What I Learned From Listening To An Old Kettle

Productively utilizing the longest extra two minutes of my entire life

Like many people around this time of year, I have presently returned to my childhood home to celebrate the holidays, and to spend some quality time with the people I love, and often miss.

Despite leaving my London flat behind in, well, London, my very-typically-British addiction to drinking tea undoubtedly decided to accompany me for the trip. I think it’s safe to say I probably average between 3–5 cups per day — easy.

As a result of the frequency of my consumption, I have become unconsciously attuned to the exact amount of time it takes for my kettle to boil. I can press the button, disappear to my room for a few minutes, and return to the kitchen at the precise moment the roll of the boil begins to make noise, and the button returns to its resting position, signifying my proximity to enjoying my favourite drink.

Now, whether the number of minutes my kettle takes to boil is 1, or 5, I could not tell you. All I know is that my brain has reached a conclusion in understanding this matter without feeling the need to explicitly inform me.

Fast-forward to my current situation, and my inevitable acquaintance with a much older (though, new to me) kettle. Over the past few days, I have found myself pressing the button, going about my ‘waiting-for-the-kettle-to-boil’ activities, and returning to the kitchen, only to find I have been led tremedously astray by my calculations.

Time after time, I found myself lingering, for what can only realistically be two extra minutes or so, wondering what on earth it was that felt so off every time I went to make myself a cup of tea.

Finally, it dawned on me that all kettles are, in fact, not created equal. If ever before I struggled to wrap my brain around the fact that time is relative, then let me tell you, I have understood. This new old kettle takes what feels like YEARS of my life to boil, leaving me with a peculiar feeling of surreality and disappointment in place of the usual dose of comfort my kettle at home provides.

Having realized that this tiny chunk of extra time possessed the not-so-tiny power to upset my entire sense of space and time, I decided to use the minutes of miscalculation wisely:

Every extra two minutes of kettle-time would be spent positively reflecting — typically, on either the day ahead of me, or the one behind me, depending on where exactly on the spectrum of 3–5 daily cups I were to fall.

I took time to appreciate the sound of my brother and sister’s voice in the room behind me, and to re-center my goals for the day around family and quality engagement with them.

I went back over a conversation I had had earlier in the day, and was able to critically and constructively address how I could have handled it better. For two minutes I became the impartial judge of my own strengths and weaknesses, in a way that outlined clear areas for improvement and left me with a sense of minor accomplishment that oh-so-perfectly complimented the warmth of the tea drinking experience that followed.

I focused on gratitude, peace of mind, and a conscious observation of everything around me; sights, smells and sounds all seemingly increased in vividness, and for perhaps the first time in my life, these two minutes of meditation became routine.

Two extra minutes of pause, 3–5 times per day might not seem like it could do much of anything, but productively utilizing what I originally perceived as the longest 120 seconds of my entire life, has truly become one of the best parts of my day.

If that wasn't enough on it’s own — remember, you also get the reward of a steaming cup of delicious tea!

Alexandra Walker-Jones — November 2020

Writer and published author with an international background in psychology, nutrition, and creative writing. I’m just here to learn ;) awalkerjones.com

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