"Monday is not a treat day."

These were the words we heard outside of Peet's last week, spoken by a mother to her son as they walked past. He was whining, "Why, mom? Why not?" To which she retorted, "Because today is Monday, and Monday is not a treat day." Ann and I looked at each other with a mix of humour, horror and knowing. We were thinking the same thing - poor kid, he's gonna hate Mondays for the rest of his life.

And who doesn't dislike Mondays, at least just a little bit? It's the day where we pull up our bootstraps and get back on the mill, grist for another go 'round the wheel. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not disparaging labour, routine or any other inherent aspect of a solid's week's work. Yes, I've stepped out of that rhythm this year to nurture the spiritual and creative aspects of my vocation, but that doesn't mean everyone should. In fact, there are days when I envy those whose days have clear structure, whose lives possess at least some kind of guidebook, some familiar outline to consult and carry them through. But let's face it, for any of us, Mondays can be a drag.

Even as a monk I've stayed within the Monday mode by declaring them my silent days. On that day, I'm supposed to speak with no one and ideally, rest in as much silence as possible. It's meant to re-establish the solidity of my prayer practice, after the more loose outline of the weekend. It's a way of beginning again, of starting afresh; I know that even 9-5ers can benefit from the reset button of a Monday. But lately, it's been a big ol' flop. Last Monday Ann was in town -- one of my oldest friends whom I haven't seen in a year. Duh. Not gonna keep my trap shut there! The week before that I had a doctor's appointment that couldn't be switched. Today I have commitments to Inquiring Mind (the journal I work for) which require quick turnaround and feedback. That's the thing when you're trying to step out of the world, yet remain in it at the same time. It's messy! Said world does not alter its schedule for urban love monks.

Because Ann and I were trying to have a writing session, we didn't stop long to discuss the blaring line that had landed smack on our table. But we both felt its weight, all other sounds on the street falling away to amplify "Monday is not a treat day." Monday is never a treat day. Well, why not? Why can't Monday be a treat day? In fact, maybe Mondays should be required treat days, dreadful as they are otherwise! If left to our own devices, Ann and I would probably declare every day a treat day, outrageous hedonists that we are. And therein lies the rub. I relish and believe in a world willing to break status quo in favour of ridiculous insertions of joyful, playful, grateful goodness. But like any good thing, too much of it will take you down.

I've never wanted that last line to be true. I love what's good and have always wanted more, more and more of it. "I give you and inch and you take a mile," my mother would say. If I had a 3 hour playdate with a friend, I'd want to extend it to 4. If it was 4, I wanted a spend-the-night. I remember one particular evening when my friend Jeana had come over to play after ballet. That in itself was a treat, but in the spirit of more, MORE goodness, we concocted a song & dance (literally) in order to gain sleepover status. I wish I could say it was a brilliant display of creativity, but really it went something like, "Oh, we'll go right to bed at 8:30 or 9, 8:30 or 9, 8:30 or 9. Yes, we'll go right to bed at 8:30 or 9....8:30 or ni-i-ine!" (Replete with jazz hands at the end, of course.) God, some days I don't know how my mother survived me.

The other story that jumps to mind happened at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh. We were visiting my cousins, who at the beginning of the week had shown off this rad bubble gum, made in the shape of other foods, like hamburgers or french fries. All week I pined for that gum. I couldn't believe how cool it was, how it came with a miniature burger box of its own, just like in a fast food restaurant. (Why I was in love with fast-food burgers is a mystery in and of itself.) I begged and begged to have that chewy goodness for my own. At last I won out, the five of us braving the AC freezing shopping mecca to purchase our little edible replicas. I knew which one I wanted - the same burger that David had - that one was definitely the coolest of the lot and practically covered the entire palm of my six year old hand. As we exited the store, Noelle warned me, "Just take a little bite, Martha Kay. You don't need much. That way it'll last you." Uh-huh, I nodded, my eyes already glazing over in anticipation. We had about 5 minutes to wait before our parent's pickup at the south door; I shuffled away from the gang and opened my new treasure. Yes! This thing is awesome! I don't quite remember my next move. I'm pretty sure I heard my cousin's words again, just a little bite, but my mouth had plans of its own. I crammed the whole sucker right in. Three chomps and I realised the error of my ways. Chewing was nearly impossible; my tongue strained to find a solid angle. Slobber turned on full blast to accommodate the foreign mass. Moments later my greed was discovered, as all four of my older and wiser cousins stood above me just shaking their heads. My sister was the first to speak, "You know you're gonna have to spit that whole thing out now." Nooooo! I refused. But then I started to cry -- regret, loss and physical discomfort had ganged up on me and I couldn't stop myself. Tears fell fast, salting my mouth, which by now was completely open and dripping because I could no longer breathe through my nose. I was a hot, self-made mess. I'd totally and completely blown it.
It's now a few hours later and I'm wondering why I wrote about all this. What was so compelling about Monday is not a treat day? Perhaps it was the definitive way she said it, as though the world is black and white enough to fall into categories of treats and no treats. There are days when I long for such clarity, such restraint. I still struggle to accept the hard stuff in life. That sounds ridiculous, coming from someone who just spent seven years working with the dying and bereaved every day. So maybe that's not it. Things don't have to be peachy all the time, but I do tend to appreciate vitality. I don't have much patience for the mundane. And yet most of our lives are made up of just that - the basic tasks of living. I'm not so great with those. I get bored. Sorry, but it's true. Spiritual practice is one remedy for this discontent, for it slows down the gears and teaches us to appreciate a thing as it is. This reminds me of an amazing book by the All Over Coffee guy, Paul Madonna, called Everything is its own reward. And now I'm thinking of a poem I wrote several years ago at BCBS (The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies) comparing grey woodpeckers and korean monk's robes - and why I can't just let a thing be a thing.

On that note, how 'bout I just let this be a blog post and quit trailing off in twelve directions trying to make sense of something. It's 11:30pm after all, and I was up until 3am last night finishing Cheryl Strayed's book. (So worth it.) Maybe I'll come back to these treat day thoughts and maybe I won't. For now, it feels incredibly good to simply have posted two days in a row. With any luck, tomorrow will make it three.

Oh yeah, the picture is from this summer at the beach, sharing with my sister the best damn fried green tomatoes of our lives. Now THAT's a treat!


A Lost Sufi Poet

This reminds me of Liberace's favorite saying, "Too much of a good thing is WONDERFUL!"

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