I had an epiphany recently in the food court at the mall, which is obviously the first place one thinks of when contemplating spiritual enlightenment.

Lamb Curry by Seph Swain

I had been shopping hopelessly for last minute New Year’s gifts (it’s a thing my family does with our circle of friends) and was therefore tired, hungry, and footsore. I was also sweaty from incipient hypoglycemia. The fluorescent lights, perfumed air, and festive decorations were killing my soul. I thought hateful thoughts about the crowds of post-holiday deal seekers who swarmed the elegant, upscale boutiques, and when a kiosk worker asked if he could demonstrate his ceramic hair straightener thingy on me, I lifted a shopping bag like a priest swinging a thurible of incense in order to ward him off. The power of Macy’s compels you! Begone!

All I wanted was to sit down somewhere and eat something greasy and terrible, but I’d forgotten that the food court had recently undergone a trendy transformation. No more sticky-sweet, sugar-drenched Cinnabons. No deep-fried Hot Dog On A Stick. Instead, there were moodily lit wine kiosks and juice bars. Vendors offered sushi, salads, and an array of ethnic cuisines. A few minutes later, I was at a table busily hoovering a plate of spectacular lamb curry with rice and cucumber raita. God bless Silicon Valley, man, I thought. The meat was tender and delicately spiced, and the raita had a lovely zip that lifted my spirits right up. I drank water. It tasted like a restorative elixir.

Two round-faced toddler boys stood on tiptoes to peer over the side of their booth at me. They babbled politely in Korean. I noted that both of them were better dressed than I was, in tiny DKNY sweaters and designer jeans. Their mother had perfect glossy hair and red lipstick. She was thin and very cheerful. Ordinarily, I would have despised her. I might have assumed awful things about her personal character. I hate to admit it, but when I see mothers who are astoundingly unfrazzled, it comforts me to think it is because they are neglectful. Not like us devoted, ponytailed moms with bags under our eyes and oatmeal on our pants. However, I was no longer empty and irritated. I was full of goodness and light and grass-fed lamb.

I watched this beautiful young mother bending gracefully over her young. She looked like a Willow Tree Angel figurine – the Angel of Maternal Love. And I was so happy. When you are full and properly nourished, I realized, you become deeply compassionate. When you give yourself what you need, you stop feeling oppressed by the noise and crowds. You stop resenting other people for their fashionable clothes and immaculate grooming. I decided that the secret to shopping (and life) is short, frequent breaks.

3 Things That Were Good:

  1. Small, quiet holidays. We stayed home and did as little as possible, and it was glorious.
  2. My son’s birthday. He was a Christmas Eve baby, which meant I got to have steak and lobster in the hospital that night, and when we left, he was given a tiny, knitted red Santa hat. Now, he is a junior in high school and I am both proud and panicky when I see how grown he is. He hugged me for an extra long time after dinner and whispered, “One and a half more years, Mommy.” My heart shattered into a thousand tender pieces, because he was a bald little guy in a Santa Hat, like, yesterday.
  3. I introduced my husband and son to the Serial podcast, which I listened to obsessively when it was airing. They mainlined all 12 episodes over a period of 3 days. Late at night, after my daughter was asleep, we would sit on the couch and listen, the way I imagine my parents sat around the radio with their parents when they were young, crowding close to hear their favorite shows. After the final episode, we stayed up until 2 o’clock in the morning, eating cereal and discussing our theories.

2 Things I Did Well:

  1. I got through 646 unread emails and organized my inbox. I can’t explain to you the feeling of triumph and accomplishment. I know victory is fleeting, but for one brief, shining moment, my shit was together, people.
  2. I balanced out the consumption of a zillion peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets (if you’re thinking of buying these, I should warn you that they are highly addictive and possibly laced with crack) with daily sunset walks. In the evenings, I love walking past all the houses, breathing in puffs of laundry-scented steam and the smell of dinner cooking. I like the messy yards full of leaves and dandelions, and I like the neatly kept lawns with raised flowerbeds and gravel walkways. I like seeing the orange and purple sky through the bare, twiggy branches of the trees.

Evening Walk

1 Thing I Am Looking Forward To:

I’m working on a very special Sweatpants & Coffee project. It has to do with comfort and fullness and all the good stuff we like to talk about here. More later.

What is your Joyful Meditation this week?

Photo credit: Creative Commons License “Lamb Curry” by Seph Swain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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