How to survive a woman who threatens your universe at the atomic level

universal photocopier“I’m pissed off.” The red haired woman states the obvious, with equally obvious venom.

I think I hate her. The realization is sudden, visceral, and acute. My stomach has made up its mind. She presents as an archetype I’ve spent my life avoiding eye contact with in high school hallways and grim office elevators. Not that I can’t come around – I’ve done it before – but the photocopier she did battle with earlier has my sympathies. And now that I’ve sacrificed the sleeves of my sweater to her jury-rigged straightjacket, there’s no turning back.

“I can see that,” I say. “Three minutes, will you give me just three minutes?”

“You’ve got a captive audience, girl.”

Swallowing her ‘girl’ with quiet martyrdom, I take her ever so gently through a 3 Minute Sense Scroll Mindfulness Meditation – my go to innovation that has helped my own brain rewire to focus its attentions, engage with the environment, and emerge from internal constructs/conflicts.

“There.” I breath deeply, feeling quite relaxed myself. My perception of my client is momentarily softened and compassion is awakened by my reconnection to self. “Are you feeling a little more grounded now?”

“No.”

The word is spit with a certain – yes I’m certain – gleeful malice that hits me right in the gut. How could any brain resist such a powerful tool? Must be out of spite. But why would any mind fight its natural craving for balance and peace? Her death stare is unrelenting, and now she’s fidgeting in her straightjacket and stretching my sleeves more and more by the second. I’m appalled by her total disregard for another person’s property. The photocopier becomes personified in my mind, poor thing. I empathize with its jamming now that the gears in my own head are locking up. And here she is traumatizing something else that doesn’t belong to her. Bitch.

“Shit.” I say. To which she looks triumphant. Drawing a blank in the face of such hostility, I reluctantly serve the cat her cream: “So why don’t you just tell me what’s pissing you off.”

I see her mouth open as she sucks in not only all the air in the office, but all available energy too, extending her vacuum to rob our oxygen atoms of their very spin as they’re drawn into her black void of negativity. I swear my eyeballs bulge and the overhead florescents flicker and dim as their photons are stretched and dragged screaming, tearing, into the abyss. Only a black hole or an angry woman can disrupt the space-time continuum – I know this, just ask my husband. But I could never match this wild haired force of nature. Sleeve assault aside, this woman’s utter disregard for the room’s atomic balance leaves nothing even remotely sustaining for me. Bitch.

“Wait!” I cry out, all hard-won professionalism abandoned. “I have a better idea.”

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The exact moment I realize I’m wasting my life

Spinning with the Earth at 1675 km/h, we humans are always and only ‘falling through time’. We feign power and control over our most precious, non-renewable resource with an abuser’s vocabulary – using, taking, spending, wasting… killing. In contrast, the words associated with our time efficiencies and generosities have somewhat religious overtones – saving, making, creating, giving. We express love through the valuing and sharing of time. And if we love ourselves, deeply, truly, is killing time the ultimate betrayal?

Slow day at work… do I write my future or stall it through distraction? The word search is almost too easy to rationalize. The 60 words are 60 novelists, so I’m not killing time… I’m learning. Ya, that’s it! Schooling myself for writer street-cred name dropping with a two-birds-one-stone pleasant pastime, the very essence of intelligent efficiency.

endless wordsearchALCOT, AMIS, AUSTEN – there’s HEMINGWAY in the middle there – BAINBRIDGE… BUCHAN is taking some time, no matter, I’m leeearning. Oh, there’s ORWELL along the top, but where’s BUCHAN? I dedicate myself to BUCHAN with full intensity pattern recognition/scanning, picking out all the BU’s and CH’s. Minutes pass… I start to get the same sick feeling in my stomach I used to get after too many Saturday morning cartoons (and still get after too much celebrity gossip). Screw it, we’re going old school here, line by line…

I do this twice. There is no BUCHAN! WTF?? This is so wrong it hurts. But just as stubborn as Rihanna going back to Chris Brown (don’t get me started!), I deny the atrocity and jump right back in. Sometimes the universe sends you a message, and sometimes that message is ELIOT with one L in the list, but two in the grid!?? This is officially BULL! with two Ls anywhere you find it!

I sit staring at the word search in numb disbelief. This is against all the rules! The contract of trust is broken. How can I ever commit to a word search again? Maybe crosswords aren’t even sacred! Two more go-to distractions tainted. But this is a wake-up; I can feel it in my bones. I can’t waste any more time.

I do the only thing that’s ever made my stomach stop churning. I put the story into my own words.

Humanist Public Restroom Architecture – How to design a toilet for ‘actual human beings’

Humanist novelty toilet designAfter the glacier floored, architectural dreamscape of Blank Canvas Living’s Antarctic inspired public restroom, I have no idea what to expect from the offices’ West corner facilities.

“You’re certainly dressed for it,” says Dr. C, as she leads me through the maze of corridors on the 10th floor.

I know this detour is making me late for my own job rolling paper on the 6th, but the anticipation of adventure is too strong to resist. We stop in front of a solid metal door, painted army green and accented with row upon row of rounded rivets.

“There’s only one toilet in this one,” Dr. C explains, “and no windows. In the midst of the collaborative madness of war and industrialization, we can forget who we are – one human, one moment in time. Our processes are not mechanized, nor should they be. Our bodies are sacred and should be celebrated. Take your time, I’ll be waiting right here.”

The door takes all my strength to open, then slams shut behind me with a BANG that jolts my nerves into combat readiness. The room is small and closed, a tight box of ridged green metal with artificial light coming from bare humming tubes wired (crudely) into the ceiling. To my left, near the back wall, is a strange industrial object – all gearing and quietly rotating circular components – which spins slowly to reveal a hidden sink, like the prize in a Chinese puzzle box.

And to my right… is the most human toilet I’ve ever seen! It’s curves are unexpected, fleshy, and warm, despite the smooth, cool porcelain. I can’t stop myself. My hand involuntarily reaches out to touch the molded torso that extends seamlessly from the tank back. The seat swings open, invitingly, and I take my place beside the lovely bum. Drawn by an urge even more primal than my body’s function here, I draw my fingers down the shallow dip of her spine and follow her curves with the caress of one human exploring another for the first time. Nobody’s watching; I smack her lightly on the cheek.

This is intimacy. This is indulgence. Heck, this is fun! My mind begins to churn. If this is really possible, really happening, what other processes can be transformed? Suddenly, for the very first time, pants down and mind spinning, I know exactly who I want to be.

I heave open the heavy door and relish its BANG behind me. “Dr. C! I want to do it. I want to be part of this! You don’t even know it, but I was born to work here.”

“Of course you were.” She doesn’t seem at all surprised to see me so red cheeked and excited. “I knew it the moment I met you. Well, my dear, welcome to Blank Canvas Living.”

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Dear Friday, how could have I let you see me like this?

Startled? Shocked? Horrified? All of the above. How could this have happened? Oh, I could give you a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I’m wearing slacks today – not pants or trousers, but honest to goodness slacks. And I swear I’m only surfing celebrity gossip to calm my beta-brain into a blissful alpha interim before boosting back up to finish my intellectual tome-of-the-moment (and it’s a really thick one too). But on the surface, I have completely submitted to the stereotype: the hair, a bun; my shoes, practical; my cardigan (yes, cardigan), thigh grazing and demure. I’m even drinking from our office kitchen’s “make every day a Friday!” mug. The horror.

Now, before I confess what I’m about to, I’m trusting you to understand something, that this moment does not define me. Just as I’ll trust that wherever you might find yourself today – in whatever footwear – that you, at least, have hope that someday you will find your own expression of whatever marvelous uniqueness your soul is coded to contain. That said…

My full surrender to the stereotype came as I reached into my desk drawer and dug out a cherry filled chocolate from my secret stash… and then another. Yes, dear readers, I’m typing this with still-sticky fingers. I’m living the very paradigm I’ve spent a lifetime trying desperately to escape. And I ask myself… What effect does environment really have, on our identities, our actions, our morale? Maybe we are not so independent of circumstance? Maybe my day job is more than a time ticker? Maybe you and I are risking more of ourselves than we realize? So let’s do something radical this weekend. You and me. Pinky swear…

When doing the dishes becomes a not-so-natural disaster

There are moments when everything changes, and in an instant, your world – or at least your kitchen – becomes a very complicated place. Last night, at exactly 9:43pm, something happened that made everything up to that moment seem so manageable, so innocent. It was something I’ve seen coming for years, “only a matter of time,” as ‘they’ say.

Doing the dishes after watching a documentary on the awesome perils of constructing the Panama Canal, my mind was full of hydro engineering, spillways, and human suffering – all of which would soon cross a continent and a century to turn my kitchen into a perfect diorama of disaster. Clearing the drying tray, I leaned over the counter to toss a Tupperware lid up to the top cupboard shelf, but it didn’t quite make the right sound. It was too loud, as if instantly echoed. Then I felt it, a cold, clammy liquid seeping through my long johns and woolen socks. I knew right away what had happened. I looked down, and time stopped.

Sure enough, my shirt had caught the edge of the George Foreman Grill (brim full!) drippings tray and yanked it off the counter. Brown and sludgy, the watery fat had exploded… everywhere. I thought of Panama, of the flooding and yellow fever, and I thought of the men and women who had battled far deeper demons than the greasy mess I was facing. But I couldn’t blame the mosquitoes, or the weather, or even the French, it was my own fault for leaving the stupid thing so close to the edge.

After a very brief (but entirely necessary) mourning period, I stripped down, tossed my socks in the sink and got to scrubbing. There I was, nearly naked, on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor, scouring the linoleum. In a moment my evening had changed from routine to grim nightmare, but compared to Panama, I suppose I really don’t have shit to complain about.

How to capture and define your system’s own unique waveform

Last week’s pantless adventure has had a curious effect. I’m seeing the world differently, and I love it! I feel my cognitive paradigm shifting; the world around me is suddenly bursting with possibilities. I recognize this freedom from childhood, but I am very much an adult, and by definition must commit to an internal framework or risk losing whatever I try to build – only by knowing the tides can one place one’s castle with confidence. Sigh…beaches, even metaphorical ones, seem a long way off on this icy January night.

A slip of moon shimmers above the frosted sidewalk. Standing at the bus stop, I rate my little path of footprints. I feel a bit ashamed, they’re duck toed and should be straighter. Ms J would be incensed! And according to an article I read who-knows-where, my steps are too far apart. I wonder if my stride is consistent? I know how to test it. I walk the same stretch while matching up the toes. Sure enough, it’s the same.

The cold air catches in my throat – a pattern is emerging in the frost. The sidewalk becomes an oscilloscope, and I can’t resist filling in the waveform. I don’t care if I look silly. This is fun! My duck toed shame disappears; I am alone with my own individual waveform. It is unique, personal – any judgment is gone. I’ve mapped a key feature of my body system, and seeing it exposed on the sidewalk gives me a private thrill. I don’t want to give up this new freedom of perception, of creation, but am I brave enough to take the next step? Can I really commit to Blank Canvas Living as my internal framework?

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