In my kitchen there is a shelf; on this shelf there is a large array of mugs. There's bird, Russian and green cone to name but three. There is also my mug . The one I drink my tea from every morning. Somehow morning tea doesn't taste the same from another. It's not the most attractive mug in the collection but it says A Room of One's Own and Virginia Woolf on it. It is purple, not my favourite colour but my husband bought it for me specially.
On Monday morning, my visiting mother-in-law used my mug for her tea so when I got up I had to wash it before using it for mine. As I was drinking a thought began to grow in my mind 'how ridiculous of me, why couldn't I just use one of the others?' I looked at it; it is just a cheap, mass produced mug. Hardly anything to become attached to. It's not made of the finest porcelain; it doesn't feel just so in the hand; it isn't the one thing I managed to rescue from the embers of a happier past. It's just one of many ordinary bits of kitchen tat in my possession. So, if it is not the mug's physical (or sentimental) properties it must be something else. I must have invested it with a specialness it doesn't, in reality, posses. The only thing that comes readily to mind is the link with Virginia Woolf, the idea of a room of one's own.
Every morning I make myself the tea and sit down at my desk in my study to drink it and check my emails and blog. There I sit, smoking and drinking and checking in my own room. A room I snaffled from the rest of the family -it used to be a beautiful but under-used dining room – when I started my degree. I have filled this room with books and papers, several chairs, an old leather couch, a desk and computer. It now tells the story of me as a hard working student and writer. It is my dream room. A room of my own. And this story is reinforced every morning by the mug. By the ghost of another writer in another era who actually succeeded at her craft. Her narrative feeds mine.
In short it seems I see myself as a Virginia Woolf mug sort of person rather than, say, a Russian mug sort. But, for cocoa I always use bird. As ever even the most, apparently, simple things reveal complexity when one looks under the surface. I don't know why I find one mug suitable for tea and the other perfect for cocoa. But I know changes must be made; one of the things I want to be more than anything else is flexible so that I can take life in my stride and respond to every event positively.
I really don't want to be a neurotic mug fascist who can't function properly when forced to use a different one. It doesn't seem far from being unable to step on pavement cracks. So on Tuesday morning I took my tea in Civilisation by Clive Bell: never heard of him but what do you know? My tea tasted just as good. I used that mug again yesterday too and today I am drinking from Russian which looks much more attractive on my green painted desk.
This is all about me regaining control of my life. For too long I've allowed habits, neuroses and other people's rules to lead the way. And recently I've been finding myself slipping deeper and deeper into apathy. Hopefully by changing the little things the biggies will follow suit.
I've still been using bird for cocoa it's the perfect size, so maybe I can allow myself that. But I think tonight I will eat my supper from a different plate.
How about you, any odd habits you feel a need to shake? A problem shared is a problem halved as my mother used to say before laughing scornfully at the prospect of having anyone to share it with. But here there is always someone to share, to understand and, sometimes, to mock. And I often find being mocked helps a great deal.
So lets have your stories.