“Bring on the cash!” (and the kale)

Yesterday, based on an experience at my Friday evening dance, I got aroused around mindfulness – especially as applied to cashiering.  Having been off on my cash once last week, my rallying cry became, “When the cash comes out, the chatter stops – focus on the money!”)  I put my “Cash only” mindfulness sign right in my cash drawer, where I would see it every time I dealt with cash.  (This did not guarantee that I would always pay attention to it.  Like all the mindfulness props I use, it would eventually go into background.)

Show me the money! Nothing gets past me!

Show me the money! Nothing gets past me!

I had thought that mindfulness of the groceries would for now take a back seat to mindfulness of the money, but I quickly found that they worked well together – that paying attention to the groceries helped me to pay attention to the cash.  And I was carrying a real sorrow about how relatively mindless I had been at the dance the previous evening.  I couldn’t shake the memory of the last piece of music – haunting bells and chimes – which pretty much flaked everybody else out and which I really didn’t hear because I was composing yesterday’s blog post.  Today I was hungry to be in the present moment.

I discovered several things about the groceries:

  • Produce was the best fodder for mindfulness practice. The color, the texture, the different weights.  It’s alive!  The source of life.  Great.
  • The dill today seemed an unusually dark green.
  • If you look close enough, flat parsley (Italian parsley) really is clearly distinguishable from cilantro – and it’s prettier.
  • Grapes are great.  All those little bumps.  Fascinating – and so satisfying to run my hands over.  I hoped this lady didn’t notice or mind me lightly resting my hand on her bag of grapes.
  • I adore our “Holiday” grapes – boy are they succulent!  I made a strategic choice that I could get away with asking this young woman, “Could you please take out one of your grapes and give it to me?” Then I popped it in my mouth and said, “Man that’s great!”  She adored it, but that will never go in any manual of good cashier techniques.
In the right state of mindfulness, grapes are a gas to touch.  Holiday grapes - which look pretty much like these, only fatter - can be orgasmic to eat, worth the risk of the customer saying that they actually don't want to give you one.

In the right state of mindfulness, grapes are a gas to touch. Holiday grapes – which look pretty much like these, only fatter – can be orgasmic to eat, worth the risk of the customer saying that they actually don’t want to give you one.

  • Cans are also pretty cool – the hardness, the heft.  Satisfying to handle.

All in all, a great shift – facilitated by the fact that I have shifted from depression to a little bit of mania.  Now the issue is to keep my feet on the ground – and mindfulness is the perfect tool.

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“Shut up and dance!”

Last night it looked like, after twelve days depressed, my depression was shifting.  This morning I was right back in the crapper, but this afternoon my mood was rising – and I decided to risk it and go to my Friday night ecstatic dance.  When I’m up, I adore this free-form improvisational dancing; when I’m depressed I hate it.

I had a good time during the warm-up and it was clear that I was going to have a good dance.  After the opening circle, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a blog post about dancing?  I’ve been writing about cashiering and about bipolar disorder – let’s write about a fun topic, dancing.”

And a voice in me screamed “No!! Don’t spend the next hour on the dance floor thinking about what you’re going to write about it!  Just shut up and dance!!”

Nothing I do on the dance floor looks like this, but on a good night some of what I do is exciting to watch - especially when I can turn my mind off and just dance.

Nothing I do on the dance floor looks like this, but on a good night some of what I do is exciting to watch – especially when I can turn my mind off and just dance.

And I had some luck doing that. (I really am very mental.)  One set of thoughts that came right away and I felt fine about went, “How shall I apply this mindfulness/not thinking principle to the cashier dance floor?” The answer was clear and immediate.  One day last week I was off on my cash at the end of the day.  This is not good for a cashier.  A previous time when I was off, in a different grocery store, my boss gave me some very sage advice: “You’re good with the customers – you have great conversations with them.  But when the money comes out the chatter has to stop – only focus on the money.  Then you can finish your conversation when your money is straight.”  I may have to apologize to a customer for interrupting our conversation – “Give me a second to take care of this money, then we can finish talking.” They’ll understand – they want you to get their money right.  I will put a sign on my cash register saying “Cash only” to remind myself of my intent.

Cashiering groceries begs for mindfulness practice: stilling the mind by focusing only on the colors, the texture, the weight.  It's food!  The source of life.  And still I forget.  For right now,  I'll pay attention to the food the best I can, but focus especially on mindfulness of the money.

Cashiering groceries begs for mindfulness practice: stilling the mind by focusing only on the colors, the texture, the weight. It’s food! The source of life. And still I forget. For right now, I’ll pay attention to the food the best I can, but focus especially on mindfulness of the money.

You may need to come up with a different mindfulness break for your job, but I bet you can.

One other little glimpse of the dance floor, from my dance with sweet Mary.  How differently can you dance from each other and still be dancing together?  On the dance floor and in my relationships, I want some times when you are moving sensuously in rhythm, effortlessly mirroring each other’s movements – like Darlene and I did tonight – and other times when we go way out into our unique, quirky self-expression, yet still know that in some intuitive way we are creating something together.

Buddy can you spare a dime?

On Thanksgiving I was talking with my friend Nancy, who works at Manna Food Bank, about our drive at work to raise money for them.  We have a Manna display in front of each cash register and ask customers if they wish to donate.  Some of us do it better than others.  I do it well sometimes, not so well other times.

It was great to get Nancy, who is so close to the action, talking about where the money goes.  She was talking about “food insecurity”.  The vast majority of people helped by Manna are not street people – they are working poor who at certain times in the month don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  They may have to choose between food and paying a utility bill.

We had a pretty fabulous spread at Thanksgiving - wonderful food, beautifully prepared, abundant.

We had a pretty fabulous spread at Thanksgiving – wonderful food, beautifully prepared, abundant.

My plate - I ate well, and I had been to another feast a few hours earlier.

My plate – I ate well, and I had been to another feast a few hours earlier.

I liked getting a better picture of the issue because I am not all that great at asking for money.  When I am “pumped up” (manic), I’m pretty good at it.  I don’t take it personal when people say “No” – it just feels good to ask, to feel like I’m doing my part for the cause.  When I’m depressed, the “No”s feel punishing – they grind me down.  I just don’t have the energy to ask.

My friend Feather who I worked with at another store said of these kinds of drives, “You’ve got to not care whether they give or not.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in that – and it has helped me hang in there.  But now I think I’m taking it a step farther.

When I am asked to give money – at a cash register, on the phone, or on the street – sometimes I give and sometimes I don’t.  I don’t always know why.  I’m fortunate enough that usually there is at least a little bit of money in my checking account at the end of the month – I usually could give a buck or a few bucks.  It’s not as simple as mania and depression – they don’t directly correlate to giving or not giving.  I just know that sometimes it feels right to say “Yes” and other times the only authentic answer i can come up with is “No”.

Sometimes to come up with an authentic "yes" or an authentic "no" is a victory in itself.

Sometimes to come up with an authentic “yes” or an authentic “no” is a victory in itself.

If sometimes my genuine (healthy?) answer is “No” – and I don’t know why and can’t predict when – then who am I to know what is right for the person on the other side of the cash register?  This may be a moment where saying “No” is a truly life-affirming thing for them.

So now when I pump myself up to ask for money for Manna Food Bank, I coach myself with three points:

  1. Don’t profile them. That skinny little girl who you assumed had no money gave $5.  The gruff guy who you assumed would bark at you gave $2.
  2. Give them a chance to give.  Giving feels good.  If you don’t ask, you are depriving them of a chance to feel good.
  3. Get over the idea that you know what’s right for them to do.  It’s deeper than “don’t care”.  Go ahead and care about them – and want them to do what’s right for them to do.  And you don’t know what that is.

For me, the deepest reason for asking is that it gives me the chance to practice humility, to practice not knowing, to practice letting go.  There is no deeper life lesson.  I don’t want to miss a chance to practice that.