By Dana Gornall
I have a love affair with office supplies.
I’m not sure when it all began, really, but for quite a long time now I have felt my heart skip a beat every time I find myself in any store aisle containing Post-it notes, pens, file folders, color-coded tabs and oh, the day planners! I have had many day planners. Anyone would probably think I must be very organized to have such strong emotions regarding office supplies, but in fact, I seem to lean toward the more scattered, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of schedule. It’s not great. I often forget things, and while I have tried almost every system out there, the ending always seems to be the same.
I start out with great fervor and wind up ditching said system and moving onto relying on my not-so-reliable brain.
This thought occurred to me as I was clocking out at work one evening and saw a stack of Post-it note packs on the counter. Neatly fanned out in red, yellow, blue and purple, my eyes danced over them like candy and I found myself thinking, I could use some Post-it notes. I wasn’t sure what I would use them for. For writing things down, I suppose… and sticking them places.
Perhaps my craving for Post-it notes and day planners stems from some deep-seated desire to BE more organized. Perhaps somewhere in the recesses of my worn-out, scattered, ADHD mind, I somehow link all of these wonderful products to an end goal of some sort; if I have them, they will, in one way or the other, lead to a better, more put-together type of person.
After all, we all do this to some degree, right? We purchase cookbooks hoping that we will cook more. We buy a yoga mat with the intention of going to yoga. We buy the Fitbit because fit people own these and therefore, we will become more fit. The list goes on, and sometimes it works. Sometimes we buy that yoga mat and start going to yoga and it becomes a practice—a habit—so there must be something to it.
Which brings me to my ever-questioning, ever-prodding, search for some kind of spiritual path.
Sometimes when I am at work and things aren’t going well, I find frustration rise in my chest. I turn toward my computer to google books on mindfulness, books on how to deal with life, books on how to find a little zen when the day you are having is anything but zen. When I am scrolling through my news feed on social media, I pause at the storefronts selling mala beads. I want some mala beads, I think.
Just recently I hung some prayers flags in my kitchen, which is not a traditional place one would set up prayer flags, but it’s a place I am often in, brewing my morning coffee, packing a lunch or washing up the dinner dishes. And now here they are, strung from the top shelf above my kitchen sink.
The truth is, I don’t really use any of these things.
It’s not that I don’t read these books—I do. Well, I often start them. Many of my books are filled with bookmarks in various spots, each one tucked behind a page or chapter where I became distracted, lost interest and moved on to something else (ironic, much?). I don’t own any mala beads, but have some mala bead bracelets that are pretty. I don’t really use them to meditate. And the prayer flags, they’re cool, but what purpose do they really serve?
Am I just an imposter? Am I just a middle-aged white woman looking for spiritual tchotchkes to somehow throw off a vibe that I am this zenned-out, yoga-practicing, OMing, Buddha chick when my reality is nowhere near what I aim to be? Is this desire to be surrounded with all things zen the same as my giddiness around office supplies? If I build it, it will come?
I glance over at my rolled-up yoga mat in the corner of my bedroom, which hasn’t been unrolled in over two months. If I’m not really using any of these tools, what is the point in owning them?
The truth is, I really want to embody that mindful, zen-like persona. But at what point am I actually practicing—actually actively walking this path—and at what point am I just surrounding myself with pretty things and pretending?
Recently I downloaded a meditation app. It’s a pretty straightforward, simple app with a timer and a few guided talks. I’ve used it here and there, but not as regularly as I expected. Last night, crawling into bed and feeling the weight of the day sink into my skin, I thought about the app, my on-again-off-again practice that skips and breaks like an old 1980s British band album, and found myself sitting back up. Pulling the blanket over my shoulders I closed my eyes and tapped the meditation timer.
Just five minutes, I think, I can do this. That’s the nice thing about Buddhist philosophy and living in the present, we can always begin again.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak