Sunday, September 24, 2006

Words I can’t say

In college, my best friend decided to do a senior research project on the science of spirituality. To accomplish this, she underwent training to become a Reiki healer.

I don’t even know how to describe Reiki any more, though at the time I could have faked an answer because of her. It’s like a meditative practice where the healer channels some sort of spiritual power to open chakras and your mind to higher spirituality. They use special symbols that are said to hold the power of the spirits to call them to you to heal your recipient. It’s like a spiritual mystical sect with secret incantations and meditations.

We heard through the hippy grapevine in our tiny college town that there was a Reiki Master working at a local natural foods store, and that she would do Reiki initiation. My friend contacted her and made an appointment to go to her house for the initiation rites and education. The Reiki Master gave my friend detailed directions to her very out there farmhouse, in a region we’d never been. Afraid to go alone, my friend asked if I could come along, and the Reiki Master said yes.

When we arrived on the appointment day, the Reiki Master didn’t know who we were or remember making the appointment. We had assumed we’d become Reiki initiates together, but at this point, the Reiki Master said, “It will be $100 each for the ceremony.” I said I didn’t have any money so I wouldn’t be participating. My friend hedged and said that was awfully expensive and didn’t think she could afford it. The spiritual world was suddenly very material when the Reiki Master wouldn’t even pretend to bargain. That was the cost or we left the farmhouse. My friend eventually ponied up, hoping her mom could deposit the money in her checking account in time.

The ceremony was beginning to sound like a fake psychic scam.

We spent hours at the house that day. My friend and the Reiki Master’s creepy boyfriend would go into the Master’s bedroom for a half hour or so at a time, off and on throughout the day. I could smell heady incense seeping out from under the door. I wondered if the initiation rite was just about smoking pot or something. I sat alone at the park bench style kitchen table, playing with bits of string and thinking about how weird this all was, thinking about things I’d like to say to these crazy people. Sometimes the Master’s twelve-year-old daughter sat with me, and I asked her questions about her school and hobbies. She was a nice girl.

During the Reiki breaks, the boyfriend said crazy things to me about spirituality and what certain signs and symbols mean in your life. Like if you stand in the window in your home it means this. Or if you pick up shiny things off the ground it means that. The Reiki Master yelled at her daughter and made her work like Cinderella, while praising her obviously deadbeat teenage son to the spiritual heavens.

I kept silent. Anything I wanted to say had the potential to start a fight or create bad feelings or make it harder for my friend to finish her senior research project on spirituality. I played with my bits of string and complimented the little girl on her dish cleaning and carrot chopping and sweeping skills, hoping to undo a lifetime of emotional abuse in my one afternoon.

At the end of the Reiki initiation ceremony, the Master decided it was time for us all to do chakra readings and spiritual cleansings together to close the day. She seemed relaxed and happy. Creepy boyfriend seemed smug and self-satisfied. My friend seemed anxious to go. I was practically clawing at the door. But when you’re a guest at someone’s home, whether they expected you or not, you’re obligated to comply to a chakra opening ceremony.

My turn. I laid on the bed with my feet toward the window. Creepy boyfriend was on my left, my friend was at my feet, channeling good energy in, and the Reiki Master moved around me. She used a crystal on a chain as a pendulum, holding it over each of my chakra points to determine the psychic state of my body’s soul. All of her readings on me seemed to satisfy her, except my throat chakra seemed very closed to her. She said that this indicated an unwillingness of me to speak the spiritual truth. I wanted to laugh in her face and say I had been holding in all day how much I thought they were all deluded and insane and evil parents to that poor little girl. I said, “I’ll work on it,” or something non-committal.

I thought that leaving her house, my friend and I exploding our frustrations at the surreal day all over each other, my throat chakra would re-open. I thought I’d speak the truth, my own personal anti-bull-shit bible spewing forth all over the tiny college town about how some self-proclaimed spiritual healers were less-enlightened than the most spiritually debased members of our society.

But if my throat chakra opened, it only blossomed temporarily, and closed again right away. Like a rarely-blooming daylily, My mouth would open for the truth, and then close again indefinitely, waiting for the next warm sunshine of fullness to spread my throat chakra petals.

I still suffer from the closed throat chakra. People who are daily in my life say horrible things to me about society, art, culture, politics. Things that lack understanding or uncorrupted thought or insight. Things a person with an open mind chakra shouldn’t think or speak through their open throat chakra.

And my throat blossom closes. I don’t speak my mind. Every time someone says to me—well, my throat chakra won’t let me repeat it—every time someone hurts my mind chakra with their words, I say to myself, “OK, next time, you’ll speak out. Next time, you’ll share your truth and help them open their closed mind chakras. Next time, you’ll defend your beliefs, your self, your thoughts.”

But that moment of expression never comes. The blossom in my throat remains tight as a daylily at night. Only in the presence of an open mind chakra connected to an open throat chakra can my mouth blossom and give my bible. In the interim, I remain silent.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My premiere event

This week presented a challenge in marathon time management. I’m afraid I didn’t cram it all in.

It was TV premiere week!

First up was Studio 60, which I didn’t even know I was looking forward to until last week. OK, so Amanda Peet’s sly smile grates on my nerves since she does it non-stop, and so Matthew Perry looks like he’s aged 20 years in the span of a couple, but heck, it was still an awesome cast. And Aaron Sorkin? Love him. I was a West Wing devotee (until if jumped the shark), and I missed the quirky, intelligent, hyper-fast-paced dialog. Bless him and his engaging script. The pilot lived up to everything I would have hoped, even though it’s already getting a few nay-sayers in the press. I hope Studio 60 makes it the full season. With this cast and the creators though, I don’t think NBC is going to pull out on this one any time too soon.

Next to bat was America’s Next Top Model Wednesday night. I missed it. I can’t believe I missed it. Last year Matthew was working evenings, so I was on dog walk responsibilities the whole season. I missed the first half hour of every episode and always felt confused. I caught up on a VH1 marathon last Sunday though. I never would have guessed, but by the end of the marathon, I was actually burned out on ANTM.

What I did instead on Wednesday night was actually of significantly higher importance than America’s Next Top Model, if you can believe it. Wednesday, Matthew and a group of other scooterists and I went to a Chicago motorcycle legal aid society meeting to talk about two-wheel parking regulations in the city. It was really helpful and gave us some great ideas on where to start as scooterists and how to cooperate with motorcyclists. Even though they were some pretty hardcore guys with nicknames like “Doc,” “Legs,” and “Cowboy,” they were very friendly and welcoming. We liked connecting with other riding enthusiasts on legal issues that we all need to work on to enact change.

Thursday. Oh Thursday. It proved to be a difficult TV day. My Name is Earl, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, and then ER. Phew! ER has been totally over-the-top melodrama for years, but it was still a good episode. At least I cared about the ordeals the characters were experiencing, as opposed to how uninvolved I’ve felt with characters in the past. And oh, the Meredith-McDreamy saga continues. The whole part with the character named Omar and his wife dying, I didn’t get that. It was pretty tacked on it seemed.

And thus brings us to Friday. There’s a book out called something like “No One Cares What You Ate for Lunch and 100 Other Topics Not to Write on Your Blog.” I probably need to buy it. I’m sure no one really cares what I watched on TV this week, but you read it, right? Ha ha! Suckers! Just kidding, I love you.

And tonight is a party with actual people instead of TV characters. A cowboy themed party. And I don’t have a thing to wear! I’ll find a bandana and be a train robber.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dangerous habits

"I am not addicted. I can quit anytime." I say that to myself every
day now. "I can close the book and go to bed." Or, "I can close the
book and quit eating lunch freakishly slowly."

It all started out years ago. After I ended my two year television
boycott (I really do mean a total refusal to be anywhere that a TV was
turned on), I eased back into programming slowly. I mostly watched BBC
or TLC or A&E. But gradually I found myself attracted to more and more
banal fare, resulting in my love for "America's Next Top Model" and
anything else equally preposterous. This has necessitated two
televisions in the small Wy household, one for sports, one for "Flavor
of Love." We come together for dinner over "American Chopper" and
"Biker Build-off," two programs we agree are equal parts entertaining,
mesmerizing, and mockingly hilarious.

The drift into popular media is now affecting the books I read.

"But Christine, you're the most arrogant culturally elitist reader I
know. Are you reading popular fiction?"

I am. It's true. I'm hooked on romance novels.

I know that this is a terrible surprise for Christine Wy fans, but,
believe me, it was a terrible surprise for me too.

My brilliant sister mailed me two books saying, "I swear, you'll love
these." I put off reading them for two reasons. First, they were very
thick and I'm too lazy to make that kind of time commitment. Second,
they had the distinctly yellowing high-acid paper on which impermanent
low brow writing is conveyed. I love and trust my sister, and I knew
if I read books that she recommended I would enjoy them a lot, but I
was suspicious.

Running out of patience for my lengthy hesitation, she finally called
and asked for the books back. This made me feel guilty, so I kept the
skinnier book and mailed back the thicker. It turned out to be a
mistake. I should have mailed back both. No, not really, but actually
I mailed back book one and kept book two, so I picked up book two with
the story in media res, as it were, and felt a little confused.

The confusion did not last long. I was in love with a book about a
rag-tag family trying to survive in the forests of upstate New York
around 1790. High adventure involving boats and kidnappings and snow
storms and stolen gold ensued. But then, wait, what was this? They're
kissing? And her cheeks are flushing with color? Oh my God! He's
reaching for the curve of her flesh!

I had meandered into a romance novel. And I loved it. And I'm hooked.
I devoured book two, and my sister immediately mailed me book one.
While waiting for books three and four to arrive, I am RE-READING book
one immediately after finishing it.

The collection of love letters from a Portuguese nun written in the
Middle Ages sits on my shelf and calls to me, "Christine, why have you
forsaken historical research and capital L Literature?" I want to read
the illicit love letters of a nun, but who could bear to leave the
cabin in upstate New York just as the school house is burned down and
there's a dramatic rescue that reunites the family? I can't. The
siren song of the beautiful simplicity and clarity of the romance
beckons me back to its pages. And it won't release me.

Therein lies the problem. I can grudgingly turn off the TV when my
hour of "America's Next Top Model" is up, but there's always hundreds
more pages in my romance that pour into one another so that even
chapter ends cannot stop me. I dread showering because I don't want to
put the book down. I won't cook dinner because I'd rather read. I
wake up and gladly take the train to work because it's an extra hour of
reading time, there and back. I get into bed and promise myself lights
out by 11, by 11:30, OK, 12:30 at the latest.

And then the real insult begins. I dream the characters. At night, in
my restless, troubled sleep, the characters take on new challenges and
surmount new insurmountable obstacles, and I wake shuddering, thinking,
"Please get out of my head! I don't want to dream you any more!" I
shake my head, I roll over on the pillow, I pet the cat where he sleeps
for a minute or two, but I slip back under the warm waters of the dream
of New York and Revolutionary veterans and bear fights and deer hunting.

The problem is, this really is a problem.

I can quit at any time. I never have to read another page. I can walk
away and not look back.

I hope.

Friday, September 01, 2006

“Oh, flight attendant, do you mind…?”

I lose a lot of things. I’d like to think that it’s not because of carelessness or clutter, but that it’s the result of distraction. When I’m juggling too many thoughts (What am I cooking for dinner? Do I have enough buttermilk for buttermilk pie? What bus am I getting on?), then something’s going to get dropped. Unfortunately I usually drop possessions.

The most mundane thing I’ve ever lost was an umbrella. It was one of those fancy wooden ones that I’ll never be able to afford again, and I left it in a movie theater. Oops. I think forgot to call them back, also, so the cool umbrella, the only umbrella I’ve ever loved, is vanished.

Then there’s the special category of things I’ve left on planes….

I also lost a wool hat from Nepal that had matching gloves. I love matching hat and glove sets. Functional and stylish! This set was a Christmas present from my mom so I loved it extra much. It was a chunky red weave with purple and yellow designs woven into it, and the hat had a great big pom-pom on top. On a flight home to Chicago from Kentucky, the wool hat made a dash for freedom and slipped out of my pocket. Devastating. What good are matchy-match wool gloves with no hat? I called and called and called the airline the airport, security department, check-in desk, janitorial services. That hat was gone. Sadness.

Next I left a book on a plane, again on my way home from Kentucky. This was not just any book though. This was a book about a young professional woman close to my age who quit her day job to become a stripper. Poof! She’s a stripper now. And fortunately for all of us, she wrote the whole thing down. Between stripping gigs of course. What made this book extra special was that it was on loan from the finacee of a relative of the book’s author! What are the odds? “Hey check this out. My fiance’s second cousin wrote a memoir about stripping.” I left it on the plane. Some teenager discovered that book on the next trip and got to read every creative euphemism for stripping known to man. Again I called and called to lost and found, but that book was long gone. Poof!

The most interesting thing I’ve ever left on a plane must have been quite a shock to the last attendant on duty for the evening. My mother cooked a big meal for my last evening in Kentucky, an out-door, Kentucky-style, cook-out, complete with bratwurst, hamburgers, and hotdogs. Now my mom knows how my husband loves to eat, and she knows we don’t grill too often, so she fixed him up a to-go bag. She made him bags of hamburgers and bags of brats and bags of dogs, and then she put it all in a boutique paper shopping bag with handles.

I left it on the plane.

I put the bag of meat under the seat in front of me so it wouldn’t get squished in the overhead bin. Unfortunately, I didn’t strategize this very well, and I put my carry-on backpack down on top of the meat. Ouch! I flew the trip, reading some other book or magazine I’d probably soon lose, and completely forgot my meaty cargo. When the plane landed in Chicago, I stood up, picked up my backpack, and walked off the plane. No meat.

I didn’t realize I had left a bag of meat on an airplane until I got back to our apartment. “Mom sent you a present, but I can’t find it.”

“What is it?”

“A bag of meat from the cook-out.”

“Oh, I love your mom’s bratwurst!”

“Oh God.”

“What is it?”

“I just remembered where the bag of meat is. I left it on the plane!”

Dear flight attendant, who works between Louisville and Chicago, I’m sorry you found a bag of meat under a seat a couple of years ago. I bet it was still warm too. We had just eaten its meaty cousins. I know you had to throw the meat away, but I hope it didn’t cause you too much stress. I hope it just gave you a good story to tell….

“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found on a plane?”

“Well one time I was cleaning up, and I found a bag of meat!”