October 8, 2010

Changing Issues

Everyone has their “issues”. They have their opinions, beliefs, wishes, questions, frustrations, dreams, hopes, and habits. All of these can conflict with someone else’s “issues” and any given moment. I have spent much of my life avoiding that specific conflict. I didn’t want to argue, debate or even differ from someone else’s “issue”; I’d rather have a peaceful, serene moment and move on.

You know what happens, though? The peace and serenity are only external in the moment, not within me. I walk away from the moment with suppressed opinions, beliefs, wishes, questions, frustrations, dreams, hopes, and habits. In fact, avoiding this conflict has become a habit. It is so hard to change things when you are not aware you are (and shouldn’t be) or are not (and should be) doing them.

I’m going to give you two teeny examples of my much larger issue.

I had a long-term relationship with a guy who was a book-fiend, just like me. Before I met him, I pretty much man-handled my books. I would leave them open, face down, so as to quickly mark a page when I had to leave it suddenly. I also dog-eared corners. Sometimes I would mark up pages or passages with a pen so as to remember something later that was important to me in the moment. When I met Jack* he had distinct issues when it came to books. Allow me to share issue #1 regarding avoiding conflict:

1 – If he bought a new book, he had to be the first one to open it and read it. Even if he wasn’t ready to read it right away, it was his book, so he got “first dibs” on reading it.

2 – When reading a book, you held it with two hands and kept it as closed as possible while still having it open just-enough to read the text. This was to prevent creasing the spine.

3 - Creasing the spine is BAD.

4 – When stopping in the middle of reading, always mark your spot with a proper bookmark. Never, ever set it face down. This creases the seam. See number 3.

5 – Never ever eat or drink while reading a book, especially not chips with residue such as cheese doodles or Doritos.

6 – When borrowing a book from Jack, you had to return it in 2 weeks or less (even the public library lends for longer time periods!)

So, I dated Jack for a substantial amount of time, and therefore, ingrained many… no, all… of these habits into my reading practices.

Issue #2: When someone gifts you with an item with usability (not a tchotchke or picture or whatnot), don’t use it. Keep it as pristine as possible, because it was a gift and therefore precious and not to be destroyed with use. Therefore, I have many items in my life that could actually be used, but I don’t because I don’t want to “ruin” it. They become sentimental over time, and then I can’t even give it away or sell it because someone gifted it to me.

You can imagine the clutter my life has.

But it’s all in pristine condition!

Lately, I have realized that a good book is one that looks and feels well-loved. It has creases not only in its spine, but often in its cover or even the occasional page. I might have stains from the chips I couldn’t resist eating at that climactic moment (like popcorn with a movie). Perhaps you even read it while eating a dinner alone and your sloppy Joe got a little sloppy. Jack can have his pristine library… but I want a good, well-loved book to read!

The coaster pictured at the beginning of this post is the result of my changing issue #2. A friend gave me this coaster and I thought it was an excellent sentiment and perfect for my life. So, as it was a gift, I set it on my desk, but never set a drink on it. Over time, I started thinking what I could do with the coaster… frame it? Scrapbook it? Pin it to a bulletin board? Anything except using it for what it was intended… a coaster. Then, one day out of the blue, I set my cup of tea on it.

It splattered a little. Now my coaster has a lovely tea stain over the sentiment. I have used it for my tea ever since.

How appropriate. Because I no longer want that issue of feeling I need to keep everything pristine. To really enjoy and appreciate a gift, one must use it. And because of its use, it may eventually look a little well-worn but really, doesn’t that just show how appreciated the gift was in the first place?

I can’t say I’ve “fixed” these quirky thoughts/beliefs… but I’m moving forward… I’m slowly but surely changing some of my issues.

*Name changed to protect the quirky


  1. This post fascinated me - because my mother has these quirks. She had to be the first to read any book or newspaper coming into our house and I never understood it. The words don't have more value just because you see them first! And she used to make us keep everything "for good" - the worst one was a balloon making kit I got as a gift, she wouldn't let me use it and it dried up and had to be thrown away. It doesn't seem a very joyous way of living to me.

  2. Good for you - love how a cup of tea can help you start tackling your 'issue' :-)

    (Confession: I have to be the first to read a new book, and I do take care of them.... But it is OK if the spine gets creased as you read it, I just prefer not to fold over page corners or get fingerprints on pages! I guess maybe I have issues too...)

  3. I kind of get the "it's mine, so I get to enjoy it first" thing - I definitely feel that way about clothing. I should get to wear a new sweater before someone else asks to borrow it.

    But the rest of it... well, Jack* sounds a bit OCD to me. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing... I think we all have some OCD tendencies that manifest themselves in different ways - for instance, I go around behind my kids folding the throw blankets and putting them back on the sofa or loveseat neatly - and really, the throw blankets don't work any better whether they are "thrown" (that is their name) or folded, right?

    But IMHO consumable gifts are meant to be used and enjoyed - your coaster actually has more character with the tea stain than just brand-new looking! And if I bought you a scented candle and you never lit it, I would think you didn't like it.

    And books? Yeah, the ones I love the best have dog-eared corners, highlighted passages, notes in the margins, and well creased spines. They get better with wear and use!

  4. I'm glad you are using the coaster! When I picked it up for you, I envisioned you using it in your office for your tea cup. The tea stain on it is perfect. I agree with what Cheri wrote: gifts are meant to be used and enjoyed. As a gift giver, I get great satisfaction out of knowing I gave someone a gift that enhances their life in some way, even if it's only in a very small way.

    When gifts are given and received in a genuine manner (no selfish or ulterior motive), it is a connection of hearts. To me, that's what gift giving is all about. It's not the object, so there is no need to preserve it. Use it up! And, while you do, relish in that connection between your heart and the heart of the person who gave you the gift. When the gift is gone, hopefully used to it's fullest extent, then enjoy the memory.

  5. I like to be first to read a magazine I have bought, but I have too many unread books to get precious about them ~lol~

    I think your coaster looks perfect with the tea stain (if you hadn't mentioned staining it, I would have thought it was part of the design!) Great start to tackling your "issues"!

  6. Girl this is BRILLIANT! Not a fan of "Stuff" I'm a user...of all things...and a seam, binding, page creaser as well...I like my books worn in, like my shoes and my sweat pants. I was thinking of the issues I've carried with me, my personal luggage, if you will..more on that later


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