As a mom of two busy preschool boys with a full time job and a schedule over laden with community service projects, I am not exaggerating when I say I love my coffee maker, a super fancy Ninja–Specialty Coffee Bar that was gifted to me by my mother-in-law. In Marie Kondo terminology, "it sparks an immense amount of joy." Coffee is a pretty essential part of my diet at this stage in life. I don't even want to admit how much coffee I consume in a day, though I do spend a large portion of my days in a newsroom so I think that is to be expected.
Like all parents of school-age children, or children period, my morning routine can be chaotic. I usually get up around 5:30 a.m. to give myself a period of time to spend in reflection before I get myself ready and rouse my boys, walking them through their morning routine then hustling them out the door and onto the bus. My first sip of coffee generally occurs when I am on the road and on my way into work. There is something revitalizing about that first sip, the way the hot drink's soothing warmth radiates through my body. It is go time.
Except lately, when it hasn't been go time. The despondency started around October. I could sense its shadow lurking just behind me, feel its gray tendrils reaching out to envelope me, leaving small sadnesses and minor irritations as calling cards of its presence. I did not need to be alerted to its presence; I had been bracing myself for its arrival. The despondency arrived on time though it stayed longer than expected, extending its visit into the holiday season in its reluctance to leave my side. We had just finished the boy's second season of Happy Feet Soccer when it arrived.
I can't say enough good things about our experience with the program or Brian Limbaugh and the high school coaches (from this year and last). I am always impressed by how patient and encouraging they are with all of the very-young players, most especially with Glenn. The other families have been more than welcoming, always happily obliging when Glenn wanders over for a hug or a lap to sit on. His teammates excitedly greeting and hugging him, waiting patiently for him to respond. But even in the best scenarios inclusion is hard. His adorable teammates are visual, chattering reminders of his delays. The other parents jovially shouting for their offspring to take the ball "coast to coast," while we are mentally high-fiving each other that ours only eloped from soccer field twice, or on the rare occasion that he was paying enough attention to half-heartedly kick the ball. I want my child to be included, but it does not come without a price.
As the leaves fell the despondency remained. Seasons changed and the brightly colored holidays felt like overly cheerful reminders of the grayness that shrouds our lives. As despondency does, it brought along its mates, lethargy and disillusionment. Once again, I found myself forcing myself to be present in my life, slowly letting the little practices I have developed fall away.
At my best, I am organized to a fault. One of my favorite organizational skills, learned in my days in the food service industry, is to set up my day. Every night before I go to bed I take about 20 minutes to prepare everything I need for a good start to the day, including setting up my coffee maker so that all I have to do is grab my cup and be out the door. As lethargy and disillusionment settled in, I stopped taking the time to prep for myself. I stopped waking up to spend my mornings with God, finding myself unable to pull myself from the bed in the early hours which were now dark and cold. The thing about despondency is that it clouds your vision, muddling your thoughts and causing you to forget the things that you know to be true. While it is not a liar, it is not entirely truthful either.
For several weeks I found myself pulling myself from my bed with barely enough time to get through my morning routine. Haphazardly dumping ground-beans into my coffee maker and pressing the button as I dashed to make it out the door in time, never fully stopping to remember that I was not caring for myself, or rather, not remembering how important those seemingly trivial tasks really are. When I would turn to the comfort of my morning coffee, it was filled with grounds. As most of life's lessons, this was one that took me an embarrassingly long time to learn. This went on for almost a week. Each time I hastily dumped the grounds in, I was left with an unsettling feeling that I was forgetting something vitally important–a niggling feeling to pay attention to something that was just beyond my grasp.
I began to worry that my coffee maker was broken. At the same time, I was fully aware of my despondency and mentally berating myself for falling into old patterns of depression. I had just come to the conclusion that I was going to have to take my coffee maker apart in an attempt to fix it, and possibly myself as well, when clarity hit like a bolt of lightning–the filter. There was nothing wrong with my coffee maker, I was in such a rush that I kept forgetting to put in the filter.
The truth is that I can't rid myself of despondency. I do not have the ability to do so, but God does. Which is why I, like my fancy Ninja coffee maker, require a filter. In an over-scheduled society where our to-do lists are seemingly infinite, it is easy to put things like spending time in meditation, reading, exercising and even prepping your coffee maker on the back burner. We label these small habits as frivolous when weighed against the larger tasks on our endless to-do-lists. In reality, when done on a consistent basis these seemingly small habits create a filter which allows us to move with ease, catching the grounds of life before they end up in our cups. The intention I set for the new year was to pay attention to the gifts life presents me even when the gift is several unpalatable cups of coffee, a not-so-subtle reminder to utilize my filter.