We sit across the circular office table from each other, important papers stacked and pushed to the side to make space. Four white tea cups line up in perfect formation, the edges of their lips touching ever so slightly. I notice the afternoon sun and the shadows it casts through the grimy hospital windows. But mostly, I notice the heavy layer of sadness that hovers and weaves itself into the silence. I realize this is our last tea ceremony we'll share together at work. These small pockets of sacred stillness we've intentionally built into the craziest of days. These deliberate pauses. Next week I leave this hospital, this workplace I've called home for more than a decade- in order to fully commit my time to my own private practice. With the excitement and anticipation and euphoria I've been experiencing lately, suddenly the sadness hits me like an unexpected blow. These are the moments I am going to miss the most. A knot begins to form in my throat and I blink back the tears. It's starting to sink in.
I focus my attention on M. He is careful and deliberate in his preparation of the tea. I watch as he adds the boiling water into the teapot, closes the lid, and pours water over the entire teapot from above. Observing him perform this ritual calms me. We sit and wait as the leaves steep. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply, so I do the same. We exhale, and continue a few more breathing cycles together.
If the tea doesn't steep long enough, it is weak and insubstantial. Left in the teapot for too long, the tea turns astringent, harsh, bitter. It is all about timing. We both know it's time. It's my time. I am ready to be poured out now, to fill those cups.
M has witnessed firsthand the wreckage and the journey I've embarked upon to rebuild my life and find my own Truth. The last six years were an intentional restructuring of priorities, redefining the ways I contribute to the world, and most importantly, finding myself again. It has been a laborious mosaic of sorts- a gradual accumulation of truths, of small pushes in a new direction, and learning to recognize and listen to that calling that deeply satisfies my soul.
I look at M and feel so much gratitude. To be fully seen and accepted and to have another bear witness to your own becoming both personally and professionally in a workplace is a true gift. It's rare. It's shaped me. These are the things I will miss the most I say to myself again.
Silently and in unison, we lift the cups to our mouths. The rich, earthy pu-erh tea fills us. We inhale and exhale. I still notice the sadness there, lingering in the background. But my lips curl up ever so slightly into a smile and my eyes soften and relax. Grateful to have experienced this important chapter in my life. For friendship. For tea.