Saturday, August 21, 2010

WalMart Zen -- In 8 Octaves

This morning, after a comatose night's sleep, while hanging my two feet over the edge of the bed, I decided I needed to get a handle on the whole "glass half empty" mentality that had become my mindset over the last year.  Half full, half empty; I wanted to focus on the fact that I was fortunate to have a glass at all.  "I have a glass,"  I tried the words out.  "I have a glass".  Hmmm"I have a glass."    A new mantra to part the seas.  I felt like an Aladdin of sorts, discovering the magic words that would open the cave door.

But first, coffee.  There is no new beginning without fortification.  Christopher Columbus wouldn't step foot on a ship without a mug of the stuff.  And Hannibal?  How do you think he drove elephants over the Alps?  If you are thinking coffee, you are correct.  Surely there is no doubt he had a thermos of dark roast slung over his Carthoginian shoulder.   So if I was going to attempt to storm my own castle and slay my own dragons, I needed to get a pot of Starbucks brewing.

That's what led me to WalMart.  I got dressed.  "I have a glass.  That is good", I hummed to myself as I searched out the perfect earrings for this yet-to-be-experienced day.  I figured if I could keep that thought in the forefront, I was halfway to half full.

On my way out the door, I  poked my head into the den and told my parents I was going out to bring home coffee.  They were molded into their TV recliners watching Sunday House Call with Dr. Rosenfeld.  I caught the words 'acid reflux' and immediately quit listening.  "But we have coffee, dear.  Don't we?" my mother said looking into her cup.  "We do", I agreed, "but, I need the bean of a different tree today."   She stared at me then shook her head.  She was probably thinking "Kids.  What are you gonna do?"  Since I am four years from retirement age, I liked it when she thought about me that  way.  

Nearly 18 months ago, after many urgent and panicky calls from  my elderly parents, I moved from Oklahoma to Ohio.  Irv and Edna, the parents, now in their 90's, were still living in their home and their day-to-day lives, they cried, were becoming just too overwhelming for them to handle..  They needed help.  Duh.  My comings and goings were now monitored by the very people I had successfully avoided since my eighteenth birthday.  Karma; pure and simple.

The morning air was brilliant; the trees were full of clouds.  The grass smelled like pancakes.  Herds of huge blue butterflies, the color of sapphire, were migrating through our corner of Ohio on their way to warmer climes.  I stood on the driveway gravel, my mind beginning to grasp the glass.

I drove with all the windows down; my hair washed in the wind.  The Gipsy Kings were singing in the CD player, trying to break my heart.  I passed the little man with two missing fingers, who sells tomatoes and cantaloupes at the mouth of the graveyard.  I waved.  His tailgate was sagging with home-grown produce.  He waved back.  I passed a very old woman pedaling a bike.  She gave me a shaky finger. 

I followed the river road to the parking lot of WalMart.  And that's where my quest for a Zen state of mind began unraveling.  A bit of advice: do not begin a Quixote-like adventure of the soul at WalMart.  Just keep that in mind.  OK?

I parked next to a truck whose doors were wired shut to keep them closed.  Something about missing hinges.  A woman was wrestling herself out the passenger side window.  "What are you looking at, bitch?"  were her first words.  What's the appropriate response in this social encounter?  I wasn't prepared.  But then who would be, really?  I pretended to be deaf.  I made some wild hand gestures and pointed to my ears.  Now we were both acting crazy.  I didn't watch, but heard her hit the ground.  She did quite a bit of grunting but seemed no worse for the wear as she unfolded her heft from the tarmac.  I did allow myself a  peek as she reached into the cab to grab her orange pleather purse.  "I have a glass.  I do",  I chanted meekly.  As soon as I saw her limp through the automatic doors, I felt safe enough to get out of the car.

With all the new found fortitude of a lame duck in an election year, I walked through the WalMart parking lot, careful to mind my own business.  Betty, a hands-on greeter, waved me over and gave me a beefy hug.  She smelled like cinnamon and hair spray.  Betty and I are best friends on WalMart property. 

One of the first times I took my parents shopping, Betty, who obviously took greeting to the next level, noticed me attempting to wrestle my mother into a wheelchair grocery cart.  She came over and told me, in a conspiratorial whisper, that she, too, took care of her elderly mother.  I gave her the miserable look I give when words fail me with complete strangers.  That's the first time she hugged me.  My best guess is she's in her late sixties.  Her hair, the color of Bayer aspirin, is the consistency of spun sugar.  Today, her bright blue shirt and short legs, made her look like a Smurf.  "How's the folks?" she asked.  Her arms finally unwinding from my shoulders.  Before I could answer, the woman I'd watched squeeze her way out of the truck window, walked by distracting me.  Betty, with her lack of boundaries and kind words, said "God is good, honey.  He'll see them through."   And with that she left to oversee her assigned spot between the door and the doughnut shelf.  

White, English-speaking God, I thought, like Santa Clause; instead of a red velvet suit cinched at the waist with a shiny belt , He wears a white toga with a macrame sash .  Same throne, same people waiting in line to give Him their I-want-this list.  And their baggage, the weight of it breaking their backs, tied with tinsel bows, is given freely as Christmas cheer.

"Focus woman.  You're here for coffee."  I  hoped I hadn't said that out loud.  On my way to aisle 6, I passed a display for some new brand of energy drink.  "Pop Wow" promised, that if I were to purchase then drink this bronze liquid, I would run faster, talk louder and enjoy my life quicker. That sounded better than the coffee I hunted.  Hell, it sounded better than air.  Pop Wow was calling me with a guarantee that even Prozac couldn't boast.  I bought a 6-pack.  The NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa Maria be damned.   This could be the chosen elixir that would fill my epiphanaic glass.

I held my instant fix six-pack like a bride carrying flowers.  I was determined to fill my own glass by whatever means available.   WalMart wasn't merely a place to buy Chilean-grown grapes or cheaply made Chinese goods.  It wasn't just another warehouse selling contaminated greens or clothing made by beautiful babies in third-world sweatshops.  No.  This Arkansas dynasty was a threshold to my metamorphosis into a new self-awareness.  I was as resolute as a virgin in a wedding gown to get on with it as soon as I found my car.

And there I stood, under a smiling sky, mesmerized by the hand of the air as it stroked me; listening to the sound of my car 'panic' button as I attempted to remember where I'd parked. Walking in the direction of my screeching Nissan,  I felt the weight of a cruise ship's anchor slide off me.

There was no half full or half empty.  There was no glass even.  Because, really, what difference did it make?   The joyous answer was, None. To stand there, in the flip-flop of flux, beside a jumble of shopping carts, was the perfect place, right then, to be.   And aren't we, all of us, just clowns in rented skin waiting for the bus that takes us to the oasis?

1 comment:

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