It’s More Than Just A Cup Of Coffee
During our Norway in a Nutshell Tour road trip in the summer of 2008, my partner Jan and I had a seemingly insignificant interaction over coffee. We have learned that it is the insignificant interactions that become most significant for us, and that these little stories bring us so much clarity and insight about ourselves:
It was very early in the morning when Jan and I began our road trip vacation. Jan had packed a lovely thermos filled with coffee. He asked me if I would mind pouring him a cup, while he drove. “Of course not,” I replied. After several seconds of fiddling around with the thermos, I realized that that it did not unscrew. “ How the hell do you open this thing?” Jan looked over at me as if to say, “ Are you kidding me?” and then he smiled and told me to figure it out. I felt a silly awkwardness at my lack of ability. I tried to get Jan to open the coffee thermos, but he just laughed and said figure it out. He was not going to help me. At least a minute went by and I still could not seem to open the thermos. I felt some tiny frustration, and even a bit stupid, and I felt a slight uneasiness in my stomach, but it went away.
A part of me had a flicker of a thought that Jan surely must be getting annoyed with me, but clearly he wasn’t. He was smiling as he drove. I felt relaxed enough not to take the situation too seriously. Jan at this point was teasing me, and playfully asking me why I had not opened the thermos by now. He really wanted his coffee. As Jan continued to poke at my lack of thermos opening ability, I started to laugh at myself and I told him I felt like a monkey in the zoo. Even the monkey would have opened the damn thing by now! He playfully said he would give me a peanut as a reward. In that moment I laughed at the vision of me behind bars at the zoo, and pressed my finger down, which then opened the thermos to my joyful surprise! I felt like, yeah I won the prize!
We both laughed quite hard, and I happily poured Jan that hot coffee he had so patiently waited for. I had some too, and damn did it taste good! Jan told me he loved how I received his teasing and that I could laugh at myself, I told him I loved how he did not get annoyed with me, and that he was so patient that he could joke with me. We shared a good laugh over coffee. This damn coffee tasted so good, we agreed. A cup of coffee can seem so insignificant, but when coffee is not just coffee the insignificant can be profound, especially true when it comes to relationships.
This little interaction of ours was about more than just a cup of coffee. It spoke volumes about our relationship with each other. We saw that we have no hidden anger or resentments with each other. We harbor no guilt or insecurities toward the other. There is nothing that either one of us suppresses, so we can be frustrated, tease, laugh, and joke about any situation (even the insignificant ones) without our interaction turning into a heated argument.
Our coffee story could have been so much different:
Jan could have felt a surge of annoyance swell within him, as I was too incompetent in his eyes to open a simple thermos. He could have looked at me with disapproval and said mean things, called me an idiot. He could have yanked the thermos away and opened it himself as he sped down the highway. Maybe he would have spilled the coffee in his lap in all of his frustration. I could have felt insecure as I saw and felt his disapproval, and then felt my own anger toward him for not being more patient. Maybe I would have cried as he called me stupid, and then gotten more angry that he did not appreciate me; thought to myself, “ Pour your own damn coffee!” When he spilled the coffee would I have silently laughed to myself or would I have looked out the window and suppressed my rage? An argument like this could last for hours as we silently drive down the highway, angry at each other and ourselves. This is about so much more than a cup of coffee, and yet it is that simple, insignificant cup of coffee that can be a catalyst to so much more when it comes to relationships.
Do you relate in your own life with the first or second coffee story?
Sometimes we can find ourselves walking down such familiar corridors when we interact with another, especially in relationships. ” Why can’t you be more patient with me?” Why can’t you just do a simple thing right?” “Why must you get so fckn angry?” “Why must you be so fckn sensitive?” “It’s because you forgot to buy the cream for the coffee that my life is miserable!” ” It’s because you drank the last cup of coffee that my life is miserable” ” You always made a lousy cup of coffee!” ” You should have made your own coffee!”
Life is nothing but a cup of coffee. So, how do you want YOUR coffee?
Coffee can be sweet and delicious and wonderful. It can also be over-extracted and taste bitter. What do you do when your coffee is bitter? Do you drink it with resentment? Look for someone to blame? Pretend it tastes good?Compromise?
Life can be wonderful when coffee tastes sweet.
Sweet delicious coffee however, is not superior to bitter over extracted coffee. How do you feel about that? Can you accept his impatience or her sensitivity?
What does his lack of patience stir within you? What does her sensitivity stir within you? Maybe anger, fear, or a feeling of not being good enough? Breathe that in for a moment and ask yourself:
Must he/she change just to make you happy? What if his impatience or her sensitivity points you to a feeling within yourself? Maybe, just maybe it is something you have always wanted to change and let go of.
Perhaps that bitter coffee has just turned sweet.