blackdogmug

My coffee mug has a picture of a black dog on it.  Not just any black dog, but the iconic image from The Black Dog bakery and cafe in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  I drink coffee, tea and even the occasional red wine in this mug.  I love that it is old school, diner shaped, porcelain and that it is heavy enough to feel like I’m drinking something substantial.

A friend gave me this mug over a decade ago when she was embarking on her own west coast adventure.  It was of no use to her any longer.  She wanted to untie the bow lines and this mug was left behind.  She has since returned to the east, but has most likely forgotten about the cup.

Looking at the worn but famous type, I remember a visit to the bakery. I was on my way off of the island, hoping to never return as I had just experienced jail as well as my first in person hurricane, all at the tender age of 20.  The memory makes me smile.

This image on the mug is the same image that I once drew on the side of a canoe, the second major expenditure that my then boyfriend, now husband, made.  It represented our love of the island, the ocean and our adoration of our first major expenditure, our chocolate lab puppy, Graham.

That dog has since passed, but the mug remains.  Friendship, mischief, love… how can a simple coffee mug hold all of these things?

Because we attach our emotions, our energy, our stories to our stuff.

It was amazing to me, as we began the process of moving ourselves to California and determining what to get rid of, how heavy my stuff became with the memories and emotions that they were a part of.

At our wedding reception, my husband and I sat in two unique, red chairs – one velvet, one faux leather – like a king and a queen.  The chairs were a last minute addition to a very eclectic, self designed backdrop.

On the day that we walked about our house, deciding what to throw away, my husband immediately offered up the chairs – one broken so badly only the cat was able to still use it, the other forgotten all but as a depository for unused blankets.

“You can’t get rid of our wedding chairs! That one was my wedding gift to you!”

(I had found the red faux leather one on the side of the road, cleaned it, repainted it, and offered it up as a token of my undying love (and limited financial budget) to my betrothed.)

“Yeah, that chair is horrible to sit in, but we can keep it of you love it.  You only get to keep one.”

And there it was.  Those chairs were my wedding day, my love for my husband, my need to feel unique and artistic.  To me, they weren’t chairs, they were a part of my identity, a contrived one, but still a part of me.  To him, they were just chairs, mostly useless and uncomfortable.  To him, they were furniture.

Over the months before our departure, I learned a lot about my relationship to my stuff, and how I create my identity through my things.  We all do it, even my husband.  (Right now, he’s wandering back and forth in the living room debating exactly what is the right positioning for our artwork… all symbols of our artistic sense and creativity.)  I did fight for one chair, and it wasn’t the one I refinished.  It would have been easy to throw some sort of tantrum around my gift to him vs. his love for me… but in realizing that it was just furniture, not a love token, I was able to let that go.  What was even better was that the chair went to our newly married friends who had attended our wedding and held the memory of that day for us. There were thrilled to add this chair to the budding interior of their own home.  In some way, we were passing on the love of our marriage to theirs.

I am learning that I am not my things.  By attaching myself to my material possessions, I am only weighing myself down with the past and a contrived version of who I really am.  If my arms of full of my stuff, I have nothing left to reach out with and grab my dreams.

Yes, in addition to a handful of things, I still have this mug and I still have that one chair.  I negotiated a full reupholstery of the chair, complete with brand new peacock blue tufted velvet.  I sit in it now and marvel at how regal it feels, even in a simple living room.

The mug still holds hot coffee and a few memories.  If it broke tomorrow, I’d be frustrated, but not heartbroken.  My friend, my mischief and my dog will always be a part of me no matter who I choose to be.

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