On most mornings, I pour myself a half-cup of coffee with a little milk added in. I wrap my cold fingers around the white hot ceramic mug and breathe the steamed caffeine in deep. There’s something about holding a hot cup of coffee in the morning that wakes me up, that’s comforting. I’m not one of those people who needs coffee to wake up, but I pour myself a cup anyway. I like the idea of sipping coffee while the soft morning light dances through the tree leaves in my backyard. I like the calmness it brings, in the still quiet of the morning before the day gets started, my eyes opening to the world around me. There’s something almost romantic about it.
I head to the couch, set the coffee down on the table and open my notebook to begin writing. The steaming cup of coffee quickly becomes secondary, as my mind digs deeper and deeper into my soul, unearthing all the thoughts and feelings and beliefs that I’m carrying into today, streaming them in black ink on graph paper. I reach for the coffee and take a sip only to find that it’s turned lukewarm. I stomach the sip anyway, cringing at the bitterness on my tongue as I swallow, telling myself it’s necessary to finish. A few minutes later, another sip of cool coffee, and I walk to the microwave to salvage the situation. Thirty seconds ought to buy me a little more time in this romantic ideal.
Yet, the coffee never tastes the same as it does freshly brewed, straight out of the pot. The idea of it- this romanticized idea of being an artist that the coffee has come to represent- quickly loses it’s legs that it stood on so firmly in my mind. Once I get back to the couch, I’m alert again to my reality. To the real thoughts and the real spirit moving through my veins, and its as if there is no excess room for coffee. This is not how I thought this would go. The cup goes cool on the table next to me. In vain, I take one last sip, trying to force it to fulfill my longing. It doesn’t, as the romantic ideal never does.
I walk back to the kitchen, this time to the sink, and pour the last of the coffee down the drain. My romantic notions about what living art really looks like go with it once again.
All of my life is where I am right now. And so many times, I trick myself into thinking that I’d rather be somewhere else, and that I have the best way of getting there. Do I have dreams? Absolutely. Is that bad or wrong? No way. But to give in to the romantic notion that the grass is greener on someone else’s lawn, is to deny that I have been created with a unique capacity to create: for a certain purpose, in a certain way.
It’s believing that the romanticized ideal of my life is better than the real one. That if it doesn’t look like how I think it should, it’s not worth doing. But, if I’m not accepting of my real life, with my real friends, at my real job with my real co-workers, in my real house with my real husband and real neighbors… If I’m not living in that, then I ask: What am I doing?
I am trying to fill myself up with cool coffee and an imaginary life that will never satisfy me in the end. My real life is happening all around me, and I’m trying to keep the coffee hot.
Most mornings end the same way: the cool coffee goes down the drain, I put on my shoes, and head out the door to work, asking the Real Life for help to engage with my real life. To be present today. Because all of my life, all I have to offer, is where I am and what I have right now.