This morning I rolled over at 6 AM and watched forty YouTube videos on How To Steam Milk.
How To Steam Milk For Lattes: Steam the milk.
That’s the whole answer: Just put the wand in the milk and steam the milk. Just. Steam. The. Milk.
Great. But what if I do it wrong. Remember that time I did it wrong, how did I do it wrong, I did it wrong, I will do it wrong again, tell me what to do so that I don’t do it wrong.
Well, Rachel, you didn’t do it wrong.
But I did, I did do it wrong.
…(I envision my brain and then I stare at it. Intellect stares back at me.)
It felt wrong.
Well, then, the problem is: Feelings. You must employ no feelings while steaming the milk. Just. Steam. The. Milk
…(Intellect bows and walks away)
Problem solving is hard to master when my anxious writer mind is more fascinated with “alternatives” than actual solutions. Sure, Brain, I could do it that way but wouldn’t it be Awesome if I did it this other way…
Wouldn’t it be awesome if, says the mind, wouldn’t it be awesome if, she repeats to herself at full speed, hey, I know, wouldn’t it be awesome if…
No, Rachel. There is only one way to steam milk: Just steam the milk.
After I failed miserably at my new barista job on Friday, I had four days off to think about all the ways in which, next time, I could better go about steaming the milk. I burnt my hand on Friday. I didn’t tell anyone. I just walked around one-handed for twenty minutes (Which was great research for my new solo show wherein I play a one-handed Freak, but absolute terrible form for my job as a Barista).
Now, it’s Wednesday, I have a shift at 5 PM. I’m told I can come in early to practice steaming milk.
I will go in early. I will steam milk under the facilitating eye of my wonderful manager. And I will shake with fear.
I wish I could forget about etiquette.
Kara has no regard for etiquette. She does everything she wants, she thinks everything is funny and if someone doesn’t like it, she forges ahead with the assertion that she’s doing what’s true so you can either keep up with her or hate her. Kara believes she is True. She therefore believes she can make no mistakes.
If you’re like me and you’re still searching for Truth, you’ll know that, finding Truth is a beautiful, messy hunt, successful only when the hunter is awake to her failures, always ending in consequence. No truth can occur without consequence.
Think: Adam and Eve. Eve eats the forbidden fruit. Adam says “oh no”. God says “get out”. A consequential truth reeking of failure. We have no paradise because we are constantly tempted towards making mistakes.
“I should do this but I want to do that”. I should, I should, I should: It’s all etiquette. There is one way to do things. There is only one truth. There are rules guiding us towards that truth.
Do Not. Eat. The Forbidden Fruit. “Oh but I did anyways.” Cool, you have to leave. The consequence clear: We become painfully aware of The Truth we acted against. Now we know paradise. Because we had to leave.
Just. Steam. The. Milk. “Oh but I think there will be more foam if I angle it this way like I’ve seen in no movie ever.” Cool, now your hand is burnt. The truth painfully clear: Now I let the milk steam on it’s own. Because I broke it last time.
There are rules, an etiquette to Truth, meant to keep us closer to appeasement of one another, of ourselves. Too bad the artist’s job is to reinvent things. Too bad. Too bad the artist’s job is to look for a higher truth. There must be a higher truth to everything. Nothing is what it appears to be. It can’t be. We haven’t made enough mistakes yet. We haven’t learned every wrong way. I don’t believe the truths I’m given. Because, I want to invent new ones.
Yes there are divine voices, be it actual divinity or just the manager at my work, speaking in Shoulds, speaking to etiquette but I just can’t help but be drawn to mistakes. I must really feel the consequence before adhering to a given etiquette. It’s the writer’s curse. It’s the curse of “Wouldn’t it be awesome”. It is fascination. It is hope.
The problem is, there are limited consequences to failing at steaming milk. Some one might notice that their cappuccino has zero foam or I might burn my hand again but, really, I can’t sweat this too much. Categorically, steaming milk is “small stuff”. It’s not as complicated as I expect it to be.
There is no Higher Truth to steaming milk. It is just steamed milk. If it’s too hot it will burn. If the wand isn’t submerged far enough, it will squeal. But the act itself invites no investigative ritual.
This is a job meant for Kara.
Rachel hunts for Truth, Rachel looks for the The Way, corners and questions, maybe it’s the writer brain or maybe it’s the Judaic brain or maybe it’s just my brain but I can’t just steam milk. It can’t just be steamed milk!
Do you ever worry that you’re really boring? I frequently read the writings of Osho, actually I read them every day (he was once some kind of murder criminal but I ignore that part because I think he unpacks zen philosophy well). From him I’ve learned the respectful act of just Being, of refusing to engage in occupation and, if asked to engage in occupation, allowing yourself to do that task without Becoming it. To just be with it. No ego. Never assume an ego.
I love this concept. I read his work every day, reminding myself to sit with awareness and leave the sitting meditation just a little bit more open, just a little bit more patient, just a little bit more enlightened by the act of being. Am I doing it? Meh. Maybe? But, conceptually, I believe his writing has saved my life from anxious chronic pain, dismal headaches and just general bitchiness. The goal resonates with me: There is no I. There is only here. Be here.
Boredom vanishes the second we allow ourselves to be boring. Just steam the milk. Don’t be a milk steaming expert, don’t be a dismal failure, don’t be anything but with the milk, steaming it, allowing it to heat. That’s all.
Shoulds appear on their own, you know.
There are rules, we can read them in scripture or we can hear them from whoever we respect most but real learning comes from those mistakes that we make. I hear you. I hear the rules. I see them on YouTube. But, only an ego can operate via rules.
I used to have a friend, “Best Friend” (I called her my Worst Best Friend), who was caught up in propriety. She would correct me in front of people. Things like: Elbows on the table, too much foul language, one time I told a story about a woman I knew who had her vagina tattooed and apparently even that was a no no. She TRIED so hard. We were young when I knew her, 19-23 years old but she even at that age would tell me to laugh more quietly, she denigrated my being to the point where I had to form an ego just to feel comfortable existing. I was nervous all the time.
If I were to just Be around her, she would constantly correct me, and she made me hang out with her constantly so I had to co-operate with her code of etiquette. And I did it. For years. I had no idea I was even a person. I started to make friends of my own at work and at school. Eventually, they brought out my personality more. She became jealous. She stopped talking to me.
Well hallelujah, let the blossoms grow, I became a real woman finally. No more etiquette. It’s there for a reason but it’s no way to learn. A list of rules is nothing. Mistakes bring us to truth. Consequence proves truth. If the truth is simple, the lessons will be few.
To the women who are operating via a set of rules, please stop. Stop being pretty and likeable for just a second and go get what you want.
In the case of romance, for example, follow your instincts finally and just love the person you love. Does it make you clingy? I don’t know. “Need” is a different story. But love them and let them know. Tell them all the time. If they leave you, find them again, love them again, don’t give up on the people who fulfill you just because there are rules against Fulfillment.
Too often women are succumbing to the rules invented by men we’ve either never met or we knew long long ago and applying them to the people we love now (which in my case is men so it feels unfairly full circle for the guy each and every time). I like him, I don’t want to tell him because some other guy once told me I was “too much” so I sit and I adhere to a rule, a Distance rule, which I’m not even interested in, I’m not interested in really liking someone and yet avoiding them because of some unwritten rule. I’m not interested in doing what’s expected of me. And I think we should all just admit that we’re tired of rules. You are not a better woman for following rules. You are not even boring. You are just an Ego away from your self. Let it go. Love a little.
To the men who hope I love them, just show up more and stop comparing me to every woman you’ve ever met. I don’t know those rules. I won’t do it. Just. Be here.
We are not identities. We do not need construction. Just arrive. Let the milk steam. And understand that paradise can return, if we live with consequence and let hope guide our mistakes.