Mug Up

The equipment to make coffee was the one luxury I took into the field when I made my living outdoors. With space so tight I would limit the number of clean underwear I allowed myself to bring, a coffee press felt like an incredible indulgence. Even if the boat, and my students, were noisy and chaotic, or the weather cold and raining, if I took the time to boil the water, pour it in over the grounds, let it sit long enough to steep, press the plunger and pour, then wait long enough for it to be cool enough to taste…ahhh, that first sip… I would feel myself settle.

For a few minutes, I would be still. Cold hands wrapped around a warm beverage, intentionally taking a moment for myself. For a few minutes, my awareness of the discomforts I willingly took on in this beautiful and adventurous work– no showers for days, living on dehydrated and shelf stable food, constantly being on alert for dangers and ‘on’ to pick up on student needs, lack of any private space or time for me - fell away. Even while overseeing twelve teenagers who were constantly vying for each other’s and my attention and approval, I could feel the quiet moment. Sometimes one quiet moment each day to sit and reflect made every challenge that would come my way a little easier to meet and manage with grace and calm.

Brewing a cup of coffee or tea still feels like a luxury, an invitation to slow down. At times, I grab my coffee and drink it on the go, yet when possible I try to sit with it and invoke the sense of indulgence and stillness that I used to feel with salty, weather worn fingers wrapped around a beat-up metal mug, to use it as a space to pause, breathe and reflect.

As I have begun writing again, relaunching this blog as a space to explore ideas and questions that come my way in my coaching, facilitation and culture work, entering a reflective place, stories and memories are returning to me that I haven’t thought about in years. These stories feel as relevant to the work I do today as an executive coach, leadership coach, facilitator, and writer as they did when I wore the titles of captain, sailor, Outward Bound instructor and trainer. These stories, even when not consciously at the top of my mind, are a part of me. Living these experiences influenced who I am, continue to shape my perspective and my values, and continue to influence how I chart my professional and personal path.  

There are so many lessons for me to learn (and sometime learn again) in reflecting upon life and learnings from outside of my current profession – those from the years I made my living sailing, teaching and traveling, as well as stories I’m currently fully immersed in – of parenting, friendship, community and of partnerships in work and life. At times, interspersed with interviews with leaders, discussions of books I wish to share, ideas of how to approach leadership and workplace challenges I’ve witnessed clients tackle and overcome, I’ll use this blog to tell stories. These narratives are my Mug Ups, a name and concept I borrow from The Hungry Ocean, with the intention of paying homage to its author, Captain Linda Greenlaw,* as her story, her collection of stories, impacted me at a pivotal point in my life. Mug Up is also a nod to the time that it takes to brew, experience and enjoy a cup of coffee, time to reflect and breathe, and learn from what I’m living each day, this time that often seems like a luxury yet is a necessity, especially for those who wish to lead with intention.

*Linda Greenlaw captained the sister ship to the Andrea Gail, the boat that went down in the storm of 1991 off the coast of New England, about which The Perfect Storm was written by Sebastian Junger. Greenlaw has been hailed as one of the best fishing captains alive today on the east coast, maybe the whole US, maybe the whole world. Not one of the best female fishing captain, but one of the best captains. Period. She didn’t say that, Junger did.