December 30, 2011

Sears and K-Marts Closing? Say It Isn't So!

K-marts and Sears stores are closing. Closing! That's the news I woke up to. Scary stuff. Although I no longer shop at K-mart (I did give it a try two years ago but the atmosphere was so thich with despair I had to leave) and I rarely shop at Sears, it still makes me sad to see them go.

I grew up with K-mart. All my clothes were from K-Mart. I once sharpied in some checkers on a pair of cheap canvas tennies from the K to trick everyone into believing I had real Vans. Didn't work. Just gave me a case of checkered feet for gym class. But the nostalgia remains.

And Sears...I do shop there when I'm actually at the mall (I'm not really a mall girl but I do like a good pretzel now and again). They have some cute things. I can't understand why Sears is closing too. There should be enough people there to keep them going. Damn them. Why, oh why have other shoppers forsaken me?

I've seen other places go out of business in the last few years...places I thought were institutions. The Arbys down the road just shut down one day. No warning. Nothing. It had been there as long as I could remember and it was clean and pleasant. But apparently good mood food wasnt good enough. Even more shocking the Burger King at the other end of the street also shut down. Again, no warning. I discovered this after a night of drinking and a serious case of the munchies.We drove through and kept driving. If McDonald's ever closes down we all better run for the hills.

I simply can't imagine a world where there are no Burger Kings, Sears, and K-Marts. Even if I don't go to them, I still want them there. It's like the grandparents I never visit. Love them. Comforted by them.  Glad to know they are there. Please dont go anywhere. You are part of my collective childhood. I'm lost and confused once you leave the building.

December 29, 2011

Zen - Day Two

Ding. Ding. Dinggggggggggggggg.

My new android app was just what I needed for my meditations. The gentle bells told me when to breathe in, and when to breathe out. In with the good energy. Out with the bad energy. Breathe in love. Release neurosis. And the best part was that it had a timer. I no longer had to open one eye to sneak a quick peek at the alarm clock in order to ensure that I had meditated for the vowed ten minutes. The dings simply stopped dinging.

When it was done I tossed my phone aside and jumped out of the bed, thrilled that I had completed my Day Two Zen assignment on meditation. Now what else could I do?

"You really don't have to start until New Years." My husband explained to me when I called him at work with my exciting news. "That's when most people start their resolutions."

"But I'm so excited! I can't wait to be Zen. I need to start NOW."

"Yeah, okay baby. I got a meeting. Good luck."

I glanced around the house, wondering what else could contribute to my impending enlightenment. If I cleaned the place really well I would most certainly feel less cluttered. But I didnt want to. I hated cleaning.  I weighed it in my mind. I read that to find true peace simply do what you feel like doing. At that moment all I really wanted was to watch Ellen on TV and munch on pretzels. But my higher self, that nagging part that always knows better, said that cleanliness would give me a more lasting happiness than daytime tv. My higher self should hire a maid. So begrudgingly I straightened pillows, unpacked suitcases from our holiday trip, and washed dried on dirty dishes. My eye twitched and my teeth clenched. I was anxious to get back to my state of happiness. It's hard to be Zen when your soul wants to be free but there is day old spagetti in a crock pot.

Whilst I was cleaning away like a bitter Snow White my subconscious was at work trying to remember something: an article I had recently read that was trying to writhe its way into my brain. It was something about embracing the things you dont want to do and do them with love and gratitude. Thank the Universe for giving you the enemy that challenges you, the obstacles that push your growth, or the dirty socks you don't want to touch. Once you accept the negatives and welcome them into your life, true happiness begins.

I took a deep breath.

"I am grateful for the dirty floor that I must vacuum. Because it helps me to..." I tapped my fingers against my thigh as I thought. I had nothing.

"I am grateful for the laundry my husband somehow accumulates that I must makes me appreciate..." Being single?

Stop it!

I closed my eyes and took another breath, really trying to feel the energy around me. I sat for a moment and felt the floor beneath my feet. The warmth of the air touch my skin. I breathed deeper, taking in the scent of lavendar dishwashing detergent. And then it hit me. My aha moment. The floor. The laundry. The dust on the TV. Everything was connected and I was at the hub of it. My fingers tingled and relaxed.

"I am thankful for the house I live in. It provides me with warmth and shelter and a refuge of my own. And I am thankful for the opportunity to make it more beautiful. I will go about my chores with gratitude in my heart, for all my blessings."

Sometimes there is magic, even in this mundane world. And for awhile, as I cleaned, I felt it. I was one with the world, enjoying work I had only minutes before found deplorable. I didnt run from task to task trying to get it all done as fast as I could. I noticed every moment as I worked. The way the plates squeaked when I ran a wet cloth across them. The way the laundry warmed my hands as I took it from the dryer. It was beautiful. Life was beautiful.

My Zen didnt last all day but I did experience a shift in my thinking that morning. I've come to realize that each experience is what you make of it. It's amazing what a little attitude adjustment can do for the soul.

December 28, 2011

The God with the Golden Hair

There is this man that walks. And walks. And walks. I have watched him for the last few years as he strolls up and down the long highway that borders my house. He is tall and lean with a long, confident stride and golden hair that undulates down his back and swirls obediently around his face. He wears black boots with sturdy heels that gleam on even the cloudiest of days and his eyes are tiny slits of cubic zirconium sharpness that pierce the dense Portland fog. His wardrobe is colorful but he most often wears a purple suit - not quite long enough to cover his ankles - and a dark coat that flaps behind him like a cape. Sometimes he walks with others who scurry to keep up with him, but mostly he walks alone.

As he wanders down that stretch of road day after day I wonder where he goes and who he meets.  With a visage like his he must be a god, a superhero, an alien, or the roadie for a local band. My curiosity would not let it go and several times I tried to follow but always...always he evades me, swallowed up by the Oregon mist somewhere between Game Stop and Wendy's.

I tried to share my conviction with my husband and my mom, hoping to enlist them as allies in uncovering the true identity of this demi-god. I spoke in great detail about his flaxen locks and his shiny boots and the fact that he is always walking. "A man like that could surely take public transportation," I tell my husband who gives me a courtesy shoulder shrug and a kiss on the cheek before returning to his corn nuts and Sportscenterns. My mother is no help either. She returns my enthusiasm by asking me if I had seen the lady doctor lately. Feeling deflated by my support system I gave up hope of ever meeting Mister Goldenhair in person.

Until last week.

While doing my last round of holiday shopping I spotted him, weaving through the parking lot of Big Lots. His hands were pushed deep into purple pockets and his head hung reflectively low. He propelled towards his destination, as shoppers and sea gulls cleared a path. Quickly, I tossed my packages into the car, only breaking a couple of gifts. Presents could be replaced, but a chance to see where a supernatural being hung out could never be recouped.

I pursued, trying very hard to camouflage in with the shopping carts, minivans, and decorative hedges along our route. He didn't seem to notice my presence as he strode forward - I think prophets are  used to being followed. Only once he stopped to gaze up at the sky, perhaps to ponder the beauty of the world or to ask that his cup be taken from him. I looked up at the sky too, to see what he was seeing, only to be defiled by an errant sea gull. By the time I recovered he had moved on. I frantically glanced around the parking lot in time to catch a glimpse of cascading yellow curls and a black cape entering a small store at the back corner of the strip-mall.

Curious. I had never seen this little store nestled into a tight corner off the main street. Excited, I rushed forward, ignoring the rain and the break lights of SUVS. Who else would I find inside? This could very well be our town's own League of Justice. As I got closer I noticed a sign above the establishment: Enrique's Carniceria.

I furrowed my brow. Carniceria? I had heard this word before. A carniceria was a place where meat was sold. I looked up again to confirm that I had read this right, and looked back down to ensure that this was the door the man had gone through. There was no denying it. He had come through this door. My brain did a scan of all the possible reasons he could be there. Though I ate meat I couldn't believe that he did. That was too ordinary. Too human. The nearest image I could conjure up of him eating anything was a picture of him munching on a dandelion, sitting cross-legged, meditating in a field. Something just didnt jibe.

Entering the store I looked around. Sure enough there was meat. And lots of  it. Meat displayed in cases, hung from hooks, stored in see-through freezers. An excited butcher waved to me as several shoppers picked out cuts to take home. A person in a sausage mascot outfit strode past me and out the door.  But the golden haired man was gone. Defeated, I slumped out of the building, back through the parking lot, and into my car. I stared at the packages on the seat next to me and tried to regain my holiday spirit, but it wouldn't come. The man I had been seeking for so long had vanished and I was alone.

I started up the car and bounded out of the lot and onto the road. The light at the intersection jumped from green to red, skipping yellow altogether. I sat there, thinking of life, staring into that same grey sky I had shared with the stranger and a rogue gull just minutes before. The light turned green and my foot reached towards the gas when I noticed what looked like a piece of black ice in my right peripheral. I did a double take, pushing on the break, as drivers called out obscenities behind me. His shoe! I would recognize those beautiful onyx boots anywhere! I had found him.

My gaze moved upwards. He wasn't wearing his majestic purple suit or his celebrated coat-cloak.  Instead he donned the simple garbs of a smiling sausage. He held an Ipod in one gloved hand and in his other he held a sign that read Carniceria

I watched him, realizing that I should be disappointed. All of the months I had built up my story about him had led me to this. There was no bat cave, no mother ship, no sermons in sporting complexes. He was just a simple man with a simple job. But I wasn't sad. I had seen him walk. I had watched those long, confident legs pace the highway each day with purpose. I had witnessed how heads bowed and pigeons parted before him. No, I wasn't sad. In my head he was still a sage, a prophet, a philosopher, or something greater. Even superheroes need a day job. I pushed on the gas and drove home.

December 27, 2011

The Zen Experiment - Day 1

I have been giving my New Year's resolution a lot of thought this year. Ideas came and went.  I discarded my old standby of losing those last five pounds (make that seven now) or on curbing my addiction to Hallmark TV (it's porn for trite junkies). And I won't be flossing anymore than I already do, which usually consists of three judicious days before an impending dental visit. No. This year I wanted to do something truly fearless. And since jumping off of anything higher than a basketball hoop was out of the question, I was left with the only one option. Letting go.

I will, I declared to myself and my husband, find my zen. I will stop obsessing about my hair, the dimples in my thighs, or on where to find the best deal on a 20 pack of toilet paper. In the grand scheme of things its really not that important. The only thing that really matters is sapping out some sort of happiness in this crazy world and I am determined to do matter what. My husband was all for it, especially if it meant that I wouldnt give him the look when he tossed his coat over the back of the sofa instead of hanging it up where it belongs. So he gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me that he would support my decision any way he could, and trotted off to kill some bad guys in one of his video games.

I racked my brain thinking of ways that I could become more Zen. Perhaps I could forego brushing my hair on some days, which is really a pain and only gets messed up again anyways.  Or even better, shave my head the way some monks do. Then I would never have to worry about my hair again! Scratch that, I thought. The growout has to be awful and shaving my head daily would be time consuming. Being Zen should save time. Back to no brushing. Except when I was going out. Or company was coming over. Or a new magazine suggests a fun new style that would look perfect on me. This was just getting confusing.

There had to be other ways I could become Zen. Maybe I would get up and just bowl. We live right across the street from a bowling alley and its something I had always wanted to try anyways. Wouldnt that be awesome? I could just get up and walk across the street (with sucked in gut and neatly combed hair) and just start bowling. Unless there was a league thing going on. Then I would probably have to wait for awhile for a lane to open up. I could kill time playing dance dance revolution in the arcade whilst waiting for the place to clear out. This was a good start. And in my new Zen mode I could do things like that if I so chose. Maybe next Wednesday.

It turns out that thinking about being Zen isnt so Zen. I'm a little worried that I'm off to a bad start. But it is a start. And for the next four weeks I will learn to be Zen or die trying.

In one month I will be a calmer, less neurotic version of myself who is happy and healthy and thriving in a 'just be' attitude. I will not feel the need to constantly produce or create to prove my worth. I will no longer point out to my husband the housework that I did while he was away (I may not even do housework). And I will allow the Universe to work through me in whatever creative fashion it deems appropriate. I WILL let go.

Now if I can just pry my fingers from the ledge....


Meditations on The Shadows of Dark Root

I may have gotten a bit metaphysical during the creation of The Shadows of Dark Root. I always knew I wanted Maggie and her companions to j...