Less Than Pulp, Issue 48
Quitting Coffee, The Transcendent Power of Books, and Mother's Day
I posted the following Note this past Friday:
Your mileage will vary, of course, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that quitting coffee two months ago has done wonders for my mental health and overall temperament.
All the online fights that used to feel sooo important and impossible to ignore? Meh, I got books to write.
Kids not going to bed when I’d like them to? Let’s just savor the extra time with them.
Book not writing itself as fast as I’d like? Settle in and enjoy the process.
Food for thought if any of this sounds familiar!
And it’s true. Getting off coffee is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You can add wanting to be around people (and people wanting to be around me) to the benefits listed above.
I’ve been drinking coffee since I was thirteen. It started with a taste for French vanilla cappuccino at Wawa. Not only did it satisfy my sweet tooth, but the caffeine also made me feel more alert. I started making instant coffee at home before I took the bus to school. I snuck coffee from the school cafeteria, loading it with sugar and powdered cream. That was technically for the adults, but depending on who was working that day, I could get away with having a cup or two.
In my late teens and early twenties, I became somewhat of a cliche. By that, I mean I was one of those kids who got together with his friends at the local diner to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and talk about nothing. Do these kids still exist? I know most places don’t allow smoking indoors anymore, but do kids still drink coffee and sit at diners to socialize?
Anyway, I relied on increasingly large coffees from Wawa to get me to work and through the day. At some point, I stopped adding sugar, but I still couldn’t drink it black. Once, I drank too many cups at the diner with a friend too late at night and wound up in the hospital from a panic attack.
You would think an experience like that would get me to quit. Nope! I couldn’t stop drinking coffee because it didn’t occur to me that I could get through the day without it. I did stop drinking it at night, though.
When Jean and I got married, we got better about making our own in the morning instead of throwing money at Wawa for increasingly watered-down coffee.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I learned recently that there was an uptick in ADHD diagnoses during and after the pandemic. People didn’t become ADHD all of a sudden. Rather, the ways the undiagnosed (like me) found to cope with the affliction no longer worked. The combination of social isolation and increased time online broke these systems down, making symptoms more severe. Upon my diagnosis, I was prescribed medication—a stimulant.
I guess that was the piece of the puzzle I neglected to mention in my Note. The introduction of a new drug was helpful in many ways, but there was a disturbing side effect. I was much quicker to anger, more irritable, and oversensitive. I didn’t think it was the medication’s interaction with my daily coffee intake until two months ago. While down with a serious bout of food poisoning (or the stomach flu—jury’s still out), I didn’t drink coffee for several days. With this sudden absence of caffeine intake, an unfamiliar calm washed over me. I decided then that it was time to try going without it.
The dreaded caffeine headaches came with a vengeance. They only lasted four days, but it was a long four days. When they stopped, I experienced a level of fatigue I didn't think was possible. The term “bone-tired” feels applicable. “COVID-tired” also feels right, but I checked; I did not have COVID.
After two weeks, I finally started feeling better. I almost typed “normal,” but this was not normal. Normal for me had become a state of agitation and an inability to function without two massive mugs of coffee drunk in rapid succession. This was something else. I felt plenty alert, but without feeling on edge.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still human. I still get upset from time to time, but I no longer feel like it's a daily threat I need to avoid. Also, I'm one person, and as I said in the beginning: your mileage may vary. There is plenty of research supporting the health benefits of coffee and an equal amount supporting its potential dangers. I'm no scientist, but this probably means it's different depending on one's own inner workings.
Anyway, I'm a bit of a self-improvement junkie. Does this sort of content interest you? If so, let me know! I'd like to get some feedback as to what you like about my newsletters and what you don't. This is a living project, not a static thing.
Why should death be so unerotic? If they blistered or rotted together, mightn’t their dissolution show them new ways to love, uncovering them layer by layer and joining their moistures and their marrows until they were utterly mingled.
That's from Imajica, a book I'm currently revisiting. I love that quote because it so perfectly encapsulates Clive Barker's ethos. While someone less versed in his work might think such a passage is more befitting of his horror works (The Hellbound Heart or Books of Blood), this imagery and its philosophical underpinnings exist in nearly all his works. It's fiercely spiritual and concerned with expanding beyond one's limits.
I have no idea what Clive Barker believes as far as spirituality goes. In interviews, he has been inconsistent, but I imagine he's of the “spiritual but not religious” crowd. I consider myself spiritual, and revisiting Barker's work has shown how much he informed my beliefs. Religion, with its power structures and rigidity, has proven detrimental to my growth and understanding of the world. I think Barker and a lot of creative types feel the same. The first time I read Imajica, I was starting to feel disillusioned with the religion I'd come to lean on after experiencing some personal upheaval in my teenage years. Barker's book reminded me that there is more, which was what religion is supposed to do. What religion had failed to do.
I've also reached a point in the book where there are more traditional action scenes. They're fine and necessary, but it's definitely weird to have them after moments of deep philosophical exchanges and transcendent sexuality. Imajica is Barker's epic, so it's not surprising that these scenes exist. They're just not my favorite parts of the book. I'm totally here for passages like the one quoted above, though. And I know it's not the last one like it.
I've spent the last couple weeks reading Jay Wilburn's Lake Scatterwood Tales to my son. This was a series of horror stories Jay wrote for younger readers. Each book has two chapter-book length stories, framed like campfire tales told by the main characters when they've returned to camp as counselors.
They're a lot of fun! I actually bought them from Jay at Killer Con 2018. Chapter books are cool because they don't take long to read, but the true joy comes from sharing them with the kiddo.
He enjoys them a lot. At six, he can't read them himself, but he comprehends them well enough with me reading them to him.
I love that Jay gets to live on in this way. The hope of all creators, I think, is that their work transcends their passing. What makes Jay's work so special is the playfulness with which he approached his topics. Even if you're writing for a living, I think maintaining that sense is crucial to creating the sort of work that lasts beyond you.
I hate that Jay isn't here in the flesh, but he's still very much here with the impressive body of work he left behind. My son getting to experience his stories each night at bedtime ensures the legacy will continue.
I'm glad to do my part to facilitate that.
This Saturday, Jean and I got a rare night out. We checked out a Tex-Mex place in downtown Round Rock that served some incredibly strong Habanero Margaritas. After dinner, we headed to a place closer to home for more drinks and a game of darts. Jean is much better at that game than I am.
Our days of going out every other night are long gone, as we've settled fully into a life full of adult responsibilities, but it's good to know we can hang when we do get the opportunity to go out.
I'm in awe of her, how she's still herself in spite of all she's been through. She's an inspiration, always has been.
This week’s episode of Make Your Own Damn Podcast is a Patreon-exclusive affair and all about movies that feel like Richard Laymon novels. We brought on Laymon superfan Judith Sonnet to discuss. You can check it out here.
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