When I came up with the idea for The Fourth Quarter seasonal journey through autumn and winter, a
list of weekly symbols quickly emerged, as did what felt like the right running
order for them. I didn’t plan them out
in detail, but I had clear thoughts about the themes behind each one; last
on bathing, for instance, I wanted to represent quietness and moments of
solitude. What has surprised me as the months
have passed by, though, is the extent to which the meanings and metaphors have
evolved. I *thought* I knew what each
week would be about, but the journey has taken on a life of its own (apt given
the title of my site and coaching practice!).
This perhaps isn’t surprising, but what is notable is that each symbol
has remained completely apt. If anything,
the symbols have become even more pertinent.
In an Elizabeth Gilbert Big
Magic kind of way, it is as if I have been the vessel through which the
concept and symbols found form but my real world brain has taken a while to
catch up with what they all actually mean.
This week’s focus, tea, has proved a particularly strong
example of this, what I can only inelegantly describe as ‘not what I thought
it’d be but totally right’. In my
original human thinking, it was going to be all about a relaxed form of
hosting, offering people tea as a gesture of hospitality and forging
connection. That would have been totally
fine, I’m sure; maybe even good. Yet the
mysteries of creativity have another agenda that is forcing its way on to the
page. Let’s see where it takes us…
This time two years ago, I developed a dairy
intolerance. Seemingly out of the blue,
I literally could no longer stomach milk or cheese. Adjustments to my diet followed, and I swapped
cow’s milk for first soya and then almond milk.
This generally worked well, only I didn’t like the taste of other kinds
of milk in tea. As a result, English
breakfast tea, a former staple of my day (and one of the few attributes of the
British nation that I was happy to share), vanished from my life, replaced by
herbal varieties or coffee without milk.
Strangely, despite years of heavy consumption, I didn’t miss
it – so much so that even as my tolerance for dairy products has improved, I
haven’t returned to drinking it. Then
the other Sunday, I was out with a friend and we were having old fashioned
cake. Coffee just seemed like a weird
accompaniment, so English breakfast tea it was, served in a proper cup and
saucer too. And just like that, proper
tea was back in my life, like a lost love or the prodigal child, reunited at
What does this symbolise?
Of course it may mean nothing at all; it may simply be that I went off
tea and now I like it again. This is
undoubtedly partly the case, but I think there is something figurative going on
inside those cups of char as well. The
lesson I’ve drawn from it is that things change, and not just once and for
all. Life is a constant ebb and flow. Sometimes we’ll like tea, at other points we
won’t, there may be occasions where we can’t have it – and then it could all
shift again. As with tea, with life:
people come and they go, relationships blossom and wither, jobs are started
then finished. And the same is true of
identities. Certain labels may serve us
well at one time but down the line they may no longer suit. The danger comes when we cling on, refusing
to let go or allow the cycle of change to continue. I was a tea drinker, then I wasn’t. I couldn’t drink tea, then I simply didn’t
drink tea. Now I get to choose: maybe I
will, maybe I won’t. I don’t need a
definite position on the issue.
I hope these thoughts resonate with you over the weeks
ahead. December is a month packed with
annually occurring events and traditions that can make us feel like each year
is – or somehow should be – the same as the one before or one when we were kids
or one that occurred way back in some mythical past before that. Except it isn’t like that. This December does not have to be the same as
the last one. Things change, you change,
the world changes. Today you may have
coffee; tomorrow you might have tea. As
with tea, with life.
I’m off to put the kettle on.
Tell me what it is that you are drinking right now,
literally and metaphorically! You can
get in touch via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.