Question for the week
Each day a different chapter from The Square Root of Someone is featured. Readers often ask if the essays are true. Every single one is.
My New Confessional
I wait quietly, almost meditatively, in the cramped quarters of the vertical wooden box. My eyes are closed when a sense of vague familiarity comes over me. It prickles the hair on my neck. Makes me sweaty. Then, like an apparition turned real, it becomes clear.
Using a tanning booth is like going to confession.
I havenít confessed my sins recently. But as a young girl attending Catholic grade school followed by Catholic high school followed by Catholic university, I spent more than a passing moment in the mental heat of the confessional, trying to remember my litany of transgressions while waiting for the priest to slide open the little window that separated his part of the larger vertical wooden box from mine. God, I felt vulnerable.
There was always a sense of relief when the few minutes it took to relay my sins and obtain forgiveness were over. I would breathe a sigh, rise from my knees, and escape. Eagerly I sought a pew in the dark afternoon of the church where I sank onto the kneeler to say the prescribed penance and regain composure. There was never empirical evidence, like a scar after surgery, but I had been taught that this ritual repaired my soul. Made it whole again.
Now, the vertical box I frequent is the tanning booth at my health club. Although the main reason is to put a healthy sheen on my body, it has become a substitute ritual for cleansing my soul, and I find it therapeutic on both counts.
Physically, an even tan requires entering the booth with nothing on, except little plastic goggles to protect the eyes. It also means standing for the duration of the session, instead of sitting on the wooden stool that is provided, so that you donít have a ďmoonĒ on the backs of your legs.
There isnít a lot of room in the booth, so standing perfectly still is important. I bring a towel to stand on, but its softness on the soles of my feet is the only comfort involved here. The tanning lights on all four sides of the booth are warm. The lights are bright and penetrate the goggles. A motor hums in the background.
There is a certain sense of vulnerability about these conditions, which reminds me of that other vertical box, the one from a former life. Intellectually I understand that there is no little window which opens and reveals a priestís forgiveness in the name of the Lord. There will be no penance either.
Just the same, if someone inadvertently opens the door to the booth, while you are standing there with only protective goggles for clothing, it is awkward, embarrassing, and just as uncomfortable as confessing oneís sins. Something you donít really get used to.
Yet, my nakedness reminds me of what is truly important.
I stand for the five to seven minutes Iíve preselected on a timer and know that no one, absolutely no one, can reach me. I wear no cell phone or beeper. I commune only with myself in a stripped down version. It far outweighs the risk of having another woman open the door on me.
Iíve begun to use these precious minutes to refocus myself each day. With nothing on or around me, I peel away the worries in my mind. I release the petty concerns and frustrations, and ask myself, ďWhat is important today?Ē
Sometimes the answer is as simple as smelling a flower or catching a sunset.
Perhaps thatís what going to confession was really all about; and maybe the real lesson in all of this is that itís important to find some trigger in your life that provides an opportunity for reflection. Doing is important, but simply standing there and doing nothing is equally important.
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