The Ring on the Shelf

There is a bookshelf that stands beside the door to my home. It has many purposes, but generally becomes a catch-all for things that don’t have a home yet. Every once in awhile my eyes scan over the collection, trying to imagine where things might one day go. My eye is always drawn to one particular thing, resting on the corner of the top of the bookshelf, just beside the door – the ring.


The ring is a wedding ring. The ring is not my ring, nor is it from my marriage. I did not know the man who owns this ring when he wore this ring; I met him after he had taken it off. Like me he did not know what to do with his ring, and when he moved in it came with him. It does not have a proper place, nor do I think it ever will.

When I leave my home I see it, whether I intentionally look or not, and it’s usually one of the first things I see when I come home. This does not bother me, but it always gives me pause. When he moved in he brought many things with him (though not a ton, since I already had a fully furnished home) and everything has (mostly) found a place – save for this ring. I hesitate to touch it, as it feels like something sacred, even if I know it no longer carries the meaning it once did. One day, when he wasn’t home, I did. I picked it up gently, taking care to be delicate as though it would break. I turned it over in my fingers, held it up close to inspect it, not expecting to find any revelations, but looking all the same.

When this ring catches my gaze I find my mind wandering to my own ring – hidden, in the bedroom, away from prying eyes and questionable glances. I took great care to make sure he never saw it, even if for a time it was hidden in plain sight. During a huge clean and purge of my bedroom, to make space for him, a jewelry holder came crashing down and my ring with it. It felt silly to not tell him what it was, but I was quick to hide it again before he could really see it. Like his there was nothing inherently fancy about my ring, but I felt the overwhelming sense that it was not right for him to see it, a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Shame and Embarrassment. 

Over what, exactly?

Our marriages ended in similar circumstances, save for a few key details. But the situations have enough similarities that we bonded over our shared heartache, even today having found new love. I don’t feel shame or embarrassment when I share details of my experience, and I don’t get the impression he feels much of it either when he talks about his story.

And yet here his ring sits, bold as day for anyone who enters to see, whether they know what it is or not. And my ring is hidden like a secret humiliation. As though I should be ashamed of anything that has happened. Newsflash: I shouldn’t, and I don’t. And this isn’t to say that I will suddenly take my ring and lay it in the middle of a table like a centerpiece, nor will I trash my ring – regardless of its financial value it still holds some sentimental worth. All of this is about noticing.

Noticing there are stories in objects, stories you can’t even fathom. Noticing that stories can be so similar and so wildly different. Noticing that something (like an object, or where it’s placed) only has meaning because you give it meaning. Noticing that sometimes a random set of circumstances causes you to reflect on one’s personal self-talk, and how it affects your opinion of yourself.

At the end of the day, it’s a ring on a shelf. It’s not up to me to give it any more meaning than that. And my ring? It still has meaning, it still has value, and it’s still in a box in my bedroom. What happens to either of these rings matters only to the people who own them.

~ J

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