A month without tea


As the first few weeks of Lent end, I have lived a month without tea. Can you believe it, that I, renowned tea addict, can live such a long time without tea? Other than when I was a toddler and still drinking milk, I have never gone without tea.

My grandfather came from Darlington, England, to America, and he brought a deep cultural devotion to tea that he passed on to his wife, my grandmother, and his daughter, my mother.

When I was growing up, we had it after church with sugar and cream. As a child, I had shortbread cookies we dunked in tea for an afternoon snack. We had tea as a comforting hot drink after ice skating on the pond outside my house.

My favorite tea was a black tea with essence of orange and spice that I called Constant Comet. I didn’t know why a tea would be a comet but there were a lot of things about the adult world that were beyond my comprehension. (Later I learned the name was Constant Comment. So many things make more sense with age and reading ability.)

As a teenager, I drank tea iced at the horse shows, when the Illinois summer was near 100 and I had on black leather boots and a black velvet helmet. I drank it hot in the red plastic cup that was the lid to my thermos and brought the thermos to class with me on the University of Minnesota campus.

Tea was my answer for everything. Friend coming over? Make tea. Bored? Make tea. Feeling sad? Make tea. Can’t sleep? Make (herbal) tea.

You might wonder why I gave up tea.

The seed was planted last year, without my knowing. I had the good fortune to get staff advisory council funding from my work, the University of Missouri, to take a graduate class for free.

I chose Positive Psychology as my class to take. We are nine weeks in. I have learned a great deal about myself and how we can influence our own happiness and well-being.

The class reinforces my focus for this year. I decided 2017 would be the Year of Well-Being. Leave it to me to make a commitment to growth that actually requires work and change. I could have made 2017 the Year of Embracing Absolute Laziness and Eating Crunchy Things on the Couch. But no, I said I would focus on my well-being.

Every week for class I practice an aspect of positive psychology and write how people can flourish. Our assignments have included meditating, humor, love, positive health and ways to cope better. Now here I am, aware of all the places I need to improve. I can’t claim obliviousness anymore.

One week for class I wrote about my addiction to tea.

Previously I laughed about my need for tea. I have a true story some of you know. I saw a doctor for my check-up. She told me I drank too much tea. I found a new doctor.

How could it be so bad to drink tea? I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I’m kind to animals. Can I not have one vice, the vice of tea?

I always pray about what I should give up for Lent. This year I prayed for weeks and one Sunday during communion, I got my answer. It was a particular kind of fast. I was excited to get my answer. I put a hold on the book about the fast at the library and waited. Then I got the book. I read about how it was a strict fast with a lot of limits. I wasn’t too happy but I figured I would make a go of it.

Then I got to the part about nothing but water. No coffee. No juice. No tea. NO TEA!!!!!!! I got mad.

I was miffed for days, angry that the answer to my prayer wasn’t easy. It would be so much more convenient to be spiritually enlightened while continuing to act and think in the same ol’ way.

Why did I really have to repent?

(Note to self: when praying for guidance, be ready for guidance.)

Lent is a powerful season—a time of purification and preparation. Through my prayers and through the reflective writing exercises for my positive psychology class, I knew giving up tea as part of the fast for Lent was the right thing to do. I had supportive friends who had faith in me and my ability to give it up despite my doubts.

Ash Wednesday came. Withdrawal was bad. I had been drinking 400-700mg of caffeine a day. Parts of me hurt I didn’t know could hurt. It felt like my bones didn’t fit together right anymore. I had sciatica. I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit. I couldn’t sleep. I felt both flattened and bloated.

Then a week passed. The day came when I didn’t feel bad. I felt OK. I was alive and living without tea.

Now it’s been a month, a month without tea.

Who am I without tea?

I am who we all are.

We are God’s beloved children who can do anything with God.

For Lent, I gave up more than tea: I gave up an addiction and an identity.

You too can be someone new! Pray and ask God to surprise you.

Give up what you don’t need to carry anymore.

And let’s celebrate Easter together with a cup of decaf Constant Comet!

3 thoughts on “A month without tea

  1. Pfft. You did it again. Made a gigantic impact with one sentence. That sentence being: “It would be so much more convenient to be spiritually enlightened while continuing to act and think in the same ol’ way.” This sentence was a real eye-opener to me. Just this morning in the Lenten video series I subscribe to, the speaker talked all about fasting and how it was one of the most effective forms of prayer. And I’ve just never really been able to get fully on-board with fasting. It seems like such an antiquated practice (… like burnt offerings; we don’t do that anymore either, except symbolically with incense, so doesn’t fasting mean symbolically waving off something but not actually FASTING?). I listened to the speaker’s challenging talk carefully, but still without really appreciating that practice. Then I read your sentence that pretty much shut up my know-it-all-ness on the subject. “… so much more convenient … continuing to act and think in the same ol’ way.” Ohhhhh. (long pause) Of course it would. When has enlightenment ever come as a result of convenience? EVER? (another long pause) I think I get it now.

    Thanks, Gen. Wishing you the very best Lent and Happiest Easter to come.

    1. Shelly, your note means so much to me. Why? Because you help me as a writer and as a spiritual seeker. I always find your thoughtful responses encouraging, refreshing and energizing. Thank you! Blessings on your Lenten discoveries ❤️

  2. I knew you would be able to do this challenging fast/cleanse even though you felt it was daunting. It WAS daunting and you ARE doing it! You are inspiring in your dedication to your practice and through your writing.

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