Hot tea, orange slices, and NFL football: What in the world do these three things have in common? I’m sure ya’ll could probably come up with some pretty weird answers to that question. But for me, these are perhaps my top three “things that bring me joy and make me feel like I’m back at home for a minute” luxuries here in Afghanistan. They make me feel a bit more content and well, just a bit happier when I’m indulging in them for a moment. I’ve noticed this and pondered a bit on the “why.” The hot tea one is easy, as is the NFL football—nostalgia of being home with family as a kid and ever since. Maybe just that moment of something familiar attached to pleasant memories releases some kind of relaxing chemical or something—anyone care to enlighten me?
Especially when the weather is chilly like lately, I will drink anywhere between 2-10 cups of hot tea while I’m at work. I do it for health benefits like hydration and antioxidants, sure. But I also just like the whole ritual of heating the water, selecting the tea, adding things like natural sugar or vanilla extract or whatever, warming my hands around the cup, you name it. When I’m at home I absolutely must have a tea kettle that whistles on the stove top—just like Nana had since I was a little girl. It’s soothing to me and I especially noticed this once I started doing “my tea thing” at work at the Pentagon. It’s a great job that I’m very fortunate to have but it’s also a bit stressful and tense at times. My tea helps in a small way.
I’ve even come up with a way to enjoy hot tea with my Mom and Nana from the other side of the world. I went online and found a “Tea of the Month” club for my Nana who has loved tea for as long as I can remember. Nana has a neuromuscular disease so is pretty much restricted to her home so to bring something to her front door each month to remind her I’m with her in spirit while here in Afghanistan is very important to me. So this is perfect. The first month’s shipment also brought her a tea pot with two small ceramic tea cups. One for her, one for mom.
Mom emailed me when the package arrived and I called them and let them know the other part of the tea gift—I had identical tea cups sent here to Afghanistan for me so we can choose a night to regularly drink tea “together” while chatting on the phone. Things like this are a great idea for Troops who are away from loved ones. It really does help you to still feel connected to them and vice versa.
NFL Football brings me much joy. As does Fantasy Football. To the point it has even caused “issues” at times in the past when a romantic interest didn’t understand why I had to rush home on Saturday night to set up my Fantasy League roster. Or when we had to pause momentarily by the TV in the bar of a restaurant on a Sunday or Monday because Sports Center stats were up and I needed to check out how my players did. But whenever I’m deployed or away from friends and family in Texas, just hearing the ESPN jingle or the NFL music just makes me happy, it truly does. Sounds silly even to me, but I love having football sounds playing on the TV all day on Sunday when I’m at home. Or in the office if it’s possible.
Where I work in the Pentagon, our Team Chief will let us have football on some of the big screens at certain times during Sundays and Mondays. I love it. It seems to lift the mood in the workplace. Ha. We laugh and rib each other if a certain team wins or loses. People LOVE to give me a hard time about the Cowboys. I just remind them “Hey, no one ever hates the Dolphins.” Here in Afghanistan I’m in a pickle because the time difference throws everything off and I can’t watch many games anyway. I strategically position myself in the chow hall so I can see the TV when football or ESPN is on—I really don’t care who I sit next to. This has led to meeting some interesting people :)
Growing up, we always had football on TV in the house once after-church Sunday lunch was finished. I remember being a little girl and rushing through the meal so I could watch the game with my PopPop and Uncle Gary. I remember years later wondering why women were mad at me when I’d be a guest in the homes of others because I was watching football instead of doing the dishes. The dishes could wait. And I still prioritize football over dishes to this day.
When deployed or away from the comforts of home in any way, I think connecting back to something that is pleasurable, relaxing, comforting is a great coping tool that is underutilized. I have suggested this to clients and helped them to come up with their own hot tea, orange slices, and NFL Football luxuries and in a small way, it has helped some people to feel a little better about things if only for a brief moment. It helps friends and family too, as it has helped mine to feel closer from far away.
By the way, Mom, Nana and I just had our first “Tea Night.” May not sound like a big deal, but it’s something I’d been looking forward to for weeks. Oh, and I’m still trying to figure out the orange slices to be honest. A bag of them don’t last more than two days in my presence. Maybe they’re just good, as my classmate, Shannon, pointed out to me on my FaceBook wall. You know what else is good? Sitting in first place in the Fantasy Football league made up of your coworkers to include your officers and Sergeant Majors, which I am doing right now :)
Natosha Monroe is an Army Reserve Mental Health Specialist stationed in Afghanistan. She is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.