The comfort of something familiar … for me it is a cup of tea … can take the edge off the worst situations. Or help highlight the best of times.
Recently, just preparing for this weekend’s bike ride, accompanied by construction projects, graduation, financing college educations and other issues, I’ve had plenty of stressful moments. Today every phone call seemed to start, “We have a small problem …”
And I felt as if my head might explode.
Twice, friends extended offers of tea. Both times, the interval of time set aside to sip a cup of chai, meet a companion for conversation or a walk, and take a deep breath, alleviated much of the pent-up emotion.
In fact, just the decision to say YES and take a few minutes for myself, in the midst of many challenges, seemed to ease mounting blood pressure. And when I returned to demanding commitments, I felt more focused and calm. Even though I’d just imbibed caffeine, I’d also paused for some oxygen and endorphins.
During the years we lived in Childrens Hospital Boston, when we sometimes slept for a total of 1.5 hours in a day, otherwise staying awake to pay attention to acute medical circumstances surrounding Jessie, a cup of chai tea from Starbucks could be the best and most comforting flavor imaginable. Jessie loved chai tea from Zumis or Starbucks, too. For all of us, it tasted like home.
It still does.
On the other hand, what is comforting can become too over-used. It makes sense, that if something has the power to provide comfort, it may also have the dangerous quality of becoming an addiction. I suppose that has to do with a combination of internal balance and physiology.
Sometimes if we’re trying to break bad habits, we have to do more than avoid a substance such as caffeine or nicotine. We may also have to change the daily rhythms, habits and rituals that surround our emotional and social connections to those substances or behaviors that become our obsessions.
Happily, for me, tea is a safe and friendly habit. I don’t have to give it up.
For other people, different rituals offer similar comfort. A cup of coffee. A glass of wine. A few minutes reading headlines. Cooking. Eating a good meal. Prayer. Writing in a journal. Watching a movie. Walking. Cycling. Swimming. Any form of movement. Meditation. A bite of chocolate. Working on a jigsaw puzzle. Solving a crossword or Sudoku. Listening to music. Playing the piano. Playing with a pet. Needlepoint. Model-building. Taking a nap.
For me, it includes taking walks. Reading a favorite novel. Talking to a companion.
And yes, sipping a chai latte from Zumis. Or holding a plain mug of hot black tea with milk and honey, made at home. Tea.
Many simple steaming cups have seen me through tough days. And helped me celebrate some wonderful ones.
Ask anyone who visited us at the hospital in Boston … what did we ask for? Clean underwear. Movies or books. And tea.