Nights at CC Cafe

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On a chilly Sunday November morning, I sit in the window at the local coffee house sipping on peppermint tea and working on my online class through UC Berkeley. The coffee house has some memorable and remarkable mix of popular 90s tunes on heavy rotation that instantly take me back to the days of my freshman year of college. Suddenly, I remember what it’s like to be 17 in all it’s glory yet complete with challenges.

Part of these memories include nights at a place called CC Cafe. This was an on campus coffee house type atmosphere. I remember sitting in very dim lighting on an extremely comfortable couch with some band or comedian in the background that I had been there to hear but was unable to pay attention to over the easy-going banter of my crowd of friends. 

Whether an attempt to reclaim my 20 years as a college student or simply out of boredom, I decided to take a class this fall. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be retired from the whole college student gig. I couldn’t help myself. I love to learn and needed an intellectual challenge.

Taking an online course provides other challenges. I do not have internet access at home, so I am constantly trying to find places in the community with free wifi. That was part of the point in taking a class this fall. I am trying to meet new people. I figured an online class would force me out into the community more, which would result in meeting people. I have met a few people in passing. I know none of their names and have not had more than two or three interactions with the same individual.

The exception is the woman who works the counter at the coffee house who always smiles when I ask for my order and seems to know that I will always ask for the internet password as I slip a dollar into the tip jar. 

While I may not be meeting my goal of meeting new people, there are morning such as these that allow me to relive some pretty awesome memories of being a student. That alone, is worth the frustration. It has been hard doing an online class – always trying to find internet, taking time away from my house, my cats, my life to work on this. However, I will readily admit that I need a break from the overwhelming responsibilities I carry, and so, this online class has at least provided me with respite from some of my obligations. 

Challenges in life do not seem to change. It doesn’t matter if I am 17 or 40, I’m still dealing with the same crap no matter what my age. I am trying to work, pay the bills, and somehow find a way not only to survive but to thrive.

I think back to all those nights at CC Cafe and realize that, really, I do have the ability to thrive. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to do that again in real life today. 

Demon Snuggling

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In my efforts to downsize and minimize, some items are easier to evaluate and part with than others. The two criteria by which I usually decide an item’s placement in my life is if it is useful or if it brings me joy. Perhaps the items most difficult to go through, not only for myself, but also for anyone are sentimental items. While not useful, sentimental items tend to fall under the category of “joy.”

It is completely understandable. The coffee mug that reminds you of your Alma Mater, or the quilt your now-deceased grandmother made by hand are items to treasure because they make your heart sing. While these points seem obvious, what is perhaps more difficult to understand is the phenomenon I will dub “demon snuggling.”

I recently got down and dirty “demon snuggling,” and am happy to declare that I am demon snuggling no more.

These past few weeks, I decided to go through the “stuff from growing up” box. Most everyone has one. Parents usually save items that were significant from childhood including baby shoes, report cards, art projects, teddy bears, and other well-loved items that usually make their way into adulthood. If you have children, then this entourage grows, as most parents tend to keep a box of precious belongings for their children in turn.

While for most people, these are happy memories, for me they were not. I had a less than stellar childhood, and I prefer to leave it behind. I am proud of the fact that I overcame some challenging circumstances, but I do not need the reminder of that triumph locked in a box to peruse for the rest of my life.

So, I got in down and dirty for some demon snuggling and was able to reduce that box from an approximate 50-quart storage bin down to an approximate 10-quart storage bin. While earlier in the fall, I looked to the future in Playing Dress Up , this winter I dealt with the past by demon snuggling.

A 50-quart box of things from growing up is not something I would ever want to cart with me if I move. Yet, and I am sure most of you would agree, it’s not something I want to get rid of completely either. Some things like your first Winnie the Pooh always stay with you.

For better or for worse, sentimental items are perhaps the most difficult items to downsize. There is so much emotion attached. In demon snuggling, I had a lot of starts and stops to the process, as I had to process through pain in order to part with some items. The pain, however, was good, as I was able to kick some major negativity to the curb. However, it is almost always easier to snuggle with your demons than to face them.

Many of the items that were shed, I took photos of them and uploaded those photos to the cloud. I am perfectly fine with looking at a picture of the happy-gram I received in 1988 for “appropriate attire in physical education class” as I was in physically having the happy-gram. In fact, I am pretty sure that when I’m dead and people are going through my belongings that if said happy-gram was still among my possessions, that whomever was going through my stuff would put said happy-gram in the trash anyway. Replacing the physical happy-gram with a digital photo of it that exists in the cloud does not in any way diminish the lessons I learned by dressing appropriately for gym in 1988. I have 14 marathon medals, and many of those were earned in inclement weather. I am pretty sure I am well versed in being able to dress myself for participation in physical activity.

While something such as a happy-gram seems quite innocuous, I did try to keep in mind (forgive the morbidity, but we’re talking about demon snuggling here) that someday someone will be going through my stuff after I am dead and gone. What type of burden do you want to leave for that person? It is going to be hard enough for loved ones to deal with the fact that you have passed on, do not give them the added chore of needing to spend months or even years going through all of your stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it.

Keep in mind that what is left behind after you die is also a part of your legacy. Your most intimate possessions tell a part of your legacy. What do you want your legacy to say about you? Do you want your legacy to say you had a whole bunch of things hoarded from the 1980s (as people find your old band outfit and track ribbons)? Or do you want your legacy to say you had a full, active life full of adventure (as people go through your luggage and sporting equipment). What you have is not as important as what you do or how you make people feel. How you make people feel is your greatest legacy, and hopefully you have the chance to touch some hearts along the way.

Back to demon snuggling.

Many of the items in my “growing up” box were not there for the happy sentimental feelings they evoked. Rather, there were many things in that box that brought to mind painful memories, and made me sad, mad or hurt. For some reason, it is easier to snuggle with our demons than it is to kick them to the curb. It was actually more challenging to rid myself of the items that evoked negative emotion than to contemplate whether or not something brings me joy.

Life is too short to be unhappy.

I do not need reminders of times in my life in which I felt pain or was not happy. Yes, those are parts of my life that happened and I must own. Just because I accept and admit that they happened does not mean I need a constant reminder or slap in the face to remind me of what I have endured or overcome. Many times we demon snuggle because it is easier to live with the pain than it is to process that pain and come through the other side. Pretty much anyone who has faced their demons in life fails to come through unscathed. However, the triumph of facing demons far outweighs a few scars.

I am not sure why demon snuggling is so easy. It is counter-intuitive that it is harder to part with pain than it is to part with joy. I don’t have enough time or space to figure that one out.

I will say that downsizing sentimental items is challenging. Setting a limit on what number or type of container you want to hold onto is helpful. For me, I wanted to downsize from a 50-quart box to a 10-quart one. Maybe you have three boxes of stuff from growing up and want to downsize to one. Maybe you are struggling with all of your children’s treasures that you are saving for when they leave the nest someday.

Taking photos of items such as artwork and certificates is helpful because they can be stored digitally without taking up space. The less space taken up by paper products means more room for teddy bears and action figures.

How do you deal with sentimental items? Do you find some items evoke negative emotions? Have you figured out a system or a way to cap the treasures you keep? Just because you dragged that Care Bear everywhere does not mean that your children will do the same. They will have their own cherished object that goes everywhere with them.

Are you snuggling with your demons or have you kicked them to the curb? As I strive to only have things in my life that are either useful or that bring me joy, I am happy that I am able to recognize when I am demon snuggling so that I can kick them to the curb.