Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Envelope, Please

Awards shows create a dramatic pause by having the emcee intone, “The envelope, please.” Further drama is created by hesitations and teases before the envelope is opened. The award nominees and their entourages nervously await the anticipated announcement. “And the award goes to . . . 
Call it the envelope of tension. The tension envelope.

Years ago, I was arrested by the sight of a sign on a commercial building seen from Interstate 80 near Hackensack-ack-ack-ack, New Jersey. It's on the left as you head toward the George Washington Bridge.

Tension Envelopes, it declares.

It long ago inspired my own inner pause and reflection. Namely: the world does not suffer from a dearth of tension envelopes, does it? Aren’t we enveloped by tensions at work, at home, on the road, and in our hearts? Our inner landscapes are dotted with these tension envelopes, both individually and collectively. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.

Is our envelope of tension paper-thin or stretchable and impermeable?  Who affixes postage to it so that we can mail that tension to anyone, near or far? That’s easy. I’m the one in charge of dispatching my very own, specially designed, jittery-filled packages to anyone of my own choosing. Sometimes I send my tension envelopes C.O.D. (collect on delivery; capacity on demand; chew on dis; come, on dude!; change or die).

How do you send your tension envelopes? And to whom?

And are they received as “warmly” as mine? [Insert ironic emoji.]

Somewhere in the oceanic, discursive writings of Marcel Proust, I encountered his observation that the human body is a "nervous envelope." In remembrance of such a thing past, I bent the upper corner of a page. I don't know which one. But I can’t argue with Monsieur Proust’s take. We live in this envelope that begs for relief and inner peace. Our nervous envelopes seek serenity or release, distraction or diversion.

If our tension envelopes are empty, what do we fill them with? (They wouldn’t be tension envelopes if they were totally empty; by definition some tension electrons must crackle and roam around or reside there.) The candidate tension-reducers list is familiar to any wanderer of the modern world: sex, drugs, alcohol, food, work, danger, gambling, anger, other people-places-things, you-name-it ad infinitum.   

As I type it, I realize my tension-envelope mitigation (TEM) list is skewed toward the negative. It doesn’t feel complete or whole; it doesn’t possess enough dimensions for the 3-D world.

I can’t seem to connect the dots or check off the right multiple-choice answers. I need your help. Work with me here.

An alternative, or parallel, parade of TEMs might include the following: meditation, mindfulness, prayer, walking, running, painting, sculpting, gardening, woodworking, weightlifting, yoga, pilates, massage, or doing the dishes.

Agree? (Add your own.)

But I have a sheepish confession to make. The second list sounds a tad boring compared to the first. I’m embarrassed to admit this.

Does that make me “less than”? Does it reveal a personality best left kept private?

Or does it merely make me One of Us?