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Oregon Family Magazine

Feng Shui and the Teenager

06/30/2018 ● By Sandy Kauten
I’ve been reading about Feng Shui, and it sheds new light on the ups and downs of my 55-year-long life. (I’m 56 if you figure age in the Chinese way, by including a year for womb time. Because those months were spent nauseating and kicking my dear mother, I prefer not to count them. But otherwise, I am totally on board with Chinese philosophy.)

The basic premise of Feng Shui is that if you build your house right and arrange your furniture right, positive energy (“chi”) will flow around you and you’ll be as happy as a trout in a sparkling brook. There are diagrams and hundreds of do’s and don’ts.

Giving our house the once-over, I’m finding a few things that aren’t up to code.

-- The staircase is in a direct line with the front door. This is like rolling out the red carpet for evil spirits.

-- The door to daughter Marie’s room swings in and tangles with a closet door that won’t stay shut. These are called “arguing doors” and they are not harmonious.

-- The master bedroom is decorated with implements of violence, ranging from an African spear to my mom’s old sorority paddle. More disharmony.

-- Daughter Wendy says her room is haunted. (It’s at the top of the stairs.)

But the room I occupied as a teenager was worse. That’s because my dad had to walk through it to use the bathroom, which meant a flow of negative energy (“sha”) at least twice a day. Dad was a hard worker who was justifiably disappointed in his slacker son, and his passage through my room was like a bitter wind of vexation and criticism.

Some classic Feng Shui “cures” are bells, live plants and anything red or green either in a bad part of the room or in a sector of the room that corresponds to particular aspects of your life.

Unschooled in Feng Shui, I made up my own cure. I hung up huge, colorful movie posters. My favorite was hot pink and advertised “Sweet Sugar,” a movie about women prisoners sentenced to cut sugar cane in skimpy outfits. Of the title character, the poster promised, “Sugar’s machete wasn’t her only weapon!” Besides giving my room a touch of naughty sophistication, the lurid posters lit the place up.

But all too often I’d find my stepmother standing in the doorway, smoking a Camel and frowning at the posters. Like Sweet Sugar, she had multiple weapons, only hers were disapproval and second-hand smoke. The sha floated in so voluminously that I wanted to crawl along the floor to breathe.

Aquariums are proven cures, and I had one on my desk. But it was a negative presence. It contained two pale, blind cave fish that someone had given to me. They were ugly and creepy, and I had tired of cleaning their tank and feeding them. They had to find their own sustenance in green water that got thicker each year. I think the stagnant fish tank was parked in the sector of the room governing academic achievement.

Although my room lacked chi, and my relationship with my parents wasn’t very good, my love life was showing signs of potential.

The right way to nurture it would’ve been to place a potted fern in the southwest corner of the room. But my approach was more direct. One memorable Saturday afternoon I brought my girlfriend up to my room to make out.

Soon the chi was sizzling, and a troubled space promised to become a chamber of wonder. But a knock on the door and my dad’s angry voice told me I’d failed again. Even then, I knew you don’t get anywhere by offending your ancestors, especially when one of them is threatening to break your door down. The real cure turned out to be moving out, growing up, and learning common courtesy.

I’d sickened and pummeled my mom as a fetus, but I did worse than that to my poor dad when I should’ve known better. Sadly, no culture will let you compute your age by leaving out the teenage years.

Rick can be reached at [email protected].