This is an essay I wrote back in 2015. I wanted to share it here.
My antique dining table beckons, “Come, sit here.” I hesitate, unsure of the gesture. The gold trim on its otherwise rustic frame always catches my eye, but I tend to pretend I don’t notice and keep shuffling by. Today, however its soft yet determined invitation catches my attention. “Come sit, bring your tea. Take your time.” I want to say, yes, but… Sitting at tables is where lectures happen, and you think of all the things you should be doing that do not involve sitting. I have plenty on my list already without coming up with more. Staying busy and following lists has become my normal. Leisurely sitting at a table pretending I have time to enjoy myself is something I used to do, but I haven’t in a long, long time. Besides, what would she say? My inner taskmaster is a harsh maiden. Somewhere along the way I think someone told her that time was running out, and she took it a little too much to heart.
I walk on toward the kitchen, stalling, thinking. The kettle is hissing and the steam sends up its message of surrender. The water is ready. I look up to my tea cups and pause, hand in the air, about to reach for my everyday mug. Gently, ever so quietly, a tea cup behind me, the fancy blue one with the saucer, suggests I choose it instead. I stop and turn. The table seems to have been talking with my china. In spite of myself an image begins to form of what sitting at the table could actually encompass: wandering thoughts, words on a page, my pen, musings about something not on my list. Being still, taking my time, enjoying my morning.
It has been a while since I sat at the table, since I took the time to be still. The tension begins to rise in my chest. In spite of the invitation from the table, the inner maiden is sounding particularly stern this morning. She reminds me I don’t have time to eat, let alone sit. I am already late. I slept too long. The day must be seized. The laundry, the dishes, the floors; oh my, the floors! I almost look down but stop myself. Discipline finds me at the oddest moments.
I look instead at the delicate blue cup. I think of the table. In a rare moment of conviction I decide to accept the invitation. The floors can wait. The maiden goes silent with shock. Perhaps she fainted. No doubt she will be back.
My mind drifts to a time when I had regular tea parties. Charlie, my stuffed black bear, loved tea parties. We would sit for hours, pouring the “tea” and eating the “cake.” Stern ladies who mentioned the time were never invited. And honestly, as I recall, Time itself never objected, in fact, she regularly joined the conversation and particularly liked the scones.
The invitation to sit leads to an inspired whim, breakfast! Toast and poached eggs, I think. As I set the table, I realize something else is missing, my book would look lovely propped up in front of my plate. I must invite my journal and pen, you know, because that is what Jane Austen would do. I make sure I have my pitcher of cream, and warm up the butter. I find myself getting caught up in the details I forgot I loved. Simple beauty, the extravagance of stepping outside of my rational self, of giving that stern lady the morning off. As the table begins to fill with all my favorite morning delights, I feel time expand and smile in my chest.
At last I sit. I pick up my tea and cradle it in my palms. I breathe in deeply. I glance at my journal and then stare out the window. I feel my body relax, beginning to inhabit itself again. I didn’t realize I had been away. Where had I gone? Had it been since Charlie and those tea parties of old? Surely not. I think I just got tired and that stern lady seemed so capable, so sure of things. I wanted to be her. I wanted what I thought she could give me, a place, order, control. But, as I sit here, I think I see what it cost me, time and the luxury of being in one place. The space to feel my body, and delight in my thoughts, but most of all to be available to sit at my table and see who shows up.
I am so glad I said yes to the invitation. I would have missed having tea with myself.