To remind yourself of something’s value, let it go

Sometimes, the best way to know whether something truly adds value to your life is to get rid of it for a while

Words by Shawn Mihalik

Sometimes, the best way to know whether something truly adds value to your life is to get rid of it for a while.

Take coffee, for example. On a rational level, I know I don’t need coffee in my life. Humans have been drinking coffee for only the last 600 years or so. That means we created vast civilizations and great works of art without it. We don’t need it for energy. We don’t need it for cognitive function. Some days, though, I sure do feel like I need coffee. Maybe I’ll get a withdrawal headache without it. Or maybe I slept poorly the night before and feel like I could use a boost.

But do I find value in the experience of coffee? Yes, and I’m reminded of this every time I give it up.

Every six to nine months I like to stop drinking coffee for a while—usually until I want it again. Of course, I want it strongly the first day I don’t have it, so I don’t count that. I suffer through the withdrawal headaches. If I’m tired, I let myself be tired. Once that first day has passed, though, I quickly reach a state of equilibrium. I don’t miss the beverage for a while. Sometimes for a week, sometimes for three weeks.

Most recently, only a week passed before I truly wanted coffee after giving it up. I was visiting my partner. We woke on a Friday morning, neither of us had anything urgent to do, and you know what sounded wonderful? A morning walk to a coffee shop for some reading and an Americano. So that’s what we did. I can think of few more delightful ways to have spent that morning.

Every time I quit coffee for a while, I realize it has a valuable place in my life. Conversation over coffee is a great way to connect with new people. I enjoy making a good cup for people I love—grinding the beans, inviting them to inhale the aroma of the grounds, slowly pouring the water. Coffee is also a valuable trigger for me as a writer: a full mug hitting my desk means it’s time to put words on the page, and I can keep the words flowing as long as I refill the cup.

Maybe some day coffee will no longer have value for me. Maybe I’ll quit drinking it for a while and never have the desire to do so again. For now, though, it does add value, and I’m reminded of that every time I give it up.

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