I was wandering around a street fair last week, just minding my own business, when a battered old tea tin caught my attention. It was hand painted with roses outlined in gold, its corners chipped and dented, the lid a little wobbly. It was, to my eye, absolutely lovely. I tried to keep moving along but it was too late. I was already a captive, drawn into the allure of its wabi-sabi, story-telling imperfections. It was whispering in my ear and I was leaning in, closer, to hear every word. From an intellectual standpoint, I understand that it's possible to become slightly addicted to shopping and that as a society this addiction is getting us into some deep trouble. I work with this in my own life by trying to notice the moment when I get that hit of endorphins that supposedly are released when we purchase things (our modern equivalent of the pleasures of the hunt). Not that there's anything wrong with feeling pleasure from shopping. I just want to feel like I have a little more control in these moments, that I'm not just giving into the ping of the momentary pleasure only to return home with something that will end up in the back of my closet, just another item on my credit card bill.
And I know, too, that aesthetically I prefer a more pared-down look, and that clutter makes me nervous. I've just moved into to a tiny apartment and have yet to unpack several boxes full of (also lovely and interesting) stuff which will probably stay unpacked since there's no place for it to go. Strictly speaking, I really don't need another object in my life and lord knows I need to watch my bank balance. So given all of that noble resistance and virtue, why did this battered and beautiful tea tin come home with me the other night?
One reason is that it has a practical application. It's a tea tin, after all, and I drink tea every day, sometimes two or three times a day. I could easily picture myself taking off the lid every morning and reaching in for a little triangular bag of PG Tips and that every time I did that, I would feel again that ping of pleasure. Plus, I actually needed a tea tin, so why not this lovely specimen right before me?
But even more, I believe it's important to find a good balance when working with restraint and extravagance. Too much restraint in my life means I become tense and pinched and well, a little too holy; too much extravagance and things collect around me in frowzy, wayward piles that are impossible to navigate. The tea tin found me in a moment in which I needed a some extravagance, a bit of shiny goldness to outline my life. While I was watching expenses, the truth is it cost a little less than $25 so really, there were no excuses.
In the week since I've brought the tea tin home, it has lived up to its promise of bringing a little ping of gilded joy every time I use it. I'm glad I let my extravagant side call the shots on this one, allowing the weight of a tea tin to bring balance to a life that was getting perhaps a little too pinched and holy. Every morning when I shuffle into the kitchen to get the water started for my first cup of tea, I see the tin sitting on the counter and I smile which is always a very good way to start a day.
Related: Weekend Meditation: Identity Crisis
(Images: Dana Velden)