The Girl & Her Coffee Cup: A Life Metaphor We All Need to Hear

May 17, 2017

I heard a metaphor the other day involving a girl and her coffee cup. Hands outstretched and fingers gripping tightly to her mug, she runs. Thumb looped through the handle she is careful not to spill, but the faster she runs–and oh! how she must run!–coffee sloshes up and over the rim. Drops fly. The cup empties.

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The girl sprints by her source once more for a refill–but the running must continue. She receives only drips from the Maker in passing.

On and on she goes, day after day, week after week.

We all know how this story ends: when nearing empty, one cannot survive on passing drips alone. Dehydration takes it toll long before thirst is felt,

Empty knows this. Yet Empty refuses to slow down enough to receive Fullness: There is one more thing to do! One more project, assignment, workout class. One more night we just can’t miss out on. Promotions to chase and salaries to raise. Bodies to trim and clothes to buy.

Empty will eventually stop–perhaps the only way she will stop–when she is met with a slow burn ending in a crash and fall. 

I am the girl with the coffee cup. I, too, was Empty.

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After receiving my formal diagnoses of chronic depression and anxiety at the start of the year, I worked in a dark winter with myself and my health support team to find stability. March and the arrival of spring brought with it a sense of hope and a jazzed-up, feel-good feeling–

I was excited! I was back, Avery was back, and she was doing not only ok, but better than ever!

With a newfound sense of energy, I took on this new stage. I started saying yes again after a season of no’s.

I said yes to more spin classes, adding two to my permanent schedule and loading up on subbing opportunities until I was teaching 6-7 times per week. Work projects grew more demanding, office days longer, responsibilities larger.

April included a string of birthdays and holidays and therefore trips every single weekend–Santa Barbara, Denver, back to Santa Barbara, then tickets to San Diego.

It all sounds so lovely, right? It all sounds so good. And it was so good! Each weekend in April held a piece of my heart: family and solid friendships both old and new. Each weekend on their own would fill my soul and power me through more than just the weekend.

But one weekend after another threaded together with overloaded days of work, spin, my own workouts and social obligations began to wear. We forget how quickly one yes here and one yes there stack up. 

Here is what my Instagram stories didn’t reveal: the moments of heart-squeezing anxiety in seemingly-perfect moments. The mental and physical exhaustion that leaves you wanting to hide under the covers and chase sleep that won’t come. The dark purple half-moons shading the skin beneath my eyes.

And then illness hit after the first trip to Santa Barbara. Tired at first, I though it was just a need for sleep. But it got worse.

It was a nasty season for colds and flu this year, and coughs rang out from every corner of the office. Our creative team was dropping like flies. And then I did, too.

But I had work to do! Classes to teach! I was having so much fun.  I greeted each day as though I was fine, but inside my lungs filled with nastiness and a weight made itself at home inside my chest that I just couldn’t budge. 

I chugged glass upon glass of magical potions infused with turmeric and honey, sipped herbal teas and chased Mucinex capsules with NyQuil at night. I’m taking care of myself, I’m healing, I’ll be fine!

I wasn’t fine. I got worse.

It took a month-long illness, week of bed rest, gentle-yet-firm interventions with my best friends and a meeting with my manager to smack me in the face:

I wasn’t just burning myself to the ground. I was burnt, straight up, lit on fire then dried-out short ribs forgotten in the slow cooker. (true story, don’t ask. #whole30problems)

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I’d like to think I am very good at giving advice–especially regarding health and wellness. I preach rest days and command giving up the guilt of a missed workout or a donut on Fridays. I tell my classes “listen to your body” and “refuel your soul” at least 4 times a week.

But when it came back to me? I decided I was fine. My sloshed-over coffee cup was serving me well. Yet there I remained blind to the trail of destruction I was leaving everywhere I went.

You see, when we don’t take care of ourselves, when we don’t stop at the source to refill, it doesn’t just impact our lives–it deeply affects the lives of those around us. Our best friends, our families, our partners and fitness classes and managers and work team are counting on us to show up healthy, full.

When we don’t take care of ourselves, the illness and fear and doubt and anxiety and darkness we are running from will eventually catch up.

Oh, it will catch up.

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When we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t reinforced with the energy to fight. Instead, we find ourselves run over, run down, one big cookie crumbling on the picnic table.

When we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. When we’re tired, we’re already running on a deficit. We must catch ourselves before we are thirsty. Before we are emptied. Pause. Rest. Refill.

My challenge this week is this: be bold in asking for the support I need. Be humbled enough to ask for the grace and gentleness my soul craves. 

And then my challenge is to stop. To truly stop–not pause, not run through–at the source of my Maker and refill my coffee cup. To truly examine my yeses and commitments and accountability goals and get realistic with my current capacity for where I am at, right now, today. 

I’m not here to tie it all neatly together in a pre-packaged solution for us all. Instead I am here to offer a challenge for you in return.

Are you, my sweet friend, running dry? Do you feel the pangs of thirst welling?

Tonight, this week, hold out your cup–our challenge is to receive. Our challenge is to believe we are worthy enough, loved enough, and cared for enough to receive.

Pause. Rest. Refill.

3 Comments

  • Reply Susiana May 18, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I was just chatting with one of my girl friends about this the other night. It didn’t hit me until the end of the conversation that I have “run myself dry”! Sure, it’s fun (right?), but taking care of ourselves is so much more important. I remember a time last Fall where I had work and then plans (yoga, birthdays, happy hours with old friends, trips, etc.) every single night/day. I didn’t just relax at home for even one night for MONTHS. And don’t get me wrong, it was fun. But I was EXHAUSTED, sick and well, empty. I appreciate your writing so much because I relate to it SO much. This year has been a journey of me realizing I can’t do everything and still take care of myself. Thank you for the reminder. XOXO

    • Reply Avery May 22, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      YES so much yes. Too much of good things DO exist. It’s all about finding the balance, and readjusting that balance as necessary! It is tricky. But dang, oh so good to take that me time and really REST! It is easy to forget what real rest can look like.

  • Reply Rachel shevlin hart May 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Beautiful Avery! A life lesson that shit, was hard to learn myself and I am still
    Practicing everyday, but damn is it powerful! Xo

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