Iced Caramel Machiatto in Glass with Straw

There was a time in my life when many would have considered me a health freak. I come by it naturally as the daughter of a chiropractor who practiced in the early days of that profession. My dad was a firm believer in taking good care of the body for life.

With the high winds of health and wholeness at my back, I entered my young adult years heavily attuned to acts of caring for my body. I was an early adopter of the gluten- and dairy-free movements. I avoided caffeine. I baked weird birthday cakes out of rice flour and dark, sweet cherry juice. I did cleanses and exercised nearly every day. I watched my sugar intake and occasionally got off of it entirely for months at a time.  

Then, my beautiful 20-year-old daughter died. All of my certainty and beliefs were shattered. Nothing mattered anymore. I didn’t care about living and certainly not about taking care of my body. I had promised my son that I wouldn’t hurt myself, but I also wasn’t interested in taking great care of myself.

In the days following her death, a friend bought me an iced caramel macchiato. A perfect combination of thick, sweet caramel swirling on the bottom under a layer of bright, white milk and strong coffee on top. It was a vision, and I sucked it down without any regard for my supposed dairy intolerance. For the next thirty or so minutes, I felt something like happy — a combination of sugar and caffeine, I suppose. But high. A feeling I used to love.

Then, I slowly settled back down into the zone of grief and melancholy that had become my steady state.

The next day, I asked for another caramel macchiato.

And I drank one every day for two years. It was a bright spot in my days. It was a necessary respite from grief. I paid no attention to concerns for my health with all that sugar and caffeine and dairy.

I would learn later that caffeine can help lift grief. This now makes perfect sense to me.

I’m grateful I didn’t chastise myself or moderate my intake. My mind and body needed a boost.

It’s a lesson we can all take to heart these days. In the midst of difficulties, no matter what they might be, stop being hard on yourself. Let yourself have something that makes you happy, even if it’s just for a few minutes. (To be clear, I’m not talking about drugs or illegal substances!)

Be kind to yourself and do what seems the most nurturing and kind to yourself and others in that moment. Offer yourself some compassion. You are hurting. What might help?

Maybe it’s a caramel macchiato.