Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sho(e)o, Corporate. Sho(e)o!

I’ve been straddling the corporate dress code policy since the sun set on May, namely with a certain pair of shoes that could be criminal between the hours of 9 – 5. Or, if you’re me, 8:30 – 4:30 (I know, it does rock). These sandals resemble flip flops in that they have two black leather straps emanating from between my big and pointer toes, making a pronounced “V” across my foot.

Have I ever mentioned that I think my feet are lovely? Possibly my best physical feature. Quite the opposite of my nose.

The base of the sandals appears rubber-like and khaki in color. I’m all about comfort, and these shoes offer me the cushioning I so adore. They also look pretty casual, save the silver buckle on the strap facing the outside world, co-workers and fellow rule breakers alike. I’m safe if silver’s in the picture, right? It’s like I’m wearing jewels on my feet; what’s defiant about sterling?

The Vice President of Human Resources sent out a mass email two days ago to remind us captives that there indeed is a summer dress code – no spaghetti straps, no mini-skirts, no long shorts, and no flip flops.

What’s the point in living then?

I attempt to take the professionalism up a notch today with a pair of closed-toe pointy black heels; backless – am I a partial badass or am I not? I feel that false sense of being “on” that an additional two inches can offer a petite thing such as me-self. My on-top-of-the-world feeling soon fades as my feet begin to hurt like hell and the onset of a blister is as certain as my tendency to eat jars of peanut butter in two sittings or less.

Every time I click “print” it’s like I’m slitting my own throat, having to then walk around the corner to retrieve the pain provoking documents from the printer. Then comes the real challenge – delivering something to a co-worker on another floor (stairs enter the equation). I stand up and my knees splay outward, resisting their role to support me on this mission of a check request submission. I feel like Hank Azaria’s character in the movie The Birdcage, Agador. Story of my life.

You can do this, Jackie. You can.

No, I can’t. Or it’s that I won’t.

Sojourner Truth’s voice rings in my head as I think, “And ain’t I a woman?”

Am I? I know I’m not a girl, but a full-fledged woman?? I feel like that entity is defined by features and experiences I can’t lay claim to yet: distinguishable cheekbones, not the rounded baby face I have; smile lines framing the mouth, not the smooth skin around mine; a few broken hearts to my one; and financially independent, not on the family cell phone plan (for this I am so grateful).

A woman can wear heels all day, from her front door to the metro, on the metro and off to work, all day in the office, and back home – maybe stopping at a happy hour on the way. I wear a most well-supported sandal (<3 Mephisto) to and from the office, work shoes resting in my yoga bag, and then only put those on when standing on carpeted terrain outside my cubicle. While in the cubicle, I’m barefoot.

Yeah, you heard me. Free as a bird.

I can’t even sit like a lady. I’m in half lotus all day. Screw that side-saddle nonsense. I can’t fight the urge to be comfortable, natural, mimicking the good old days in the womb. I even found myself sitting Indian style on a bar stool (I’ve got good balance) at this classy bar across the street from a music hall where Duke Ellington used to play. Duke would understand.

A woman can tolerate high-waisted dress pants - pleated, lined, and dare I say with cuffs. I sometimes have these moments on my lunch hour where I’m walking and suddenly feel like I’m a little kid trying on my mom’s clothes; the garments feel too big, even stolen from another person’s life.

It’s then that I want nothing more than to be out of these clothes, these collared button down shirts and dress pants that feel suffocating in their looseness and itchy despite being 100% cotton.

Yes, the person who doesn’t even wear a bikini wants to be naked right in the middle of Dupont Circle. I’m a hypocrite with the best of intentions.

Is it possible to get a restraining order against corporate America? If I can’t avoid it for all reasons pointing to rent, can corporate America please avoid me? It can just forget that I exist, leave me out of its will.

She can have these clothes back, this woman. She can have her pointy, high heeled shoes and her seat at the conference room table. She can look at me with cobwebs near the corners of her eyes and wrinkles around her mouth that concealer can’t help, thinking this kid in her early 20s needs to get a grip if she wants to “make it,” especially if she wants to be offered a credit card at Ann Taylor.

You know what, lady? I’m pulling out of this one. My feet won’t walk this pre-paved professional path with grooves for heels to rest in. I’ve got pedorthic sandals and a penchant for having my feet on the chair. I feel alive in a racerback tank top and capable of changing the world dressed in pajama pants.

“Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner (Jackie) ain't got nothing more to say.”

Friday, June 22, 2007

Yoga Speak - Jackie as Granola

"There is great strength in letting go to realize that our actual needs are few and that our journeys are many."

I considered it an opportune time to read over my Kripula Yoga and Health Center reservation details while waiting in line to check in at the Southwest Airways ticket counter. I then saw that my shuttle arrangements from Albany International (now flies to Canada) Airport to the yoga center was booked for June 15th. Date that I am standing in line – June 14th.

The syllables comprising “Ohhhh shit…” reverberated in my head, out of my mouth, and among the surrounding people in line. Yes, some yogis do use foul language. I’m working on it.

Following my cursing purge, I immediately phone Mom, in typical rectify-a-situation fashion.

Mom: Hello?
Granola: Mom?
Mom: What’s wrong?
Granola: [insert reservation snafu here]
Mom: Why didn’t you read over the confirmation earlier?
Granola’s thoughts: Excellent time to renege, Mom. Let’s dwell on what could have been.
Granola: Can you please turn on the computer and get me their number off the web site?

Mom pulls through.

Just after 8:00 am, I call Kripalu and use the “0” trick to get a real person before working hours. Damn I’m good.

“Hi this is Justin. Thanks for calling Kripalu.”
Granola: Hi Justin – this is Jackie (as if he should know who I am).
I convey the scheduling dilemma, and Justin says that he will get me on today’s shuttle, but the computers are down so can he have my number to call back when he’s secured the shuttle switch.

I haven’t even arrived and a nice sounding fellow is already asking for my number. Things are looking up.

Granola: My flight is at 9:30 am, so please try to call me before then.
(Have I become slightly bossy?)

Not a half hour goes by when my phone rings.
Granola: Hello?
Potential weekend beau: Hi Jackie, it’s Justin from Kripalu.
I try to ignore the “from Kripalu” in an attempt to separate business from pleasure.

Justin confirms that he’s secured a seat for me on today’s shuttle. I thank him and fight the urge to ask how I’ll know it’s him when I arrive.

I board the plane with a cluster of people also relegated to Boarding Group C. I spot an empty seat in the emergency exit row and all 5’2” of me feels justified to staking claim.

The stewardess reviews the exit row obligations and policies with me and other ample-leg-room seekers (all extremely tall men). We’re asked if we can execute the duties in the event of an emergency landing. I can hover in chaturanga just as long as the next yogi. I think we’re fine here.

My flight lands, and at the designated pick-up time, I find Bob holding a sign that reads “Kripalu.” He tells me I’m the only one, the car is outside, but he has to go to the bathroom (I prefer “loo”) first. The car is a black Cadillac with black leather interior. This is not very yoga, I think to myself. I was expecting a beat-up, vintage VW van, not the yoga celebrity treatment reserved for the likes of Shiva Rea or Rodney Yee.

Bob and I talked the entire ride, across the Massachusetts state line and despite my attempts to sleep. His girlfriend is a nurse, and sometimes she uses a computer at work.

We arrive, and Bob tells me that he’ll see me on Sunday. See and talk to me is more the truth.

I approach the check-in desk, state my name, and a guy named Jesse says that he’s the one who spoke to me on the phone. My hearing has really taken a nosedive. Jesse resembled a mountain man. I bet Justin would have been better looking.

Not to ruin the ending, but I loved everything about Kripalu except the yoga classes – story of my life.

I stay in dorm accommodations, open-door-no-room-key style, and luck out with a five person room, as many had 20-25 beds – a setup where women become snore patrol officers, so I hear.

After a delicious dinner in the cafeteria (where each morning breakfast is chewed in silence), I attend the orientation session for first-time Kripalu visitors. The forever student in me loves this feature, and feels like her youth is being handed back to her. (I turn 24 on August 9th and I am really not ok with that.) Imagine that I am the sole member of the audience - me and John T., head of Guest Services. John T. opts to not use his PowerPoint, thinking that a casual conversation is more in order. I get straight to the point, asking a slew of questions about the live here for free in exchange for work volunteer option, an alternative experience I’m still contemplating. Read: I’ve become incapable of making a decision these days.

Later that night, I visit the Jacuzzi for a nice start to my vacation – separate facilities for men and women. As I enter the Jacuzzi room, I notice that the only thing distinguishing me from the four other women a-whirl is a bathing suit. A tankini. Mine. Author’s note: they were naked.

Once a prude always a prude? I thought I had gotten over this. But really, how was I to have known?

Two nights later, I go to the Jacuzzi room clad in a white towel (to be hung on one of the towel bars just inside the door), after which I’d reveal that I too could play this game. I possess a strong take-a-look-at-me-now feeling as I turn around (towel free) to a whirlpool that is completely empty. When? When will it be easy?

My vacation days begin with early morning sub-par yoga, followed by breakfast (illegal amounts of granola consumed), then a 2-hour guided hike in the nearby mountains (with poles – handy props, kids). Afternoons include more mediocre yoga, reading, lying by a lake, eating the celebrated Kripalu chocolate chip cookies, an evening with sunset kayaking or a Thai-Shiatsu massage workshop.

Enter my soul, and please watch your step -
My inner hippie finds her forum to play – a platform that supports her desire to be clean, yet not immaculate; a place where clothes are functional and fashion is of no importance; a pace of existing that is indulgent but not the least bit wasteful.

I think my capacity to be a minimalist has a depth I’ve yet to explore, the deepness of which may even shock the sole explorer (moi). Just before coming to Kripalu, I was out to dinner and overheard two brides-to-be, around my age, discussing tablecloths, whether servers should wear gloves, and how they already despised their soon to be in-laws. I felt like another species, knowing that I don’t even want a wedding. A partner, yes. Pomp and circumstance, not at all.

I work among many a diamond toting woman – they shimmer and I shiver, thinking of the travels that could be had with the same money for a status symbol that perpetuates that game with the Jones’ family. I also feel wrong about the opportunity to marry when gay people can’t in most places. And this is why I think I need to be living off of berries in a developing country with Rod Stewart, trying to dig a well so people can have running water.
Ok, you can leave now. Thanks for stopping by.

I meet Bill on one of my hikes, an approaching senior citizen from Boca Raton. “Bill, I’m a Gator,” I reveal. Bill chuckles and so begins a dialogue about his imminent retirement, the urge to be done with a lifestyle of stress and deadlines, but the confusion of what to do next – feeling paralyzed by all of the options, wondering if he’ll be missing out on one thing if he chooses another, trying to maximize the gain and do a little bit of everything.

I nearly stop in my tracks; here’s a person almost three times my age and he’s just echoed my exact sentiments. So, it doesn’t end? As badly as I’ve been searching for which direction to head next, it’s becoming clear that the never ending research paper on your identity and purpose requires a consistent re-write, as having the final draft at 23 would likely make the next 23 less intriguing, and the 23 after that totally boring.

And I thought I came here in search of answers.