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Offbeat – 08 March 2013


Life is like wearing black trousers in a room full of white cats. It’s impossible to move without picking up some cat hairs.

It had to happen, sooner or later. No, actually it didn’t. I made it happen. As I write this, I have spent five days without coffee. It’s been bugging me for a while, and I decided it had to go.
Being a black and white kind of person, I took a look at the thing in a hard, bright light. My attempts to cut back and moderate it have failed. Better just to lose it entirely.
It began over twenty years ago, and I can safely say that I haven’t had a day without the stuff me in all that time. At one stage, I drank so much of it that it caused me tachycardia. That’s the thing where your heart speeds up, you go white as a sheet and the secretary drops the phone book as she tries to find the number for the paramedics. That’s also the point where I switched to instant. The granulated stuff doesn’t deliver a wonderful taste, so I started double spooning it. The taste improved. So did the hit.
Why drop it now after all those years of being a poster boy for the bean, and just when it was going so well?
I realised that coffee was taking over. What I noticed over the last couple of weeks was that every few hours, my thoughts turned to coffee. The urges would start small with the idea that I needed another cup of coffee, about 2.4 seconds after I had finished the last one. Things would start to get scratchy about twenty minutes after that and build up to a raging urge that shut down all forms of thought a couple of minutes later.
One cup leads to another. The tipping point came when I was so coffeed up, I had a mug before bed, and spent half the night trying to figure out what I should do with all the alert numbness that comes with one of those incredibly late nights that normally only happen when there is a baby in the house or the neighbours are partying.
Where the whole meditation led me was to the idea that I needed to find myself amongst all the clutter. Starting with something that shut my brain down at least seven or eight times a day was a very good place to begin.
Life is like wearing black trousers in a room full of white cats. It’s impossible to move without picking up some cat hairs. If you’re in that room full of kitties, you are defined as a cat lover, or as someone with a terminal cat allergy, depending on the state of your eyes or nose. Wherever else you go there is something else to define you as well.
In my case, it has been coffee and cigarettes. The fact that I wear black and have a bunch of horror books in my bookshelves has been trying to tell me that I am a goth. Thank heavens I don’t take long, contemplative walks in graveyards. My use of a computer tells me I am geekish. My neighbourhood tells me I am African and Namibian, or vice versa, depending on which side of the neighbourhood you find yourself in. I can live comfortably with either side.
What defines you? There are thousands of different possibilities. Your car is a good place to begin. Is it showy, muddy and scratched or small and economical? Does it come with special German-designed cogwheels in the gearbox or the common-or-garden Korean variety? What about your clothes? Would you be seen dead in a budget clothing store, or are you the sort who wears your labels on the outside? What team do you support, and do you prefer your balls oval or round?
Now here’s the million dollar, life-changing question. If you found yourself locked in a room, with nothing but generic underwear on, how would you define yourself? Scary thought.
All the clutter leaves very little room for the bits that are actually you. Without the labels and affiliations, most of us are reduced to not much more than shop mannequins, waiting to be dressed up and sent out into the wide world to represent.
I am not a bottle of instant coffee or a coffee machine. I don’t really feel the need to represent that, so it has gone. Next up, cigarettes, but I estimate that is going to take a while. I switched to cheap brands, and don’t feel like smoking less.
The more I put aside, the happier I am to be me.

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