Saturday, January 4, 2014

Taste and Savor

I tend to do things that aren't good for me. Take eating for example. I like chocolate, but when eat it, I don't savor so much as devour it. I know that's not good for me, that it doesn't make me happy, but habit is strong. Habit is very strong.

Consider this morning. I got up later than usual but still before sunrise and came downstairs. I set my phone and book on the kitchen table, went to the bathroom, turned on the coffee, and emptied the dishwasher. I washed the few dishes that hadn't made it into the machine, poured coffee, came down to my office to write. These are my habits and the only question I have is about the coffee which, I'm finding more and more I savor less and less. This morning I'm making sure that I taste the coffee, feel its warmth, and determine if I really want it.

As I develop new habits and question old habits, I move away from believing that I have to give things up, deny myself, and have self-discipline. I don't want to give up chocolate, but I want to replace devouring with savoring and enjoying. The same goes for my coffee.

Years ago I used to drink regular coffee nearly by the gallon. I made full pots of coffee because that seemed the way things had to be. In college, I drank a pot of coffee each evening after dinner and drank another pot of it in the morning. I drank coffee to be sure I had an identity. I was a coffee drinker just like my father. Without coffee, I wasn't sure who to be.

When Dad had to switch to decaf, I switched too. I didn't miss the caffeine as I thought I would. I was just in the habit of drinking coffee. Regular or decaf didn't matter so long as I was a coffee drinker.

More recently I switched to making one cup of coffee each morning. I buy good beans and use a manual hand grinder. Four scoops of beans, enough to make one strong cup, takes almost two minutes to grind and costs about six dollars a week. I'm trying to conserve money and my arm gets tired of grinding longer than two minutes. I can savor a cup of coffee rather than just drinking a pot of the stuff. This morning, I'm savoring the taste and feel of it rather than going through the motions of habit.

It's the same way with alcohol. For two months I've been having a glass of bourbon most every evening. It's pleasant to sip. I can't gulp bourbon. I thought I was enjoying the bourbon, but it was the sipping that was so good, the slow pace of tasting and savoring. Bourbon is just a vehicle, but expensive and probably not necessary. I want the habit of savoring. I can learn that without bourbon.

Food and drink are one thing, but the big show is about how to live and love. I woke this morning with with an aphorism: you don't know what you have until you have it. I don't need to wait until something is gone, I simply need to have the thing and be aware of it. I need to taste and savor. I don't know what I have until I have it. I have all these things, all these people, all this love. There's no need to wolf down chocolate, drink the coffee by the pot, or use alcohol to force sipping when I can savor it all.

I won't keep this in mind with every morning cup of coffee. I'm trying to write a new page in a life that has been dictated by old habits. I have to keep going, remind myself time to time, accept the inevitable failings, and with every new, clean page in this book, write on.