DISPATCH FROM . . .

The Calm, Orderly Center of the Universe

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Our lives are divided into cultures and subcultures and circles: our families, our schools, our jobs, our churches, our pastimes. Today Page Three offers a dispatch from Staples, where the search for inner peace leads our author.

I started dating someone new whom I really liked. Which meant my normally calm, cheerful exterior dissolved and was immediately replaced by that of a nervous, twitchy person.

In between checking my cellphone every few minutes to make sure it really was on and double-clicking the "check mail" button, I was making my friends crazy with various what-if scenarios.

They suggested yoga and deep breathing exercises. For a split second I considered it. Until I had a vision of myself floating down the sidewalk carrying a blue yoga mat and a newly found trancelike state. From there it was a short dive into the organic chai beverages. By the time I started spending my evenings practicing with a local drumming circle, I would be well over my crush and probably entirely single.

Luckily, I found Zen at the Staples on Georgia Avenue.

Georgia Avenue, straddled by the twin Beltway overpasses, is not a place you anticipate finding peace. It is clearly built with the motorist in mind. There are a few last-chance gas stations, a carwash, and a 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts. But since I have made this clustered part of the metropolitan area my home, I also know there is a Staples unobtrusively tucked away behind the off-ramp of the inner loop, like a gingerbread house.

Somewhere between the aisle of loose-leaf paper and the aisle of three-ring binders, I find calm.

While I descended from a long line of neatniks, I myself am the lone outlier, living life in a perpetual swirl of disarray. My idea of organization usually involves a shoe box and a computer screen plastered with sticky notes. But when you're surrounded by stacks of calendars, filing cabinets and pencil holders, how can you not have some inkling of hope?

Unfortunately, boxes of permanent markers are not the most romantic thing you can bring to a new relationship.

When it ended, my friends suggested acupuncture.

But I already knew what I would be doing. I would be lacing up my running shoes and weaving my way down the clogged sidewalk, over the broken bottles and drifting, desolate Safeway bags, inhaling the fumes of Georgia Avenue and being careful not to get squashed by a semi bumping over the curb as it takes a sharp right off the exit ramp.

Everything would be okay again the minute I stepped through the automatic doors of Staples into the calm fluorescent lighting and rows of pencil sharpeners.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton


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