The call to prayer echoed down the canyon between Istanbul and Ankara as we sat in our circle high in the mountains. I was there with several others from Open Hearts Ministry to help provide an experiential training for people wanting to learn how to care for those who have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse.
The group did not go smoothly. Many things contributed to the dynamic in the group, not the least of which was me and how I was engaging the complexity surrounding me. The women were resistant to the process and questioning the validity of our methods. I remember the angsty ache inside of me as I worked to understand what was being said and translated, what my body was feeling and what I was noticing as the stories unfolded. It was tense; we all felt it. After several small group times I finally asked about a phrase that I kept hearing the women say to one another, “Neyse Ne.”
Neyse Ne means “it is what it is.”
I remember how I felt when I heard the translation. I had an internal “eye roll.” This phrase felt like resignation to me and everything in me pushed back against it. I began to make assumptions and judgments about why they were saying it and what I was going to do about it.
The week wore on and my resistance to Neyse Ne continued to leak and color my engagement of the women in the group. I felt tight inside, and they could sense it.
I was persistent and committed to staying engaged, but I was not offering a warm, open, curious embrace of those women right where they were.
Two days into the four days, our final group for the day included a woman sharing a story of sexual abuse she had held in secret for 50 years. The room was heavy with the weight of what had been spoken as she tearfully finished. In those moments something sacred happened as we collectively wept. As the group closed our hostess invited us to a bonfire after dinner.
It was cold as I walked towards the fire where I found her kneeling near the flames, next to her a brass pot with a long handle and a tray of glass cups, she was making turkish coffee.
I began asking about the process for making Turkish coffee.
“Well….you have to start with good Turkish coffee, which you cannot find in America, because the grind is so fine, and you do not have such a grind in U.S. Then you have to decide if you want slightly sweet, sweet or very sweet, and you add the sugar.”
As she spoke I watched her carefully measuring the coffee into the brass pot with the long handle. She added the water and placed it in the coals.
“You have to watch it carefully. It needs to be hot, but not too hot. You can’t forget or neglect it or it will boil over. And you can’t grab it too fast or you’ll burn your hand and dump it over.”
As she spoke I was thinking about the day before when she had told me that she didn’t like the group process and she wasn’t sure about our material and wasn’t sure anything good was going to come from what we were doing. As I watched her making the coffee I found myself thinking, “I am not sure about this. Seems to me that there will too many coffee grounds in this coffee. And it was taking a long time for just a cup of coffee.”
I looked around at the trees and up at the night sky, the moon shrouded slightly behind the clouds and stars sprinkled in the sky.
I looked down at the brass pot where a thick brown foam was beginning to form on the top of the coffee. Our hostess carefully watched it and when it was just the right color and thickness she reached down and pulled the pot from the fire. She scooped the foam into four small cups and returned the pot to the fire so the process could begin again.
The foam slowly formed again and I watched her pull the pot one final time and scoop the foam first then pour the liquid into the cups.
As I sipped from my cup, the rich, hot, velvety goodness warmed my throat. Just the right amount of sweet mingling with the dark taste of the coffee.
The whole process took almost 45 minutes.
Making good Turkish coffee is a slow process, it is what it is. Resisting the process, rushing it, determining it could be done another way would have taken me out of the beauty of that night and the moments by the fire.
Neyse Ne comes with possibility when it is welcomed with curiosity and openness. This Turkish phrase has come back to me in the past few months, reminding me that my resistance to it takes me out of the moment and out of the beauty that may be waiting for me if I just embrace what I want to roll my eyes at or perhaps want to run from.
This spring I am slowly embracing my reality with curiosity and openness to where there may be goodness, joy and more of my true self to be experienced when I stop resisting what is.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 28 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.