Presence vs. presents

????????????????????????????????????????Been reading and listening to news reports on what the retail industry has in store (literally and figuratively) for we consumers this season, and it’s alarming. To me, anyway.

Specifically, some stores are hijacking Thanksgiving by opening their doors and encouraging us to do the following:

 

  • dismiss time with our family in exchange for ‘deals’
  • sacrifice the one Holiday of the year that emphasizes gratitude over gifts
  • leave the present moment and launch full speed ahead into the ‘spend=joy’ hype of an already-hijacked (sorry to sound so cynical) Holiday that leaves many in debt for months and even years to come

I support retail, especially small boutique shops that keep the unique character of a town intact. But it’s not these folks that are dangling the ‘deal’ carrot in front of us to shop early. It’s the big box chain stores (no need to list them here – just turn on the TV, scroll through FB, and you’ll see who) that, every year, take a bigger bite out of our Thanksgiving Holiday. Every year we get closer to a dead carcass of this time-treasured Holiday.

As the daughter of small business owners (my parents ran a lovely antique store and design business in downtown Seattle for many years), I am not immune to the importance of meeting heightened sales goals during the month of December. But this is NOVEMBER. Can’t we wait just a few more days before the frenzy begins? My parents, like many small retail owners, always honored and respected the Thanksgiving Holiday, closing their doors and sending the message that both customers and employees should be taking time out to be thankful with their loved ones.

So here is my plea: BE PRESENT. And leave the presents well alone until after Thanksgiving.

Peace and Namaste.

They’re Just ‘Things’

land shark“They’re just things, Shannon.” I tell myself this, repeatedly if necessary, when the past creeps in. Because possessions can do that sometimes – trigger memories and send you at rapid speed out of the present and into the past.

I just experienced this with a large shipment of items from my storage unit in Seattle to my new home on the east coast. I’ve moved around the east coast for the past three years with a sense of wonder and excitement over where I would land next. But now I’ve landed, having committed to a new location and condo with a mortgage in place and a bright future, and it’s time to get really present and let the past go.

So as I scanned the items rolling off the giant, city-block long Atlas van and into my condo, memories flooded forth, first with my Land Shark road bike. It weathered a tough journey across the country, and would surely have preferred me riding it to get here vs. jostling around on truck sandwiched between a wing chair, ottoman, piles of boxes and antique chests.

Wheels off, handlebars seriously askew, chain dangling, my first visual launched me back into a period in life where I felt like I was this bike. And yet this bike provided me vast comfort during a tough personal time. Despite a crumbling relationship, issues with self-worth and fear, I accomplished so much on this bike:

  • a one-day ride from Seattle to Portland in 13 and a half hours
  • a new community of fellow riders within the Cascade Bicycle Club that supported and ‘got’ my obsession with an active lifestyle
  • an iron will to keep going that has resonated in other areas and pursuits in my life, including my yoga career and commitment to deepen and authenticate all my relationships
  • battle scars from three emergency room visits that I no longer view as something to hide, but regard with pride

It’s been three years since I’ve seen this bike, and it’s time to get reacquainted, but with a new perspective rooted in the present moment, not past memories.

They don’t give you wings anymore

wingsLanded safely in Philly late Tuesday night, but not without some turbulence along the way – and I mean that figuratively, not literally. My cross-country journey from Seattle to Philly was peppered with one absurdity after another. I fly plenty, and know full well my grievances with the whole process are echoed by travelers the world over. But this particular trek warrants a blow-by-blow account that ought to resonate with at least a few fellow frequent fliers out there:

11:00 AM: Town car driver meets us on Eastlake Ave. in Seattle to transport us to SeaTac. We will arrive long before boarding time, but getting through Security, even with my partner’s premium lane access, is highly unpredictable.

11:40 AM: TSA crew confirms our lack of faith in an expedient process. Yours truly is randomly selected for additional screening. This entails a young agent (as in, is she old enough to drive?) with a stern face and complete inability to make conversation swiping my palms with some sort of sticker.

Post-swipe, her computer screen blares in large CAPITAL letters, “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED!!” Well okay then. Apparently my Trader Joe’s lavender hand lotion comes laced with arsenic. Or could it be the buttery croissant remains from Grand Central Bakery?

“We need a badge over here!” the stern-faced recruit hollers. Older woman (resembling my late grandmother) rocking a big brass TSA badge hobbles over and proceeds to rip open my carry-on bag. Noticing nothing suspicious, she orders it through the scanner once more. Even though it glided through the first time without any “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED!!” warnings. Second time through successful.

Alrighty then. Time to rendezvous with my travel partner. Or not…

“Follow me for a mandatory private screening,” I’m told. Hm. I thought I was at SeaTac. Not the nearest women’s correctional facility. Into the small cubicle I go, with Granny Big Badge and Stern-Faced Teen Girl flanking me on either side. At least they don’t cuff me. Once inside, Granny finally concedes that the system sometimes misreads harmless chemicals as explosives, but not before patting me up and down. During this awkward procedure, Granny Big Badge also suggests I hold onto the table to bend my back foot so she can screen the bottom of my shoe. Two thoughts enter my mind here:

1. What would she do if a wad of gum were stuck to my sole?

2. Do most travelers risk falling on their ass by simply lifting a foot without the help of and ledge? Thank God for yoga.

Noon or so: My patient and highly amused travel partner suggests we decompress over a glass of wine at a post-security TexMex joint. Wine is fine, but, alas, entire menu is inedible. Are we the only travelers who cannot stomach greasy wings, fat-laden Caesars and Nachos?

1:20 PM: We try to board flight number one headed to Charlotte, NC (intended destination is Philly, but to go direct means an additional $600 dent in the wallet, so we opt for 3+ additional hours of posture-sabotaging ass-time in Coach class). Instead, we are given the elbow and stink-eye from a traveler whose ticket says ‘Zone 1’ and feels she’s been done a grave injustice by the despicable Zone 2/Explosives-On-Palms Girl and her partner who stepped in front of her. You go right on ahead lady.

1:25 PM: Seated toward the back of the bus – oh, I mean plane – with knees wedged hard into the busted seat pocket containing USAir magazine and barf bag in front of me, I sigh with relief knowing I can at least rest one elbow on my aisle-seated travel partner. Continue to pray that our future window mate is able to fit in his/her seat without spilling over. Prayer answered, as young pretty college girl slips in, pops in her ear buds, and sleeps the entire 5 hours to Charlotte. I drool with envy.

About 3 PM: Having foregone the pre-boarding chicken wings and nachos options, I realize I am hungry. Options at 35,000 feet aren’t much better, but I relent, and go for the pastrami wrap.

8 PM east coast time: My travel partner listens and empathizes as my stomach vocalizes my earlier lunch choice.

9:15 PM: On the ground, and in a fog as I will my left ear to open after a choppy descent. On to flight number two, which, mercifully, is one-third full.

11:41 PM: Home.

I remember getting a cool set of wings on a flight to visit my Granny in San Diego as a kid. I remember when flying was fun. Today? Not so much. This Explosives-On-Palms Girl would rather stay put.