Tired from a long day’s work, I turn to my kitchen cupboard. There, I know, I will find comfort. Boxes and boxes of tea—from Celestial Seasonings “Bengal Spice” (1) , to premium grade Japanese sencha, sent by direct mail from a company located in Kyoto—so many that I am forced to pull boxes out in order to find the one I’m looking for: Yogi’s “Relaxed Mind.” It’s a perfect blend of sage, lavender, nettle, blackberry leaf and a bunch of other leafy-flowery things that “uplift the subconscious,” “support cognition,” “balance your mood and nurture creativity” (2). I fill the electric kettle with water and start it warming. Once the water boils, I turn off the kettle (never pour boiling water over a tea bag—it might bruise the tea leaves or, worse, break the often flimsy material the bag is made of—resulting in a much more “textured” cup of tea than you might have had in mind). I slip one turquoise colored pouch out of the tea box and set it on the counter while I pour the barely-cooled water into the cup. Then I tear the top of the pouch and remove the tea bag—the aroma alone is therapeutic. Soothing, restorative, and wholesome—like my old summertime walks through the lavender field at the Benedictine monastery in Pecos, NM. I breathe it in. The day that has passed lifts from my shoulders and the muscles in my back soften. I drop the tea bag into the water and drape the string over cup’s rim. Then it happens.
My eyes just…go there. Masochist that I am (3), I can’t keep myself from seeing it. That fucking label, with its supposedly profound words of wisdom.
As a person who drinks a lot of tea and spends a greater-than-average amount of time staring out of my apartment window, pondering the meaning of life and teetering on the edge of various existential crises, I’ve come to loathe—deeply, and with a disproportionate level of frustration and contempt—the nauseatingly noxious existence of Yogi tea bag labels. The tea itself is fine. This particular brand comprises at least two thirds of the collection of tea boxes overflowing from my kitchen cupboard. It’s the labels that cause offense. The smarmy, self-helpy, sycophantic slogans are almost too much to bear. As I take the first few sips of tea, I invariably find myself spiraling into a mental and emotional state quite different from the one the box promises. I stare out the window or sit at my desk, pondering a snarky response to whoever the hell at Yogi is responsible for writing these things.
Uh, yeah. Try that when you’re “breaking up” with a guy whose name is probably Blake, who you’re not sure you were ever dating in the first place. He got your number from a friend (4) and spent two full days texting you about his “deal breakers”— do you go to church? do you speak in tongues? what do you believe is a woman’s place in the home? Despite the fact that you broke pretty much every deal on his list, he asked you out for coffee. You said you weren’t sure that was a good idea. He said it didn’t have to be a date and you, being the others-pleasing person you were, agreed to meet for coffee under the proviso that it’s not a date. You meet him at the coffee shop and half an hour into a very awkward version of what might be called a conversation, he tells you he could see you as his wife. You look him right in the eyes, you smile, and you say with confidence, “That’s not going to happen.”
A month later, he’s still texting fifty times a day. He even tried to stop by your office on Valentine’s Day. Every time he asks you out (5), you tell him no; every time you tell him no, your phone sends low storage alerts because all of the storage is taken up with his stupid texts—which come in rapid succession, question after question, demanding answers, complicating an otherwise “straight and simple” matter.
A smile doesn’t always cut it.
Resting bitch face is often more effective (6).
No…sex might be (7). But love sure as hell isn’t.
Ecstasy is an amphetamine-based drug that induces hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. Love may feel like ecstasy from time to time, but more often than not it’s a shit-ton of work and communication and tears. Of course, if you’re trying to communicate with an asshole who practically asks you to marry him on your first not-a-date, you may be out of luck.
Oh, serving all is a requirement for those of us whose happiness is entirely dependent upon the passable moods of those around us.
PLEASE OTHERS OR PERISH. That’s our motto.
The one true path to deep and lasting happiness: shut up do what’s expected of you.
‘Cause that’ll fix everything. Especially when you’re the “worship leader” at your parents’ church and you’ve been the worship leader for twelve years (8) and you’ve had some serious questions over the last decade about the religious beliefs and practices of the church. Questions that you couldn’t voice. Questions that surfaced, interestingly enough, at times when you stood in front of the congregation and sang from your heart.
Like the time you were up on the stage, singing from your heart, and Chris Faveille walked back into the sanctuary after four years away. In prison. For the brutal rape and murder of Liz Lankhorst-Ballard—another member of your parents’ church. He was welcomed back into the community based on the Christian virtue of forgiveness. Two months later, you stood on that same stage, singing from the heart and watched two women walk into the sanctuary. They were together. Later, they were asked to either leave the church or repent of their sinful ways. Based on the Christian virtues of judgement and exclusion.
But keep singing.
Sing your heart out.
Sing until there’s nothing left of your heart but a few bloody shreds that may never heal.
Existentially speaking, that’s simply terrifying. My god, you can hardly make a decision about which items to put on your plate at a buffet; if you yourself, as a sentient being in the universe, are unlimited…you may very well implode. In fact, you did implode. You worked two part-time jobs to pay for your shitty community college undergrad degree while you filled two or three or four positions in your parents’ church (9), took a full course load, and maintained a perfect GPA. Meanwhile, you felt every ounce of tension between your constantly bickering parents, and withstood endless criticism by the old ladies in the church for whom you could never dress, act, or believe properly enough. You were unlimited. So you stopped eating and you shrank away to almost nothing.
…said every socially crippled, isolated, but “successful” human being ever.
Well, fuck. So that’s what you’ve been doing wrong. It had nothing to do with your shitty community college education and poor life choices (10). You just haven’t been grateful enough! Stop whining about teabag labels and get your shit together.
(1) A throwback to childhood. Mom always served it with milk.
(2) “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
(3) A tendency for which I—as a former member of an evangelical-pentecostal church, a former (or recovering, in the language of A.A.) anorexic, and a recovering pathological people-pleaser—have been expertly trained.
(4) Some friend.
(5) Always via text.
(6) You’re working on that.
(7) Half of the time, optimistically speaking.
(8) To be fair, you did enjoy it for the first couple years.
(9) Depending on what others felt like doing or not doing—serve all, remember?
(10) Invariably made to accommodate the needs and wishes of others.
Barbara Lane is a teacher, writer, and MFA candidate who lives half of her life in Flagstaff, AZ, and the other half in Albuquerque, NM. When she is not teaching or writing, she hikes around New Mexico, drinks tea, and habitually burns her toast.