Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Routines

I had a little bit of a rough ending to my work day yesterday. There is a girl in my training class who was just diagnosed with cancer, and I've been telling her about alternative therapies she can do to help her through the chemo and make it easier on her. She sent me an email through our office email and asked me some questions about the things I recommended, and I took advantage of a free moment to email her back. Well my trainer, an older woman who is a little bit of a battle ax, caught me emailing and even when I explained to her that I was done and I was emailing this girl about therapies to help her, she scolded me like I was a little kid and made me close my email and said I wasn't allowed to open it again for the rest of class. So annoying. Then afterward she gave the whole class a lecture about how if we open our emails again when we're not supposed to she'll send us up to HR and get us in trouble, blah blah blah. I, of course, was not swayed. I disobeyed her, yes, but I did so in order to bring comfort to a fellow human being who is young, has no insurance, and is scared to death of the ordeal she is about to face. If given the chance I would do it again in a heartbeat. But nonetheless, it was still kind of taxing. Plus it's been cloudy and rainy all week and I haven't been taking my vitamins like I usually do so I've been feeling a little down anyway.

When I got home I made a snack and turned on the tv, and since I don't have cable at the house and only get about four channels, I ended up watching an episode of "Independent Lens" that was all about the creative giants of American advertising. Listening to them talk about rebelling against the safe bet and the status quo through their creative ideas really inspired me (maybe I'll try the advertising industry?) and I got really pumped thinking about how I'm not going to censor my own creative voice. So then I got all excited and started coming up with all these ideas, like storyline for a play that is beginning to take shape in the ooze of my mind, and a performance art piece I think would be really cool, etc.

Work ends at 10:00 at night, and by this time it was already nearing midnight, so I had to do something to calm down and get ready for sleep. So, seeing as I am now house sitting and have the whole place to myself, with no roommates to disturb, I ran a hot bath and soaked for over an hour while reading aloud from my "Teach Yourself Icelandic" book. It was fun, I kept laughing at the different phrases and thinking about how if I did have a roommate, what they would be thinking listening to that crazy girl in the bathroom laughing and saying things like, "What time are you going to meet Anna? I am going to meet Anna at eight thirty," and, "We are going to a concert on Wednesday with Erla and Björn," or "Reykjavík has many statues." I love reading that book, especially for the grammar exercises, which are unbelievably complicated. I've never lived in Iceland or learned the language formally, and I never even realized it had grammar until I started learning Spanish when I was about 11 years old. (In fact, back in the height of my Spanish studies in college I spoke much better Spanish than Icelandic.) So now when I go through this book, I get all of these moments of, "OHHHHH! Now I understand!" There are also plenty of moments of, "Oh my god, I've been saying that wrong for 28 years," which are equally fun and a little embarrassing.

So that ended up cheering me up plenty. There's nothing like soaking in hot water on a cold night and reading, writing, and embracing one's own special brand of weirdness.

This morning I had my usual breakfast, drank a cup of coffee with cream and a "whisper of cinnamon" as my sister and I like to say, and listened to music on my friend's ipod that he had to leave behind while he's out of town. He has some good music on there, and it's a nice way to start the day. Currently, I like to mix Kings of Leon, Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (which reminds me of San Francisco), and a couple of tunes from Paul Simon, during his world music and "Graceland" years (which reminds me of family road trips, listening to those songs with my dad and talking). Anyway, gotta go to work again. Hopefully I don't get punished for helping people again! ; )

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Can Do This!

I'm feeling much better! My mind isn't speeding around crazily (except when I have caffeine, which I've cut down on a lot) and I'm feeling more stable. I got a long list of instructions from Patricia, most of which I try to follow, but some I haven't gotten around to yet. She also taught me a form of meditation where I'm supposed to repeat a special mantra she and her meditation teacher gave me (in a sweet little ceremony) silently in my mind for twenty minutes, twice a day. I haven't had time to do it twice a day yet, but I think after this weekend things may slow down enough where I'll at least have time to do it once a day. It helps you release stress and makes your mind able to focus a lot better. Honest to goodness, it works. If anyone is interested in learning this method, contact me, and I'll put you in touch with Patricia.

I started a new job last week, working at a call center for a popular credit card company. I often find myself trying to keep from laughing thinking about it, but I've had so many different kinds of jobs over the years that little surprises me anymore (ask me how I know how to clean an entire bathroom in under ten minutes, or how to make two lattes, one cappuccino, and hot chai all at the same time). But this new job includes three weeks of training on credit, which has led me to look at my finances and say, "Oh shit." So now I understand why this happened. The Universe took me by the hand, sat me down in a chair in a basement classroom in Idaho, and said, "Here Inga. We're paying you by the hour. Now it's time for you to learn how to handle money responsibly." So if I wondered why I was sent to this place for the winter before I get to move to Iceland, it's so I can pay down my credit card and my final remaining student loan. Lots of fun. But at least I'll have a fresh start.

The other people I work with are mostly kids ages 18-22. On our first day my teacher could not pronounce my name (first or last) and a guy asked loudly from across the room, "Were you born in America? Or... somewhere else?" I told people to just call me Inga, or Kelly if that was easier for them, and now the running joke is that my name is Kelly. Despite that I have to say, they're actually a really friendly bunch. It reminded me that I should try harder not to judge people without getting to know their situation first, I guess. My favorite thing about the kids at work is that they all thought I was the same age as them, haha. One of the guys who's 20 has a friend who already works at the company, and a bunch of us were sitting around together on break and he said to his friend about me, "How old do you think she is?" and the guy guessed something ridiculously young. I promised to write them both into my will, whenever I get anything worth leaving to anyone. But don't worry, they balance out their compliments by calling me things like "old lady" and "grandma," and joking about how much sleep I must need since I'm "old".  I try to tell them that there is life after 25, but so far none of them seem convinced.

Idaho continues to surprise me with the new depths of boredom I can achieve. No, really, it's not that bad. (Yes it is.) The only problem is that I'm not one of those people who experiences boredom as an opportunity to get all kinds of things done, like taking up golf or macrame or balancing my checkbook or starting a cake decorating business. I'm one of those people who gets bored and turns into a puddle of ooze on their bed, reading poetry and thinking about all those wonderful fun times they had when they weren't bored, and wouldn't it be nice to frolic around in a big pile of leaves, if only there were anyone around who felt like doing that, etc. I know, I disgust even myself. A big part of the reason is that I'm living in just a little bedroom, and really the only place to sit is on my bed because I have clothes and books piled up on the only chair. And it's almost impossible to sit on a bed, you really have to kind of spread out and lounge, and then oh no look what happened, I slipped and fell under my blanket. And then I rolled over and my face landed on this book of poetry, and it opened to a page I really love, so now all I have to do is turn my head a little more to read it, and... the cycle begins again.

But starting this weekend there will be no more excuses! I'll have a brand new shiny paycheck and I'll be moving into my friend Jeff's house because he's leaving for the East Coast until the end of January. So I'll be able to get out of bed in the morning and, you know, leave my bedroom. And I'll have a kitchen again! I'll be able to cook actual food! I'm going to celebrate by making eggs for breakfast every day for a week. And I'll have the space to do yoga and work out at home, and my wonderful stallion of a car will be kept in a garage for the first time in eight years! (I love my car. I sing songs to it about how wonderful it is. We have the special bond that comes from driving across states with names like "Kansas" together.)

Anyhoo. That's about all that's going on. My dad is planning to visit me in November, and if you know me in real life, you should come visit me too! We can do... lots of things... I swear. No actually, we could. There are lots of hikes and outdoorsy things to do. And they do have liquor stores here. I would go hiking more by myself, but this is America and I grew up watching shows like "Unsolved Mysteries" and seeing movies like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," so I'm terrified that if I go by myself there will be nine serial killers and a rabid mountain lion in the woods waiting to rip me to shreds. Or something. But if I bring a friend and a can of pepper spray we'll be ok! Honest!

Oh, I almost forgot! Saturday I finally sent my essay application for this fellowship in Iceland I'm hoping to get. It took forever, I ended up writing seven drafts, still editing and revising it right up to one hour before the last pick-up time at a tiny little post office in a town close to here. It felt like giving birth to myself in essay form (minus the blood). The post office I went to had their final Saturday pick up at 4:30, and I had it paid for and ready to go by 4:22 or so. That particular post office is inside a store that sells Christian children's books and school supplies. There was an old man working there who looked so feeble, but still had dark hair all combed back with pomade, and a deep and sonorous voice. He sounded a lot like Garrison Keillor from "The Prairie Home Companion" when he talked. I told him I needed to send an envelope to Iceland, and explained that I was a little nervous because I was applying for a fellowship there. He asked me if I like reading the Sagas, and I said of course, and he said that he did too. It turns out he's of Swedish ancestry, and he wished me luck and said that he hopes I get it. So okay, I'm officially apologizing to the Swedish Americans of the world for all the sh*t talking I do about Swedes. There, I said it. So anyway, I really appreciated his kind words, and I would also appreciate any spare good vibes you might have lying around, if you feel like sending them toward me getting that fellowship. Inga in Iceland 2011! Tell you what, if I get it, I'll write much better blogs about trying to live on my own with the vocabulary of a two year old and delicious pastries. Plus, Iceland is a much cooler place to visit! (No pun intended.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"May I Look At Your Tongue?": The Hippy Healer

The time had come to find a proper hippy healer in this town. Whether that means that the person is a hippy who heals people or a person who heals hippies, I didn't really care. What mattered was that I had experienced a lot of pain in my "mysterious lady parts" during that "mysterious lady time of the month" and it was not normal. You've got to pay attention to signs, and to me this was a sign that I had let myself get way too far out of balance over the last month. So I called a local Ayurveda healer (Ayurveda is a form of medicine originally from India that encompasses mind-body-spirit wellness by keeping you in balance) that I had been planning on seeing for the last couple of months, but had to keep re-scheduling for financial reasons. I explained to her what had happened (I had such horrible cramps I couldn't get up off the floor). She said, "The time is now," and that we'd worry about how I would pay later.

I trust natural healers for most things more than I trust the white-coat regular doctors. Mostly because I've sat in rooms with people who were at one time very ill and were sent home to die by regular doctors, only to be healed by methods that those same doctors told them would never work. Also... I used to live in Oklahoma, and at one point while I was living there my skin was acting up, so I went to a dermatologist who gave me antibiotics to try to clear it up. One day I was running late for a hair appointment, and I didn't have time to eat enough food with the pill, so I just swallowed it with a little water while I was driving. Mistake. As I drove down the highway I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to throw up. Luckily, I was driving past a lake and barely had time to pull off the road and park the car next to it before I lost it. I grabbed the first thing I could find on the seat next to me, a newspaper, and vomited the pill onto the newspaper. I looked down at the little white pill, nestled in a pool of vomit, then looked up and out the window of my car. There, in a sage-colored pick-up truck next to me, sat an older Native American man, who had seen me throw up. He looked me in the eye, and I found myself whispering, "The white man's medicine is gettin' me down." I stopped taking the pills, and have sought natural remedies for most ailments since then.

Anyway.

I drove up to the house where the healer works, she also teaches yoga there, it looks like a normal two-story house in a cute little neighborhood, with lots of tall trees around. I got out of the car and saw a whole group of turkeys standing around in the driveway. (I later found out that turkeys are "good medicine" and symbolize peace and well-being.)

In fact she was teaching yoga when I arrived and had left some forms for me to fill out on a little purple bench, with a note saying if I wanted to I could fill them out in her office. But all the doors were closed except for the door to the bathroom and the door to the yoga room. So I slipped off my shoes to enter the yoga room, and saw that just outside the door was this picture:


You've got to pay attention to the signs. I felt good about being there, like I was in the right place. So I sat on the floor if the purple-walled yoga room, filled out the forms, impatiently writing sms messages to friends and on facebook because I'm currently unbalanced and hyper. I was looking at the pictures of Ganesha and Kali hanging on the wall in front of me, recalling what I had learned about their images in an Indian Art class I took back in college, when the healer (also known as Patricia) walked in.

Sometimes you meet people and you kind of recognize them as a member of your "soul tribe" right away? You see them and you have this, "Oh, it's you! Where have you been?" feeling instead of a "Nice to meet you," feeling? This was one of those moments. She and I had talked on the phone several times before and knew we were on the same page. I stood up and was ready to shake her hand, but she opened her arms for a hug and greeted me like she hadn't seen me for years. I happen to love when that happens, and I hugged her back and we went into her office.

It's funny, she starts sizing you up right away and analyzing you based on different features, figuring out which combination of the three "doshas" or categories, you fit into, and how much of each. They figure out your individual map of health. She looks at your hair ("You have Pitta hair") and your eyes ("Well you know you have Kapha eyes, don't you?"), your skin ("You're pale like a Vata"). And then she takes your pulse, she takes your pulse in your wrist for a long time. She closes her eyes and feels the light pulse, then the deep pulse, then she feels what features your pulse has. Quite a while is spent on your pulse, and she tells you what she feels there, like "You have a lot of life force in you." Then she says, "May I look at your tongue?" And you stick your tongue waaaay out and she draws a picture of it and talks about what she sees. Then she asks you about your sleep, your eating habits, your poo, your pee, your mental health, what's been going on in your life for the last few years, where you're headed now, all kinds of things.

We chatted for a long time, we laughed. It turns out I'm tri-doshic, which means I'm almost equal parts of all three categories, and so I have to work really hard to stay balanced. This was not a surprise to me. But the thing that's got me all out of balance is the Vata dosha in me. "Vata is like a wind that blows and tries to dry you out. It blows a lot more when you're moving or traveling a lot. This fans the flames of fiery Pitta, which is why you feel hot and get hungry so quickly and keep waking up in the middle of the night. Then Kapha tries to help, but it makes you tired and creates mucus in the back of your throat. And the wind of Vata is what's creating the pain, and anxiety, which then gets Pitta depressed..." etc. etc. So she figured out that if I get the Vata under control it will bring the rest of me in balance. She's going to study the information I gave her and then send me suggestions for things I can do, and then make me a special herbal tea to drink too.

We also got around to talking about astrology, and so she made me a Vedic astrology chart, which is the ancient Indian form of astrology. It proved her theory that I'm tri-doshic. It also showed that in Vedic astrology I'm a Leo instead of a Virgo, and my rising sign is Libra instead of Cancer, but my moon sign is still as fishy as ever, Pisces. Anyway, it was interesting. Apparently in this lifetime I'm heading away from "individual effort" (thank god) and heading toward "fame and fortune, and faith, spirituality, evolution". So it's nice to know that one day I will no longer be a dirt-poor nobody. ;) She's going to help me get all nice and balanced now so that when I move back up to the little island where I was born, I'll be able to do so without losing my grip. I should tell her how windy Iceland is, to make sure she gets me extra stable.

So anyway, that was my first experience with this particular hippy healer. She was so nice, we like each other, and I was able to make her laugh and stuff, she's happy to be helping me and I'm happy to be helped! Until I get her list of recommendations, I'm supposed to rest and eat "warm, moist foods." As they say in Iceland, "Vúhú!" Those are doctor's orders I am happy to follow! I'm always hungry. My inner furnace burns my food up fast. In fact, I'm hungry now. Time to eat!

I recommend a good Ayurveda practitioner to anyone who's feeling out of balance! Don't be shy, stick out your tongue, then tell them all about your poo. It's fun! I'll keep updating how it goes with the remedies.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I'm really bad at faking it. In fact, I make it a general rule in life not to fake things. Unless I'm acting onstage or telling a story or something, I'm usually (painfully) straightforward about how I feel about any given situation. I'm also compelled to share these straightforward feelings often and with gusto. Just ask the poor bastards who have had to read my facebook statuses that are basically non-stop complaints about how bored and miserable I've been over the last week or so. (Sorry guys, it turns out it was mostly pms.)

But at work I'm forced to fake it. Practically at gunpoint. Example. Yesterday I was at work in the Men's Department, which I absolutely despise. I don't mind the men who shop there, it's just incredibly dull. It's so boring I actually get a little crazy from it. I sneak into the bathroom with my cell phone and start desperately texting my cousin in Iceland (via Facebook mobile), who is almost always, without a doubt, doing something much more fun at the time and is more than happy to tell me all about it in great detail, which I read in a hungry frenzy of masochism and then wash my hands, sigh, and throw the door open back into the world of retail. Or I text friends who are in other parts of the U.S., who are also at work and have little time to console me about my choice to work in retail.

Anyway, so I walk up to this man and he asks me if we have a certain pair of jeans in his size. I cheerily offer to look it up in the computer, and according to the computer, it says we have two more pairs somewhere in the store. I go over to the big pile of jeans and dig through them, sure that somehow the fact that I am wearing a name tag will give me the Divine Gift of Finding Objects In Piles better than the average shopper. Shockingly, I did not find the two mystery pairs of jeans in the pile. Not to worry. With a reassuring nod, I told him, "I'll go check in the back." This is the part where I confidently stride to "the back," through the room of shoe boxes, through one door, into a little hallway, through another door...

But as I walked into the shoe room, I realized that I had no idea which "back room" has all the jeans. Do we even have a room of jeans? Is this even "the back"? I was heading toward the storage room which also has the solo bathroom where I do all my most desperate work-texting. Would there be jeans there? My legs kept walking, they seemed really sure of where they were going, so I decided to just trust them and assume they would know where to find jeans.

We entered the back room, my legs and I, and wow! They really did know what they were doing! Look at all these jeans! I never noticed that the path to the secret bathroom was lined with jeans of all shapes and sizes, like a forest of blue denim. What luck! But wow, so many jeans. Most of them looked like they were a different brand than the ones the guy was looking for. I flipped through one or two pairs, then looked over the Jeans Forest once more, and decided... Screw this noise. I emerged from the mystical Denim Wood, through one door, over the little hallway, through the other door, through Shoe Box Canyon, and back out into the store. There was the guy.

Once again I relied on the magical powers bestowed unto me by my Name Tag. "How did those fit?"
"Yeah, they're too big, I'm going to need the other size."
*Knowing nod* "Ah yes, well you know, we don't have any more in the back, not sure why the computer says we do, but we have a ton of [name brand] jeans in the Juniors department. Do you know where that is?" Reassuring nod and smile, man leaves my department to go look elsewhere for jeans, deep breath, and... End of problem. I think after that I spent a few minutes arranging the ties on the Tie Table. (It's like a rainbow of cloth. I. LOVE. The tie table. It's the only thing I enjoy about working in the men's department, besides being close to the Secret Bathroom.)

Old Ladies and Their Underwear
My favorite department to work in is the underwear department. Not just because it's underwear, and pajamas, but because I like the other women who work there, it's relaxed, the people who shop there usually need your help so they're not rude, and I like trying to convince old ladies to buy leopard print giant panties. They're always like, "Oh! No, I don't want anything that wild." And I'm thinking to myself, "Ma'am, these underpants are the size of Greek fishing nets, just getting one with a little leopard print on it doesn't really make them wild." But I usually tell them something like, "Oh come on, why not make it a little surprise?" Every once in a while there's one who will giggle and buy them, which is too cute for words. That's right, I am a warrior for old women spicing up their underwear collection. You're welcome, Planet Earth.

The Guys at the Pretzel Place.

Nothing helps you feel better in the middle of a crappy day at work then a big cup of soft pretzel bits dipped in cheese and washed down with a coke. Mmmm...salty, buttery carbs. Mmmm...cheese. Mmmm...coke. The pretzel place really close to the store, so we all go there at least once a week to ease our troubles with a mini food coma. I usually talk on the phone to my mom when I go on these little pretzel adventures, because I can speak in "code" (Icelandic) and no one will understand anything I'm saying, so I can express myself freely. Well the other day I wasn't on the phone at the pretzel place, and the skinny teenage boys who work there started asking me questions.
"Do you work at the mall?"
"Yeah, I work at [store]. Here's my name tag."
"Oh right, ok then you get a mall employee discount."
"Sweet."
"Your name is Inga?"
"Yeah."
"Are you... from... somewhere... else?"
"Yes. I am from somewhere else."
"Yeah, I thought so, cuz usually when you come here you're talking on the phone, and you're speaking some... other... language."
"Yeah, I'm spying on you guys. I'm with the Taliban."
"Hahahaha--- Are you really spying on us?"
"No."
"Are you really with the Taliban."
"Yeah, I'm in the Icelandic branch of the Taliban."
-blank stare-
"I'm kidding. Give me my pretzels."
"Have a nice day."
"You too. I'm watching  you."

Once Again, Corporate Ruins Everything
So at work they have this system for training you how to provide the best customer service. It's basically common sense, chat with the customers and get them comfortable with you, help them find what they need, help them find things they don't need, tell them they did a great job letting you help them pick out that one thing they needed and all those other things they didn't need, and then take their money and tell them to have a super delicious day. Or something like that.

But management is taking this common sense selling method to a whole new level of annoying. They obsess over how we're going to "connect" with the customers. They don't seem to want to face the fact no one in their right mind wants to be followed around by a sales person who won't stop trying to chat with them. I understand they want us to do more than just say, "Hi, can I help you find anything?" but they're getting ridiculous. The managers hunt you down (pretending to fold something doesn't keep them away) and force you to role-play with them. They pretend they're the customer and, right there in the middle of the store, you have to pretend you're helping them and come up with things to say. It's awful. They tell you to talk to these strangers like they're your best friend, ignore the fact that the customers get a frightened look on their face when you do this, and JUST. KEEP. TALKING TO THEM. Apparently if we talk to them, they'll buy more things. They don't listen to reason, that if you bother people too much they'll probably just leave the store and vow never to shop there again. They just believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you're not making enough sales it's because you're not talking to the customers enough.

Sigh.

However, this is where I employ the trick I use most at work: The airhead trick. All you do is get this empty look in your eyes, smile a little bit when they're talking to you, and nod, and then agree with everything they say, in a softer voice than you usually use. Works every time. Then they think it's not that you're defiant, you're just a little dumb, and they just need to remind you of what to do, and you're always grateful for their extra help.

Send help.