“what if” thinking and yummy soap.

From "The Administrative Assistant is Bored"My Sundays are becoming a quiet passion: how I spend them, whether I enjoy them, what I discover when left to my own devices for an entire day. Yesterday, another Sunday spent singly, I carried a four-foot-long cork board my friend from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore gave me, to the bus stop. I had spent the past week covering the board with torn scraps of legal paper and rows of Post-Its, creating an office drone’s collage for a downtown gallery’s member show. At the bus stop, a woman wearing brown shoes, black skirt, checkered scarf around her neck, joined me, asking if I was going to an exhibit. Carrying it onto the bus, I was greeted by the driver asking, “Is that Picasso?” I dropped the collage off at the gallery and walked home, heartened that my fellow Buffaloans, however badly dressed, had at least dubbed my creation “art.”

As I walked, I thought, This unavailable guy thing is too complicated to sort out. Do I create these situations, or are they handed to me? How much is history, and how much destiny? How much is fear, and how much need? Do I blame my parents, myself, my lovers, my gods? Is there any way to escape this pattern? Do I even want to?

I don’t think I can do this alone, I thought, wondering if there was a cosmic hotline I could call to sort out the tangled strands that I call a heart.

Disheartened to get home and find it was only one-thirty, the rest of the day stretching before me, I looked at the scraps of paper covering the floor. I have always hated living alone. Only recently, “stuck” in Buffalo without my family, finding myself making the same tasteless Chinese tofu for lunch, falling into the same mid-Sunday stupor, as I had when living alone six years ago in Portland, have I decided to confront this single lifestyle as something to learn from, instead of trying to avoid. What I’ve found is that most of my problems in life, from my depression to my unwillingness to cook decent food for myself, can be traced to a fear of f**king up. No other word quite sums up the sensation, I’m afraid. This fear has prevented me from sticking with anything for longer than a year, driving me from job to job, place to place, lover to lover.

I decided to go buy soy milk. At the overpriced local health market, I stood before a row of overpriced organic shampoos, remembering the smell of lavender and rosemary in the shower of my friend Carine’s house, in England. Devonshire is so green, store clerks wince when you ask for a plastic bag, the recycling system was designed by Bill Gates, and you get a contact high walking down the high street of Totnes. One of my friends lived with a vegetarian yoga teacher, the other, a vegan, taught me the joys of a good hummus sandwich with lettuce, tomato and shredded carrot. And I couldn’t take a shower at Carine’s house without climaxing over the fragrances of those overpriced, organic shampoos.

I had shampoo at home. But I needed soap. Selecting an orangey-red bar for the shower, and a roughly textured cinnamon-vanilla bar for the sink, I decided it was high time I based my lifestyle on what I valued, rather than, as my mom had taught me, what was the best value.

I also bought a basil plant, a carton of garlic-stuffed olives, and some velvety vanilla gelato. My two under-filled grocery bags cost about eighty-four dollars, granted, but the fragrance of rosemary, basil and oatmeal soap filling my apartment, made me clap my hands with delight. I enjoyed a cup of twenty-dollar a bag herbal tea and sat down to watch, not an emo romance, but Bowfinger, a choice guaranteed to make me laugh. I thought about screenplays and movies and art rather than relationships. I pet my bunny for forty minutes, sprawled on the bed.

And as I made pasta for dinner, I thought, Maybe I don’t have to sort it all out. Maybe I can’t. Maybe I should just let it go. It was odd, but right there at the kitchen, pushing slooshy red tomato guts into the garbage can, I experienced a moment of absolute grace. Something lifted.

Like my choice of soaps, my choice of lovers has been crippled by over-analysis. I don’t want to get involved with the “wrong” guy, so I just choose pre-doomed relationships and live alone. The rest of my life follows suit. What if I buy a bunch of herbs and they all die? What if they grow and grow and start fighting like a monstrous, herby Little Shop of Horrors? What if my mom insinuates that a two-dollar bar of orange-red soap isn’t as affordable or sensible as a six-pack of Irish Spring, and in so doing, unwittingly curses me to a pleasant-smelling but poverty-stricken existence?

What if I marry a nice guy, have a child, and on the kid’s fourth birthday, realize that if I spend another day with his father, I’ll dig my eyes out with the kid’s sand shovel?

Doesn’t everyone worry about this?

It’s this “what if?” thinking that prevent me from living. Whether it’s trying a new recipe (and burning it) or choosing soap (and getting ripped off) or falling in love (and breaking my heart) I have wasted too many years avoiding risk.

It comes down to this: whether you want to or not, you have to get out of bed, dress, work, talk, breathe. Whether you do it smelling like cinnamon and vanilla, or you do it smelling like Irish Spring, is up to you.

I set my fears down like a suitcase, and walk outside, naked of theories, concepts, preconceptions. And man, do I smell great.

4 Responses

  1. Lynnette

    When you find that cosmic hotline, PLEASE give your ol’ ma the number. And, I might add, kudos for buying the soap. Believe it or not, that’s the same reason I wander into Value Village. Mull that over, blog readers!

    Like

  2. Lucy

    Don’t think about the negative that could happen. Just think while ur in the grocery store buying expensive soap you could meet the man of your dreams! This is probably my favorite you have written so far. loves!

    Like

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