drinker, but lately I just can't help myself.

Eek!  I am embarrassed to say that I've bought a Coke at a gas station about seven times in the last month.   What a waste of money!  And, my poor pancreas!  "I'm really sorry, Mr. Pancreas, please don't stop working."  I'm sure this won't be a long term inclination.  But for some reason, I am just craving Coke.

And chips.  I've probably eaten more Doritos and potato chips (I'm so totally hooked on all those flavored kettle chips) in the last three months than I have in my entire life put together.  What's up with that?  I feel like Carol Cantell.  And just for the record, the answer is, "No, I am not pregnant!"  I know some of my readers well enough.  I can hear your little brains ticking, see you biting your tongues, just waiting for an opportune time to ask.  But no.  That is not the reason for these snack attacks.

But this post is not about chips.  It's about caffeine, and more particularly my sudden need for Coke. 

I never used to enjoy caffeine.  Really, it's true.  It made me sick to my stomach.  During my college years, for instance, if we had a big test to study for, or a paper to write, all my cohorts would keep themselves up all night with a Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper.  I would occasionally try it, but I always regretted it later.  Instead of staying up all night studying, I'd be hunched up in bed wondering if I would make it to the bathroom when I needed to get there.

I don't know what changed.  I rarely get sick to my stomach from caffeine now.  Occasionally, if I have a sugary coffee drink on an empty stomach I might feel icky, so I mostly avoid sugary coffee drinks.  But for the most part, I find caffeine a great boon in my life.  Almost a life jacket of sorts.

This change came upon me about the time I had a mere four kids.  Only four!  Just imagine.  It's a bit hard for me to remember back that far, to what life was like.  I remember feeling overwhelmed.  I remember feeling like I was always behind.  And always a little bit crazy.  (I guess some things don't change, huh?)  But it was different then.  I felt more need to try to keep up.  God had not yet taught me that He does, in fact, fill in where we can't do it.  I still thought I needed to do it ALL.

Joe was very busy in those days.  He worked at Bethany College, in Mankato, MN.  His official title was Associate Director of Library, but under that mantle, his main job was to maintain the computers in the library, including the student computer lab.  He also coordinated technology things with the other techy guys around campus, and cared for various other media needs around the college.  Besides his full time library job, though, he also served as an adjunct faculty member, teaching variously religion, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, self-defense, or any other classes for which he was qualified, if the need arose.  These teaching responsibilities were over and above his full time library position.

So while I was busy taking care of an ever increasing number of babies, Joe was working between 50 and 60 hours a week.  I didn't see much of him.  But while he often had to be gone into the evenings or work during the weekends, we lived near enough to Bethany that he could come home for many meals.  There were many times, however, when he'd arrive home for lunch, and I would be at my wit's end.  We came up with a little survival mechanism that we would employ on such days.  Joe would do lunch with the kids.  And I'd get to run down to the Citgo and pick up my usual:  an individual pizza, a Coke, and an Almond Joy.  Mmmm.

I'd park the car alongside some prettily tree lined avenue, or adjacent to one of the city parks.  I'd tune the radio to whatever I wanted.  I'd indulge in my junkie lunch.   Besides the junk food, though, there were the social bonuses, too.  I had quiet or noise, according to my own preference.  No pinching, pulling, yelling, fighting, or other form of altercation to resolve.  No disasters to avert or worse yet to clean up.  No responsibilities for that 30-45 minutes.  For me, at that busy time of my life, it was a little nugget of peace on earth.

Another thing I found though, that I totally didn't expect, is that the caffeine in the pop did not bother me.  Not at all.  It gave me a little energy boost in the midday.  And in fact, it seemed to lend me a touch of something else.  I noticed a bit of mental clarity, a focus that was new.  A definite improvement to my typically chaotic thought process.

In short order I was making coffee to enjoy at home every morning.  I felt as though I had attained some sort of landmark in growing up.  I had joined the ranks of coffee drinkers.  I could now engage in the pleasure of a cup of coffee shared with a friend.  But more than that, I was also a part of the general coffee drinker community.  I could appreciate and contribute to the coffee drinker conversation, the shared experiences of spilling on a new shirt or missing my first cup of the day; or the crisis of running out of grounds or having a coffee maker break-down.  I was finally part of the coffee world.  It was as though I had finally come of age.

I still enjoyed a periodic bottle of Coke, but not as often.  Part of the boon of caffeine, as I said before was the energy.  Because I was using coffee to start my day, I enjoyed a little boost to get me going on the day's tasks.  But the other and almost more pertinent aspect was the increased mental acuity, the clarity and focus.  And this is what changed my life as a young mother.  Although I still needed a periodic rescue by my dear husband, most often when he came home for lunch, I was not in any dire need of escape.  There was still a little bit left of me, to stay and help Joe do the lunch-with-little-ones thing, or to visit with him about his day.  What a blessed change! 

Coffee is still my primary caffeine source.  Until recently, I've never been much of a pop drinker.  It's a treat for rare occasions.  I'll buy a pop for a road trip, or very occasionally on a hot summer day.  Normally, when I'm thirsty I drink water; when I need caffeine, it's coffee.  I just can't justify spending money on pop.  It's a hugely expensive habit that is rife with the potential for ill effects.

But suddenly, lately, the last month or so, I... Want... Pop.

I can't fill the car with gas, without hearing the pop call from the coolers inside the station. That little whisper inside my head, coaxing me to indulge.  And when I pick up groceries, I can't get through the checkout aisle without raiding those coolers strategically placed to tempt impulse buyers.  And much to my chagrin, contrary to everything I would like to think of myself, an impulse buyer I have become.  At least regarding Coke.  Last Friday, while checking out at Wal-mart, I bought two Cokes.  Two!  One for the trip home and one for later in the weekend.

I've been trying to figure this out.  What's with this sudden urge to drink pop?  Is it some latent self-destructive leaning that is needing to squeak out suddenly?  Maybe after ten years of being a pastor's wife, is the pressure of always being good is finally getting to me?

Is it a nutritional imbalance?  Is there some component of Coke that supplies some micro-nutrient of which I'm running low? 

Or is it simply that in this season of my life, my particular brand of busyness is taxing my mental faculties?

I suspect that it's this last one.  I often find myself in short supply of mental clarity.  Real short.  I mean, really, really short.

Of late I am most often overwrought with the mass of those things of which I need to keep track.  I'm told this can be normal at my age.  That certain chemical changes that are likely beginning to occur in my body can bring on a confused and distracted state.  Combine that with the escalating outside activities to which the older kids are obligated, and the increase in younger children activities, too, now that they are in public school.

At least one of my daughters thinks I accomplish nothing all day.  I've tried to explain to her how mentally exhausting I find just keeping track of everything that needs to be kept track of.   A friend of mine who has ADD has described his mental state, prior to learning he had ADD, as continually circling the block trying to pull into the driveway, but never quite being able to pull in.  Building on that metaphor, I find my mental state most of the time as not even being able to tell whether I am arriving by boat or plane, train, bus or car.  And where is it I'm trying to get, anyway?  Remind me one more time, please.

And so, the pop.  Ah, yes, the pop.  Aaaaah, yesssss.   Mmm.  Just take a sip and feel the clarity return.  Coke particularly is just so good.  It brings back to me a little hint of the acuity I remember feeling when I first discovered the pleasures of caffeine.  For some reason, the coffee alone must not be quite cutting it any more.  I must need that evil high fructose corn syrup along with the caffeine.

I may never know why this works, or why I'm craving pop.  But I don't really care about the reason, anyway.  It makes me curious, but it doesn't really matter.  And I sincerely hope my pancreas suffers no long term ill effects from these sudden lapses of self-control.  I also hope that because of our very limited income my indulgent habit doesn't send us to the poor house.

But for now, I'm just going to enjoy the ride.  I just can't seem to resist these increasingly frequent rare occasions when I need a Coke.  And I guess I'm OK with it.

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