Tears and Tea

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If you were raised in the South like I was, then tea is life. Tea has been used for thousands of years as a healing medicine — I know I feel a little bit of healing with every sip. Especially when my life feels a little cold - when I’m sad, when I don’t know who to turn to, when I feel lost, when I feel like the world is crumbling under my feet and the tears just won’t stop falling.

I would honestly consider the day I discovered tea (and its magical powers) a truly pivotal one. I was in high school (…I know, I know. What could I possibly have been stressed out about in high school?), and the “love of my life” had just broken up with me. I was completely devastated. Like a classic high schooler I thought my life was over —  how could I go on without him? I had pictures upon pictures upon pictures of us over the two years we were together, and I just kept sifting through them and—of course—crying. And even though I was telling myself that I was only 16 and I would love again, the waterworks continued. 

On day two of my first heartache, I was still crying when my grandma stopped by the house. I ran into the bathroom to wash my face, in an effort to avoid the dreaded “you’re young, life is easy” talk. But hard as I tried when I came out of the bathroom with a wet face and bloodshot eyes,  there was no avoiding her.  As if she didn't already know, she asked if anything was wrong. And like the teenager I was, I said nothing. Instead, I scooted passed her as fast as I could to go cry alone on the back porch, in peace. 

Some time passed, as I heard the light shuffle of things being moved about and muted voices echoing from the house. Suddenly the door opened and I heard my grandma say “Here.”

I turned around to see her holding out a blue cup filled with hot tea and a lemon slice gently floating below the steam. 

My grandma sat next to me and said “It is okay to cry. So cry. Drink some tea. Let the tears fall in the tea if they have to. But cry.” So I did. I cried and cried and drank some tea and I told my grandma everything that happened. I was waiting and waiting for her to say “Well you’re young,” “Things will be better soon,” or “It’s not so bad.”  But she didn’t. 

Instead, she simply asked “Do you feel better?” And I did. 

Was it the way my Grandma gave me space to feel everything I was feeling? Was it the simple act of really listening without judgment? Was it the tea? Who knew? But I did feel better. 

Years later, when I feel down I run to my cabinet, put the kettle on, pull out a bag of tea and make a cup. I still put the lemon slice in it the way my Grandma did, and then I go outside on my porch, and I drink, I cry, I reflect, I talk (if I can convince someone to drink tea with me), I laugh, I connect with myself. Because tea makes it easier for me to feel. 

Ashley M. Reid-Portiez

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