by Conlee Ricketts
One year during college—a long, long time ago—I remember buying myself a humorous and mildly inappropriate coffee mug for Valentine’s Day. I was so desperate to have a loving relationship in my life, the kind that would make me feel whole, complete, and loved, a relationship with a person who would have walked by this same window—spot the coffee mug—and immediately know that it was perfect for me.
I didn’t have that person. In fact I had recently been humiliated by the relationship I had just been through. You know the kind of thing, walking in on your boyfriend in bed with his old girlfriend. Actually, I hope you don’t know this kind of thing. It hurts like hell. A punch in the stomach so hard replaying itself over and over for weeks every time your mind quiets or your close your eyes.
I’ve had two boyfriends and two husbands since I bought that mug, and for each relationship there’s always been that moment of explanation, “No I’m not saving a gift from an old boyfriend. I bought it for myself. Really—I did—Promise.” Typically my explanation is met with that raised eyebrow, cocked head, and a stare that implies I had some strangely erotic encounter with someone other than them. I can assure you I did not.
Having this conversation does makes me laugh though. I think that is part of the reason why I keep the mug. There are other reasons why it's still here, but those have taken me awhile to uncover. I realize that my mug is a reminder of my old insecurities, my old loneliness, and my old sad self. In an instant I’m standing outside that store window in my mind like it was yesterday—I feel twenty again. I barely had enough money to eat and buying that five dollar mug seemed like a crazy extravagance, but I did it anyway, and the mug has remained with me for thirty years. There are times when I wonder why I’ve hung on to it for so long. It seems contrary to my life journey, letting go of my past, and my goal to accept all moments as they are. I wonder if I keep it because it’s the only Valentine’s Day gift I still have—or even remember. I’m not sure how to feel about that.
I think its tireless existence in my life says something about the one relationship that matters most, before we sprinkle in the other people—in fact it’s the only relationship that can make me feel whole, complete, and loved—the relationship I have with my Self. I am challenged often to nurture it, love it, and tend to it, because whether I like it or not, it’s the only one I have that will actually last forever.
My mug? Oh yeah, it says: “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles. And even farther for that thing you do with your tongue” -Dale