Tea for Times of Transition: Black Tea and Rooibos

Tea

Homeschooling has been the driving force in my life for the past decade, more or less. Sure, I’ve been an herbalist, artist, writer, business owner, bookkeeper, wife, and mom along the way, but teaching my boy has held center stage. It’s a lot of work to get up each day, wrangle the boy into schooling, get through lessons, and do whatever is necessary to prepare for the next day…or year.

I usually spend my spring researching, gathering, and sometimes selling curriculum. As this year began, I expected to add research into what it takes to get a homeschooled kid through high school in a way that prepares him for University: Record-keeping and resume-building along with standardized test preparation and whatever else may help him get his foot in the door.

Instead, I’m focused solely on finishing off this last year of homeschooling. A week after I earned my Black Belt, my boy interviewed for a position at Springfield’s Academics and Arts Academy, a local charter high school with a focus on the arts and preparing students for the rigors of University as an artist of some sort. He got in, and I’ve been sorting through a mess of conflicting feelings ever since.

My family is changing in Big ways. We’ll no longer have breakfast together mid-morning through Fall, Winter, or Spring. The silly banter, serious discussions, and sometimes heated disagreements over everything from the latest video game or movie critic’s opinion to world news, politics, and religion will, at best, be shuffled into the evening. At worst, they’ll vanish altogether. Taekwondo will no longer be a family work-out for weekday mornings. I won’t have to break amidst cooking or writing or cleaning in the afternoons to answer math questions or take the stage to give a dramatic presentation on diagramming sentences. I fear we’ll lose the closeness homeschooling has brought to our family.

On the other hand, the freedom…that is something I anticipate with great joy. Already this spring I can feel it beginning. No curriculum planning. Sure, I enjoyed it when I’ve done it, but I can also find some crazy way to enjoy mopping the floor. No curriculum planning this spring so far has felt terrific. I’ve actually put in the raised beds I’d been desiring for the past five years. I actually had the energy and motivation to do it. Until now, I’d never really respected how much energy it takes to just prepare for a year of schooling my boy. Nor had I recognized the stress that came with the job. Part of me is in kind of a tail-spin.

Last week, I finished off a grammar lesson with the boy and realized for the first time how much I put into keeping him engaged. It’s like being on stage. When I don’t deliver it with enthusiasm beyond what one might normally feel is warranted for learning the rules of our language, he tunes out and we have to revisit the material over and over again. It takes less to put on the production than to keep going over the same ground, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Far from it. Making grammar fun is a lot of work. History and math are no mean trick, either. My mind boggles at the thought of what I may do with all that energy when I’m no longer using it to hammer the three Rs into my boy’s head.

I’ve been making a lot of time for tea. Eugene Breakfast Tea from J-tea International and Republic of Tea’s Vanilla Rooibos teas have been by go-tos. I’ve needed the astringency of the blacks to help my respiratory system stay balanced. Allergy season has already picked up in my neighborhood. More than that, though, the simplicity and comfort of a good cup of black tea has helped me feel present.

Presence is tough for me during slow transitions like this one. I still have six weeks of lessons ahead, and that’s assuming the boy complies with the pace I’ve set for math. It could be a week or two longer if we don’t complete the lessons I’ve set for each week. I want to jump into the new way of life right now. I want to just chuck the rest of this school year and apply myself to other areas, like my art and building The Practical Herbalist into a business that’s actually profitable. That, however, would not serve my son or me. I must finish what I started to feel I’ve succeeded, so a slow transition it is. Black tea will help me stay with it until the end.

Rooibos and vanilla are keeping me sane. As I face all the conflicting emotions, including those of my family members, those two herbs give my over-stimulated nervous system a break. Rooibos is relaxing to the soul. It digs down below the stress and soothes the underlying ground, making it feel less like the earth is shaking and more like maybe this is just a wee-spring zephyr that’ll pass, leaving only the stuff we actually need and want in our lives still standing. It helps me recognize that this transition, while maybe coming earlier than I’d expected, is perfectly timed and absolutely the best bridge to the life we all want. In the quiet of a cup of Rooibos, I have the capacity to reflect on the changes ahead, to see the losses and gains with a calm perspective, and to let the emotional tides flow just as they will without feeling quite so tossed about by them.

The little rituals I practice, like morning and afternoon tea, help make transitions easier. Instability is somehow lessened by the simplicity of brewing and imbibing a cup of tea. The next few months are going to be exciting. I’ll see a lot of changes through all aspects of my life. Some of them I haven’t yet imagined and some probably won’t be as huge as I anticipate. Change is the only real constant in this life. This spring I can feel it flowing through my life like the ripples on a lake…or maybe a cup of tea.

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