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An illustrated pink gaiwan filled with amber liquid
the weekly tea
unsmoked lapsang souchong
from Friday Afternoon Tea
weekly tea: unsmoked lapsang souchong
I’ve had lapsang souchong before—the roast is heavy, the smoke flavor intense, and while it’s a tea that I enjoy every once in a while (perfect with buttery shortbread), it’s not something that I would name among my favorites. I’ve had unsmoked lapsang before, and it’s a totally different tea. Needless to say, I was excited to try this version.
This tea has a gorgeous aroma and taste to it. It’s exceptionally drinkable, with a luscious, velvety soup that starts with a burst of sweet and floral first steep, gradually moderating to a robust, rich flavor with vanilla undertones.
I had this tea the day after I snipped lilac and apple blossoms from my garden for a table arrangement. The weather was a perfect sixty degrees. Light fluffy clouds decorated a bright blue sky. I drank it with the windows opened wide to a fresh spring breeze.
The news has not been comforting lately. I have been sitting with a lot of thoughts, many of them contradictory, trying to make sense of the world we live in, wondering how so many things can go so badly wrong, and desperately hoping that there is something I can do to make things a little bit more right.
One of the reasons I find my tea breaks so valuable is not just that I like tea (although I do); it’s that it is time to stop and concentrate on flavor, taste, temperature. I have to think about how long things should steep, how hot the water should be. I have to pay attention.
This does not get my mind off the things that are wrong in the world; it feels almost as if it makes space for me to take a breath and think about them with new eyes.

A false panic of scarcity
I talk about food and my relationship to it in this section, and include a brief discussion of thoughts that touch on diet culture and disordered eating—if that is a problem for you, please skip to the next section with the pink heading.

I think it’s impossible to exist in this world and not have some degree of diet culture seep into you. Even if you try not to think those things, the very way we are taught to think about food seems deeply pervasive. This makes it hard sometimes to know how to talk about real issues with food—for me, managing some of the after-effects of childhood food insecurity and food relationships—without having people say “you should simply eat less food” or “you should eat less of this kind of food” as if this is the solution to everything.
It has taken me this long in my life to realize that I need to banish the concept of “eating less food” from my brain. Even when I was told that I should learn to stop feeling like I was restricting my eating, my brain interpreted this as “stop restricting so you can learn to eat less food,” which ended up being the same message. Almost everything entering my brain about food contained that little asterisk: Do this with food (so that you can eat less food).
For a bunch of reasons I’m not going to get into, I started telling myself a month ago that I needed to make sure I eat enough food. It took a few weeks before a lot of the weird food-related noise in my head disappeared.
At a guess, the thing that was happening in my head before was a low-key subconscious panic, probably sharpened by childhood scarcity. Every time the “eat less food” message entered into my brain, the animal part of me got the message “oh no, the food is going to run out!” 
The animal part of me is very strong. I rationalize my animal instincts much more effectively than I overcome them. My brain is very good at coming up with reasons, but it often reaches the conclusion that it wants. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The thing I am trying to do is to accept that my animal side, the side that wants to survive, is always going to take precedence, and so if I want it to get out of the way, I need to reassure it, not argue with it.
Scarcity, it turns out, doesn’t make for rational behavior.

The same thing, but global
How is it that humans are both so good and so terrible? 
Humans are so good: look at any disaster, and you’ll see people banding together, feeding each other, providing assistance and assurance and pulling together.
Humans are so terrible: do I really need to go into further detail? We can see it already.
As we enter peak US politics season, one of the things that strikes me is how often messaging seems to be trying to trigger that panic state: “There’s Not Enough for Us Real Americans” is a political message that seems to go at least as far back as the Know-Nothing party’s anti-Irish messaging in the 1850s.
False scarcity, I think is one of the drivers of the worst of us. Authoritarians take hold because a large group of people is inevitably convinced that there is not enough, and some group is to blame. That group fails to put in their fair share, or perhaps are undeserving; or they are taking away in some fashion, from what rightfully belongs to you. Things are scarce, and you’re going to have to claim what’s yours.
Scarcity brain is, I think, extremely counterproductive. Take something like health care: the US health care system is, like a juggernaut, taking more and more profits, and like the exact opposite of a juggernaut, turning those same profits into denials and private equity purchases that reduce patient care. But if you talk to people about reform—real reform—the response you often get is a kind of panic. Because health care is so hard to get right now, it’s a mental scarce resource. You need it for survival! And it’s scarce!
And the answer you get is often a reflexive response of “but what if it gets worse?”
It’s hard to be brave when things are scarce: when things are scarce, I think the animal part of ourselves reacts by hoarding and trying to hold on to the scraps we have.
So this is my reminder to myself: to try to interrupt the panic of scarcity and to be brave by thinking of a world with enough in it.

Until next week!
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