I have a new man in my life. His name is Earl Grey, and I enjoy time with him almost every day now.
Okay, obviously I’m talking about tea here but this discovery has truly been a big one for me and an excellent one to start off 2020, my year of boldness. Let’s (cassette tape screeching sound) rewind a bit, before Christmas, when I was trying to come up with gift ideas for Scott to give me. We were both trying to think of something to encourage, support, and complement my writing practice. I thought maybe it would help me feel more serious and official if I had a beverage that went “with” it. It sounds a little corny, but I am someone who find a lot of meaning and power in rituals and routines, and is also learning to counter the current cultural conditioning to be quick, easy, efficient, and just slow down, be present, notice, use all five senses as often as I can, so I asked Scott for a pound of Earl Grey tea.
This particular tea was a bit of a crazy choice for a number of reasons. While I am a huge fan of teas, I usually go for more fruity, herbal, or fancy flavored teas, rather than a more refined, classic, traditional choice. I had never, to my memory even tried Earl Grey. I’m also very sensitive to caffeine so who knew-this could be a disaster for my anxiety (though short-lived, because I obviously wouldn’t continue drinking it if that was the case). But, when I when I commit, I go big, so I asked for a whole pound of it.
The first time I made myself a cup I was…underwhelmed doesn’t quite go far enough. This is supposed to be the thing that let me channel Jane Austen, helped me find my inner writer, fueled me to move words to paper, and make all of this feel real, but I didn’t like it! How could I not enjoy Earl Grey tea? It’s classic, sophisticated, mature! What was wrong with me? Was I not refined enough? Maybe I shouldn’t try to make writing happen after all.
There’s a lot to unpack in all that stuff talk isn’t there? It should be abundantly clear that one’s enjoyment (or not) of a particular food or beverage is not a reflection on their character, and certainly not on whether one should pursue a vocation, especially one that burns in her heart like a calling, but because I doubt myself, my words, whether anyone will ever care to read what I think about anything, this really set me spinning into self-doubt.
But, one thing I’m not is a quitter! That certainly applies to writing, and I wasn’t giving up on my perspective new pal Earl Grey either. There were so many possibilities on how I could improve this experience and I just needed to experiment. Here’s how I made my first cup: 1.5 teaspoons tea, about 6 ounces of water, and… a packet of Stevia. I chose this because it seemed the “healthiest” least “bad”, sugar wise etc. It seemed “right”, in some diet mentality “do everything the most guilt free” kind of way.
One of my only real rules for myself about food is that I don’t eat (or drink) something I don’t enjoy for the sake of it being healthier.
So. I needed to shift my thinking and focus on this from how to keep it clean (as if any other way is “dirty“ , but that’s a whole other conversation), to how to really enjoy this experience. I knew just what to do. I turned to Kristine, my fellow writer and lover of tea and beautiful experiences, asking her a better question than the one I had initially asked myself: “How do you enjoy your Earl Grey?“
She gave me a few ideas, and the next day I tried a couple of them. Guess what? I loved it!
Y’all, this story isn’t really about the tea. It’s about being so focused on doing things “right“ or “perfectly”, or whatever the stress inducing concept is, that we miss out on enjoyment. In this case, the entire point of drinking this tea was to create a joyful and meaningful ritual and experience to accompany and associate with writing, and I almost missed out! This is an applicable lesson for so many areas of life. For me, the most obvious is exercise. I have found myself including exercises I hate in my training because I think I “should“ or beating myself up for my limits on the bike or the mat. Denis Morton says often during a tough cycle class, “If you’re working so hard you can’t smile, you’re working so hard you can’t smile! Simple, but a good self check, and one that works in other aspects of life: homeschooling, housework, parenting, even writing. Not everything in life is all fun and enjoyment, but almost anything can be adapted to be enjoyable. In learning boldness, I am learning to be bold enough to make decisions for my enjoyment and not be a slave to what someone else might consider to be “right” a lot more often.
With just a little effort I create a tea ritual that is everything I hoped and more and is a perfect way to settle into my daily practice of pen to paper.
Mae’s Earl Grey Ritual:
1. Get out teapot (with infuser), teacup and saucer, spoon, sugar bowl (with brown sugar cubes), and tea canister. Turn on electric kettle.
2. Spoon 2 rounded teaspoons of tea into infuser, pour milk into cream pitcher, and put three cubes on saucer while water boils. Pour over tea. Let steep 3-4 minutes. Remove infuser.
3. Bring cup and saucer, cream pitcher, and teapot to end table, and settle in on couch with notebook and pen.
4.Pour tea over sugar cube, add splash of milk, stir, and enjoy while writing morning pages. Repeat 3x.