My friend Ni was running behind, so off I headed to Starbucks for a skinny mocha, extra hot, and a black tea, no water, no sugar.
I watched the barista take a clear plastic cup and begin filling it with ice. “Isn’t the tea hot?” I asked.
“ ‘No water’ means iced tea,” Jack the barista explained.
It was a frigid, wet day; I couldn’t imagine Ni ordering a cold drink. “Just a sec. I’ll double check,” I said, pulling out my phone. “I’m ordering the tea for my manicurist, and I think that was what she said – black tea, no water, no sugar. But I want to get it right.”
Jack, meanwhile, had moved on to my mocha. “There are a lot of words here…Relax.”
He spoke kindly, but his meaning was as clear as if it had arrived inscribed in the foam of a latte. Please, lady, give it a rest. I’ve got things under control.
Years ago, my Dear Friend clipped a cartoon for me. It showed the exterior of a Starbucks. Above it, a sign read “Church of Latte Day Saints.”
At the time, I’d thought the illustration was really funny and a little bit true. Now, awaiting my mocha, I realized that the joke was on me. I’d worshipped at Starbucks for years, but I may as well have ordered Pepsi, I’d so missed the point of the place, the lesson it had to teach me.
“Relax,” advises Jack who creates lattes and knows what he is doing.
“Be still and know that I am God,” proclaims the Head Barista who created the world and knows what He is doing. (Ps 46)
Twelve-Step programs make it even more elemental. “Let go and let God.” (Big Book)
What’s life at its most elemental? A rollercoaster ride – ups and downs and swerves and jolts and unexpected starts and stops and all. You’re exhilarated, you’re exhausted, your stomach’s in knots. Your eyes are open and you’re focusing on the horizon; your eyes are shut and your gaze is inward. You wish this whole damn thing had never started; please, let this ride last forever. It’s too fast, it’s too slow. You’re crammed into the car like that last pair of shoes in your carryon, you’re alone. You curse God for bringing you here, you thank Him – even when the Greater Power you’re kicking, praising, or capitalizing is you.
I whine a lot and question even more…but, considering the alternative, I like life. Roller-coasters, however, I loathe. I loathe rollercoasters the way my Dear Friend loathes Brussels sprouts. Oh, they’re fine as a side dish for others – or as a simile – but don’t you dare make me take a bite. The last time I rode a rollercoaster, my Eventual Ex caught me as, felled unto death by nausea, I slid under the lap restraint. And, no, we’re weren’t on Twisted Colossus at Six Flags but on a bona fide baby ride – Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland.
Some researchers maintain that I reacted this way because I am lousy at going with what Tibetan-Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa calls the “natural flow.” I’m Captain Bligh refusing to surrender control of my ship, the HMS Bounty, to Mr. Christian. My eyes insist on charting a course to the left, the balance system in my inner ear picks up that I’m heading right…and my stomach walks the plank.
“This is how a lot of our brain works, comparing what we think is going to happen to what actually happens,” explains Laurence Harris of York University’s Centre for Vision Research in Toronto. “It's errors in that — when you make your expectation and it turns out to be incorrect — that produces these weird sensations."
It also produces kidney stones, claims urological surgeon David Wartinger of Michigan State. “One particular gentleman really inspired Wartinger,” relates The Atlantic. “The man rode Big Thunder Mountain Road at Disney’s Magic Kingdom and then passed a small stone. Then he did it again and passed another. And then another…If there were a way to make people pass stones while they were still small, Wartinger realized, the potential benefits could be enormous.”
Holistic healers believe that our kidneys control what we hold on to and what we – drum roll here – release. What more proof do I need? It’s time to clamber off the ship, set Captain Bligh off on his own little boat to Control Addicts Anonymous, and learn, once and for all, how to LET GO.
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Acceptance, courage, wisdom – how great it’d be if I could pull up to a fuel tank at my local Serenity Station and pump them into me. Meanwhile, what a world! You’ve gotta love it! Jack is a prophet, God is a barista, life is a rollercoaster…and I’m my 11-year old Mercedes, Zeus. A lot of care may have gone into my construction, but my brakes give out, my battery needs replacing, my wipers dull, my tires go flat. I’m expensive to maintain. I require frequent tune ups.
Fortunately, I’ve found a new mechanic. “Allow the Universe to carry you,” my yoga instructor Jenny advises us during Savasana. “The Universe can do its work without your help.”
Savasana is the last pose of class, where we lie on our back and…you guessed it. We let go. For five to ten minutes, we surrender our agendas, anxieties, grocery lists, and death match with a hip that’s a steel girder. We do as Jack urged at the Church of Latte Day Saints. We “relax.”
Jenny is helping me heal my shoulders, which are ‘frozen.’ Is this their way of saying ENOUGH! We’re done carrying the weight of the world?
Most Savasanas come with music – usually something Indian-Eastern-New Agey. But I hear Steppenwolf:
Well, you don’t know what
we can find.
Why don’t you come with me, little girl
on a magic carpet ride?
Well, you don’t know what
we can see.
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me?
Carry me, Universe. Carry me on a magic carpet ride.