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with room

Preface: I have been pretty absent in this place for a while. Writing has been a struggle. Something I want to do, yet I just don't. I think it is less about the writing and more about reisisting being seen. They are both getting harder.....which makes me feel like I better force myself to do both before I forget how. I'm writing again...but it is a struggle. What is coming out is a little forced. Some are writing exercises. (This was, it said to write for 10 minutes on coffee). But I've been learning something else in this season.... that many of the character traits we admire are not innate. They are practice. I've been re-reading The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown and she lists 10 traits of people who live wholeheartedly. These traits aren't things we are born with. They are things we chose to practice...over and over...daily to become. I used to think that patience and gratitude and authenticity were those kinds of things. Gifts we were given. Not things practiced like scales on a piano. I took piano when I was 6. My teacher, I thought was about a million years old and smelled a little bit like moth balls and the inside of a Merle Norman. She always asked if I had practice everyday. I said yes even when it wasn't true. But she could always tell when it wan't. I thought perhaps, it wasn't because I was not a very good liar....but most likely it was the way my hands fumbled on the keys.  If I put in the time everyday my fingers knew where to go. Some people are more apt to be musically talented than others. But no one is going to be a musician without lots of practice. Any athlete would tell you the same thing about their sport. And apparently I will not be patient or real or grateful without practice as well. As far as I know there are not workbooks or drills for those things....but the writing practice is easy. You just sit down and do it. Even if what comes out sounds like a bad étude. Even if it is left with room for improvement. I order my coffee like that these days too. With room.

(10 minutes on coffee)

Every Sunday we wait in the hall until they are done praying...then we stream in . Going straight to the back right hand corner. Hoping for a white and red box because if we are lucky, someone brought donuts. But even if they didn't we still fill our cups from the silver urn. Most of the other kids mixing in more creamer and sugar than coffee.
I added nothing.
And drank quick hot sips. The coffee burned my tongue and throat and the bitterness shocked my taste buds.
But I still took my coffee black.
I was 10 years old. And in a church dress with skinned knees and scuffed white sandals.

I never drank coffee at home. But on Sundays I would pour a cup and take hot courting sips while picking at the styrofoam edge.

Something about taking my coffee black made me feel tough.
Tough as I sipped it in my floral dress.
The bitterness I pushed down my throat felt somehow familiar. And it would be something I forced myself to swallow for years.

This was years before coffee shops or Starbucks and no one would dream of paying more than 50 cents for a cup.

My dad had spent some years in Italy, and later. When we would go to fancy resturaunts he'd take an espresso or a caffe corretto. And occasionally they'd bring him those tiny cups filled with strong black espresso and add a shot of cognac. He'd pass it to me. This time maybe I was 16. After he had stirred in two sugar cubes. The cognac burned as much as the heat.

He bought an espresso maker an a whim, upstairs in the home goods department of Foleys. Mostly I think because he wanted an excuse to buy those cute and tiny cups and saucers.
Expresso was hard to find. But their was a specialty shop in town that carried it and occasionally he'd buy a bag. Ask the to grind it fine for espresso. And I'd drink those
things while I stayed up late cramming for my calculus tests. My stomach had already started to bleed. From the coffee. From the alcohol. And all the other things I kept inside.

Coffee shops were now a thing. And me and my friends trying to act older and sophisticated would go to the college coffee shops and order snickers lattes and talk about music or boys or where we were going to college and what we might major in. Our drinks filled with whipped cream and chocolate syrup were about us immature and unsophisticated as we were.

Eventually I went off to college. And there were more coffee shops and late nights at ihop stirring those cups and sipping coffee well into the am.
I drank espresso shake. And machiatos. Until my stomach burned. Because I was not made for all the bitterness I had been swallowing hidden in syrups and whipped cream.
Eventually I had to switch to tea.

I drank tea for years. And took my bitterness in other forms.
But eventually Starbucks won out. There was one on every corner. And I'd order a machiato and sit and read ôr chat with friends until my coffee had grown cold.

Eventually those syrupy drinks got to sweet. And I switched to lattes. But the milk often made me sick. So for the last few years I've ordered Americanos.
Dark strong espresso, with hot water.
Unlike my 10 year old self. I had a little bit of cream and a little bit of sweet. Because I am done with bitter.


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