Rita stood at the check out stand with her cart full of groceries. She felt the ache in her shoulders, the tightness in her lower back snd the throb in her feet. As she patiently stood there waiting for her turn, she reflected on the long day at work. She felt fortunate, in that she did not hate her job, however, she definitely did not love her work. Like most people she knew, it paid the bills and kept her health insurance affordable. As she adjusted her weight to shuffle back and forth between feet, she glanced up at the magazines lining the rack near the conveyor belt which awaited her food items.
Reading the headlines, she chuckled quietly to herself, it was always the same, so and so ended their relationship, cheated on their partner or got married, 7 ways to achieve the perfect abs, 21 days to lose the unwanted pounds, blah..blah…blah…. “Sensationalism at its best,” she thought. They all marketed to the change people hoped for or gifted people with escapism by getting wrapped up in a celebrities personal life. Rarely did Rita pull one of the magazines off the shelf, for she knew it was a waste of money and none of the silly stories truly intrigued her. Sometimes the travel magazine, or People’s magazine would catch her eye.
Only two more people in front of her, she was joyfully almost there. Soon she would be heading home to make dinner for herself and two teenagers. It had been ten years since her divorce, the weeks the kids were with her it was busy, yet she loved it, for she knew that in a few short years she would be experiencing what people called, “empty nest syndrome”. Thus, she embraced all the time she could get with them, even though at their ages spending time with their peers was way more important than mom and dad.
Interrupting her thoughts she looked back up at the magazines, casually glancing across the bold words on the covers. Just as she was about to look away, a headline caught her eye, she did not recall seeing it before – “Are You Content? Why Not?”. The question hit her, what was her true answer? “I don’t know,” she thought. Curious she picked up the magazine. Opening the front cover with the intention to find the contents page, so she could go directly to the article which had intrigued her, she was shocked as the page before her blurred. It was like a fog slid across the page, wiping it clean. Before her eyes big bold words wrote themselves across the top of the blank page – “Are you happy?”
She gasped in reaction, calling the attention of the people near her. Quickly she pretended to cough, smiling politely at the glances, flipping the pages of the magazine, so as to look normal. As soon as everyone went back to what they were doing, she opened the front cover again. Just like before the page washed out and the bold words –
“Are you happy?” appeared again.
“Not really” she responded quietly in her head.
“Why not?” typed itself across the next line.
Rita almost dropped the magazine, again all eyes looked her way. Closing the magazine and smiling she moved ahead as the front person completed their transaction.
Appearing “normal”, Rita looked at the front cover of the magazine, now stunned by the title which was completely different – “The BEingness Project, Your Personal Journey Home…”. What was happening?! Transfixed she stared at the cover, almost afraid to open it again. Looking around she searched for a hidden camera or someone watching her, was this a joke? Was a YouTube celebrity filming unsuspecting people? How could anyone make words appear and disappear like she was experiencing? It was almost her turn with the cashier, quickly she opened the cover again. The last question stared at her from the blank page –
“I’m not sure why. I guess there are lots of reasons why” she replied.
“Are they truly the cause for your unhappiness” appeared instantaneously underneath the last question.
“How are you today”, queried the cashier, breaking into Rita’s suspended disbelief. Jolted out of her shock, she shut the magazine quickly, responded kindly to the cashier and finished putting her groceries on the conveyor belt. Trying hard to act normal, she placed the magazine as the last item she would purchase that day. She made sure it was upside down, the title hidden from the person behind her. Oddly enough the back of the magazine was completely blank, except for the light blue color which seemed to gently wash the page. She could not find the price for the magazine on the front or back cover. The cashier picked up the magazine, sliding it across the automatic scanner, a normal beep rang out, then “free publication” lit up the cashiers scanned item screen. The cashier who was just going through the motions of her job did not even hesitate about the magazine being free, she placed it in the bag and turned to Rita to finish the payment process. Rita found herself grateful for once that the cashier and the people around her were in their “self-absorbed detached robotic go through the motions of life” space.
Rita thanked the cashier and quickly walked her cart out to the car. She couldn’t wait to load the car, so she could pull the magazine out to verify she was not crazy. Glancing at the cover again, she was comforted to see the same title ““The BEingness Project, Your Personal Journey Home…” Flipping the page she secured the truth of this experience by rereading the three questions already asked, recalling her inner two replies. Looking at the last question –
“Are they truly the cause for your unhappiness”, she responded out loud this time.
“Well, yes, for if I had more money I could have more freedom. I could start exploring what I really enjoy, have time to start dating, do more for my children, travel, pay off bills, maybe even buy a house that we really like. Then I would be happy.”
“So, you need money to be happy” lit up the page as the fourth question.
“Well, not just money, I need more time too” she stated quickly.
“So, if you had more money and more time, you would be happy”, the page responded.
“Okay”, she stated, “maybe not just money and time, I also want to lose 15-20 pounds, have more time to myself, work a job I really enjoy and find someone who really loves me as I am” she rattled off, as though she was talking to a friend in an empty car.
“Ding”, her cell phone chimed, pulling her back into the cold reality of the car. Looking at the text message from her son she realized she better get home, it was getting late fast and he was hungry. Reluctantly she closed the magazine and put it back in the bag. As she drove home, she found herself anxious to be alone, for then she could continue her “conversation” with the magazine. Shaking her head, she laughed out loud as she hit the gas to turn the corner onto her street. “Crazy, this is absolutely NUTS! Magazines don’t write themselves and definitely do not have conversations with people! No one would believe her”, the inner dialogue rambled on and on as she turned into the driveway of their rental home.
To be continued… 1