“If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Well I get it, but I can’t say I totally agree. Work is work. Work is hard. I’ve washed more dishes, mopped more floors and picked up more crumbs in the last four years of owning a tea shop than I had all my previous years combined. Sometime the actual work of stocking shelves or toting heavy boxes leaves me sore and exhausted, having no doubt I’ve put in a full day of actual work.
But, there is something…
There is something different about my tea shop work. At first I thought maybe it was the clean-page start of a new business or the satisfaction of reaching a goal and just getting the doors open. But time proved it was more deep-seated than that. I’ll save you my long, introspective, thought process and just tell you what I figured out.
Most of my guests probably won’t notice the extra time and attention put into every detail of my shop, but I think (or hope) many of them feel the love. Sounds corny even as I type the words. Do customers actually “feel the love” of a place?
This I know for sure, I feel the love I’m sending and that’s what makes my tea shop my dream job. It’s what drives me to make little heart-shaped peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and carefully wipe off the jelly that spilled over on the side. Every vintage cup and saucer I rescue from a flea market, every teaspoon of tea I scoop into a cup, or gift bag I fill with tissue paper, love backs my actions and that drives me to continue.
I’m still not sure if it has to do with my age and where I’m at in life, but I like to think I’m just where I’m supposed to be and doing what I am meant to do - sowing love and joy into people’s lives while working hard and living in the moment.
My son was in kindergarten and I had this thing to go to at his school. At work, I had just realized a big annual meeting for our whole department was scheduled at the same time. How did I miss that? How did I not realize it was the exact same time?
As a responsible and professional bread-winner, I knew I couldn’t miss the meeting. My decision was made. Like a mature adult, I told my boss I would be attending the meeting. I experienced a wave of relief as I sincerely expressed my commitment to my job and our team.
I will never forget the words of my boss (Mr. Roger Ludwig): “No! You need to go to your son’s thing - it’s more important.” Really? That’s not what I expected. Was I wrong in my decision? Was I not doing the right thing? There it was, the nagging knot in my stomach returned as my pathetic-parent punishment. With a deep breath of guilt, I took off.
In heels and a dress, I jogged across the school parking lot and down the long hallway, moments before the function was set to begin. There he was - my son Chad was standing at the door of his classroom with one other little boy.
The teacher asked the boy at the door to come on in. With staunch conviction, he replied “She said she’s coming! She’ll be here in a minute.” as he stood his ground with watchful eyes.
Chad gave me a corsage he made of paper flowers and placed a napkin and cookie on my personalized paper place mat. “Tea or lemonade?” he asked before serving a tiny plastic cup of tea.
The children excitedly gathered in front of the classroom ready for their song. I slipped over to the little boy still in the doorway to see if I could persuade him to join us. He declined and took another quick look down the hallway, with a heart still half full of hope.
My heart hurt for the mom of the little boy in the doorway. I’m sure she had no idea what she missed or how loudly her absence filled the room. Humbled, I knew that I was so close to being that mom.
So there it is moms. In case your boss never tells you (and by the way, thank you so much Roger!), I want to tell you - Don’t miss the good stuff. Savor the moments. Soak it up, bask in it, and let the love of your babies feed your spirit. The struggle to find balance will never cease, but err on the side of those whose heart you hold. And as often as you possibly can, show up at the doorway.
Chad is now 25 and married. I once asked him if he remembered the Kindergarten Mother’s Day Tea that so impacted me as a young mother. He said “No, not really.”
In my training to become a tea sommelier (like a wine sommelier but for tea) I’ve become intrigued by the Japanese concept of WABI-SABI [wäbē säbē].
Even the definition is beautiful:
“quietness, sober refinement, subdued taste, characterized by humility, moderation, simplicity, naturalness, depth and imperfection”.
Part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony includes purposefully admiring the hand-made matcha bowl and its imperfections, as a work of art. This practice serves to remind us that we all have room to grow and there is beauty in our humanity and our flaws. Isn’t that a lovely way to look at life?
I can’t say that I personally am quiet and somber and I tend to like embellishments over clean, modern lines, but I definitely have an appreciation for the imperfect. One of my favorite things in life is to find a hidden treasure at a flea market or thrift shop - a piece that is time worn, weathered, once loved, previously purposeful - now discarded.
I see beauty in old books and bottles, tattered tables and tarnished silver. I see new chances and elevated statuses for objects others thought past their prime.
We can extend the same sentiment to people. There is elegance and beauty in wrinkled, work-weary hands and faces marked by many seasons of living. History and long-forgotten stories are hidden in the lines, faded colors and softened edges. Years of laughter and tears, triumph and heartache, give way to deep wisdom, rich character and great beauty.
Below is a picture of my dad with his garden bounty - his last summer, 2013.
Weeds as Flowers, Rain, Handwritten Letters, Homemade Pies, Pocket Watches, Wet Tea Leaves, Dirt Roads, Faded Fabrics, Storm Clouds, Gardens, Old Dishes, Chipped Paint, Journals, Old Photos, Wind Chimes, Rusted Cans, Quilts, Used Bricks, Blown Glass, Classic Cars, Pebbles, Old Violins, Vintage Tractors, Manhole Covers, Stained Glass… and a million other things.
Our culture is saturated with the idea of perfection - airbrushed, photoshopped, covered over, dressed up, fake perfection. But life is so much richer, more meaningful when we find beauty in the flawed, the simple, the ordinary, the authentic. As you sit to relax with a cup of tea, look for something to marvel at - something you never noticed before.
Extend grace and appreciation to the uncelebrated, the humble, the “ugly”.
In time, you’ll start to notice you’ve grown kinder and gentler even toward your own flaws, and life overall (including who you are) has become more beautiful.