Heating Up and Steeping for Time.

I’ve been searching for a tea kettle for a while now.

It seems like this should be a very easy task, but thus far it hasn’t been. I can find kettles that have decent reviews, but are not appealing or are so modern they will look silly in my kitchen. I can locate kettles that look gorgeous, but are priced outrageously. I can see kettles that are medium priced and lovely, but are glass and likely to shatter. Many kettles seem to suffer from rusting, flaking, or peeling, and longevity is an issue.

It all makes me wonder why it is so challenging to find the perfect tea kettle, and why I am so intent on the perfect tea kettle.

At the bottom, a tea kettle is only a mechanism to  heat water. I could do this in the microwave. I could use a pot on the stove. Yet, there seems to be a need for a kettle to heat the water the right way.

Making tea is complicated, like making life.

The tea kettle is but one component of making tea, but it’s an important one. The water needs to be sufficiently hot, but not so hot that it causes the tea to become bitter, or so over-boiled that it takes on the taste of the pot. Without the appropriately heated water, you simply cannot make good tea.

Similarly, in our day to day lives, we need to generate a certain amount of tapas (heat, energy) in order to create change or accomplishment. Without this heat, we can easily become like still water – stagnating, flat, taking on the flavors of our routine.

Sources of tapas, like a good tea kettle, aren’t always easy to find. Sometimes I know that I need to move or change or do, but I am inert. I see that my routines aren’t serving me, and my plans are in need of either revision or action if I am to help them unfold, but I fall right back into the same pattern. I literally get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, attend the same yoga classes, socialize (or not) with the same people. Even where I’m not happy with these patterns, sometimes I get stuck in the phase of looking for a source of tapas to heat things up and get them rolling/roiling.

Other times, the source of tapas comes suddenly or unexpectedly. The big pile of work that needs to be done is there, and I know it. But, I find myself pushing it to the edges of my desk and my mind and instead surfing the net or flipping TV channels (often at the same time while I try to go to sleep). And then an announcement of a deadline arrives, and it’s soon! Somewhere in my head I knew it was coming, but I had been avoiding it. Suddenly there is fire under the kettle and things heat right up. The challenge then becomes preventing the pot from boiling over.

But, even when I do manage (sometimes through my own efforts and sometimes through external factors that seem largely out of my control) to get the molecules moving, there remains the challenge of not becoming so focused on the end that the process is lost.

When making a good cup of tea, the “end” is an empty cup. But, along the way, time is needed to steep the tea, carefully and slowly and with attention. Otherwise, it’s gone and all that is left is a bad taste in the  mouth, vague dissatisfaction, and the sense of a job poorly done.

In my life, it can be this way too. The catalyst strikes, energy to get the task done builds, and I’m underway. If I don’t catch myself there and turn things down a little, it’s pretty easy for me to rush through what I am doing. And then I either make a mistake, do a poor job, or miss the whole experience.

Sometimes this results in “little bads.” For example, in a rush this week, I poured icy water into my sinuses. That is not cool (actually, it was cold, but you see what I mean), but it wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes it results in “big bads,” like the wrong life path taken, or a bridge burned that can’t be rebuilt. I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t give you an example of my big bads, but maybe you can think of some in your own life.

Perhaps, lately, this tea kettle is a metaphor for a bunch of other things going on, or not going on, in my life, and I’m fretting about selecting one because I don’t want to be pushed into action – my routine is comfortable. But, ultimately, change is one of the only certainties in this existence. Eventually, you have to heat the water. And for that, you need a kettle.

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