I hadn’t planned on writing this at all today. Or ever. I mean, I do have a list of future post ideas. But this wasn’t on it.
This post is the result of an event that happened yesterday. A very unexpected event. And one that’s since given me something to think about.
Yesterday, I broke my favourite tea cup. I’m not joking (I wouldn’t joke about something like that – ask my husband). I just couldn’t believe it.
Just a few days before, I’d once again threatened Olivier that there would be trouble with a capital ‘T’ if he broke my favourite tea cup, so he should be careful. True story. I’m like that – bossy.
Yesterday, Olivier was at school, teaching. I was at home, relaxing. I decided to have a cup of tea, so I put the kettle on and thought about which tea to have.
I’ve been drinking a lot of green tea with Jasmine recently, so I decided to have something different this time. Do you know the flowering tea balls? They’re not only good for your health, they’re fun to watch as they open up and slowly turn into a beautiful flower in your cup or pot. So, I decided to have one of these for a change.
Flowering tea balls
The tea I usually drink is in a cupboard over the table. The flowering tea balls that I decided to drink yesterday are in a tin on top of the microwave. My favourite cup is – was- also on top of the microwave.
As I reached with my left hand and took the tin of flowering tea balls, the bottom of the tin somehow caught the side of my favourite tea cup and flipped it sideways, off the microwave. And then, everything was suddenly in slow motion.
In the next second or less, my thoughts were many. I wondered how I could have possibly been so careless. Then a thought came that there’s a chance, if I have good enough karma, that my favourite tea cup will land on the kitchen floor and bounce, not break. I thought that if I’ve been a good girl this year everything will be ok and my favourite tea cup will not break. It won’t break. It can’t break.
All those thoughts in less than one second.
And then I watched it as it slowly fell to the floor. I didn’t even put out my foot to try to catch it in the hope of breaking the fall. It probably wouldn’t have influenced the final result anyway.
The kitchen floor is tiled. If it had been carpet there might have been a chance. But no, it’s tiled. Fine bone china and kitchen tiles are not a good mix.
The noise it made was surprisingly pleasant.
My favourite tea cup had smashed into about a hundred pieces. My heart dropped.
I stood there for a few seconds (or hours, I don’t really know how long it was since time had become something it hadn’t been before), then I turned around and took the dustpan and brush, and swept up the pieces.
I carefully checked the floor for smaller pieces, sweeping all around. After putting the pieces in a plastic bag, I wrapped it in kitchen paper and put it all in the bin.
I took my ‘old’ tea cup out of the cupboard, which I hadn’t used for 5 years or more, and made my tea, cursing the flowering tea ball in my cup the entire time I was drinking its tea.
If I hadn’t decided on flowering tea balls I wouldn’t have broken my favourite tea cup.
Then I decided to reflect on the situation a bit more maturely. It’s time to let go of material things. It’s just a tea cup.
And if you know me well enough, you’ll probably be surprised that I have – or rather, had – such a strong attachment to a tea cup. It’s not like me at all.
The story of my favourite tea cup
One of my students gave me my favourite tea cup many years ago. I can’t remember the occasion, but it was probably Christmas or New Year because that’s the usual time students give presents to their teachers.
The student who gave it to me was really quite good at English, but she never seemed happy in class. Once or twice I asked her if she was ok, and she said that she was so I didn’t push her.
So, when she gave me the present I was a little overwhelmed because I had always thought that she didn’t like me, or didn’t like my lessons.
And it wasn’t just a tea cup. It came displayed in a box, with a matching saucer. And it was beautiful. I never thought to take a photo of it – why would I? But now I wish I had. I’ve now taken a photo of the saucer for this post, because I want you to see it.
So I was touched that a student who didn’t seem very enthusiastic in my lessons would give me such a beautiful and useful present. But I didn’t use it immediately. In fact I think I had it for a couple of years before I realised how much I liked using it. And since then I’ve used it every day when I drink tea.
So, why was I so attached to this tea cup? Was it an emotional attachment connected with my student (or my old school)? Was it just an attachment to a habit – using the cup every day? Or was it just because it was so nice to drink out of?
I don’t know.
But it was my favourite tea cup, so precious that I had warned my husband to be careful not to break it.
And I broke it.
What happens next?
So I decided to think it through a bit more deeply. I decided that I had to break the cup to learn to break my attachment to ‘things’. No matter how beautiful it was, it was still just a thing, something useful, but easily replaced.
You see, I’ve been talking to Olivier lately about how much stuff we’ve got in our flat. When we arrived together in Moscow over 9 years ago we both had a suitcase each and a couple of other bags. They were stuffed full, of course, but it was mostly just clothes and some books.
Over the years we’ve bought stuff for the flat, a little furniture, stuff for the kitchen, more clothes, stuff for teaching, more books, shoes, more clothes, more stuff for the flat… and I’ve reached the point where I’m feeling a little bit suffocated living with all this stuff.
So I had been planning to get rid of a lot of this stuff. Because some of it just sits where it sits and we never use it. It’s in a box or a basket or a cupboard, and there it lies, waiting to come out for some fresh air. But it just stays there for years and years and it doesn’t move.
When I left Australia at the end of 2006 to come to Moscow for the first time, I packed up the stuff in my little flat in Perth, and although I gave away my furniture, I kept almost all the stuff that I had. I left about 15 boxes of stuff with my sister.
Over the years, each time we visit Perth, I’ve gone through my boxes and either thrown stuff out, or given stuff away. Once we took a whole bunch of stuff to a charity shop and gave it to them – mostly kitchen stuff, clothes, CDs and god knows what. I can’t even remember what I had. All gone. Goodbye.
Last summer during our trip to Australia I went through my stuff in Perth again, and now I have only two suitcases of stuff left there. It’s mostly sentimental stuff, there’s not really anything useful to anybody.
However, in our Moscow flat it’s a different story. We’ve been adding to our stuff for years, and it’s time to let go. We’ve got too much. It’s time to say goodbye to some things.
And that’s why I think it was necessary for my favourite tea cup to break. I had to be reminded that the things we attach ourselves to are just material things. They are meaningless, even if they’re useful. We can replace them later if necessary.
It reminded me that I have to let go of some of these things, either to have some room to breathe, or to make room for other, more important or necessary, things to come.
So, now that I’ve said goodbye to my favourite tea cup, I’m ready to say goodbye to the things in our flat that I don’t need. It’s time to clean out the cupboards, get rid of the things which are just collecting dust, and to get some air circulating around us again, instead of being suffocated by the things that we have surrounded ourselves with.
After the holidays, before we go back to work, it’s my plan to at least get a start on this, and to say goodbye to some of the things in my life that are collecting dust (literally and figuratively) and aren’t being used anymore. It will be a slow process I think, but it’s a necessary one, and I think it will be a useful one.
Do any of you feel the same? Is it time to say goodbye to some of your stuff? I’ve done it before. Believe me, it’s a great feeling to live with a minimum of things around you – only the necessities. How would you feel about saying goodbye to stuff you don’t need or use but are hanging onto for whatever reason? Maybe you also have a plan to reduce the amount of stuff you live with.
Let me know in the comments what you think of saying goodbye to stuff, and if you think that maybe we’re all a bit too attached to it.