This Is Zen

You ever have one of those clumsy moments?

Like, when you’re making a cafe latte, and a half gallon milk jug mysteriously drops from your hand? And a third of it spills onto your kitchen floor, and seeps under your fridge?

Oh. Ahem. Me neither. Anyway.

What followed in this (ahem, imaginary) scenario is what’s important.

In turn, I:

– silently cursed my rushed clumsiness

– appraised the damage: a rapidly spreading milk pool, cupboard splatters, and a curious dog

– grabbed a dishcloth

– sat down on the kitchen floor

– encouraged the dog to come help

– laughed at his bliss as he began to lap up the milk

– laughed at myself.

And there you have it. An unplanned zen moment.

This kind of thing isn’t easy. It takes practice. And that’s why being zen is called that, after all. A practice. My first inclination was to smash my fist into the nearest cupboard, and yell “What the f**k!” But instead, I took a deep breath, felt that wonderful tension, and then let it out slowly. Then I dropped to the floor. The thoughts that came over me as I watched my happy dog were both calming and enlightening.

I’ve learned over time that if I’m a clutz, it’s likely there’s something I’m not facing. It’s like my body’s way of saying, “hey, slow the hell down and deal for a minute.” And often, just a minute is all that it takes. I realized as I breathed and stretched my legs out on the floor, that I’d been avoiding calling my mom, who had a surgery-prep doctor’s appointment yesterday. I was too scared to hear bad news. I sent her a text last night, but she’d already fallen asleep. She texted back this morning, “you can call anytime today.” So, for hours, even though I hadn’t really realized it, from the back of my mind, crashing to the kitchen floor. A sixth-gallon of milk was worth that insight.

In those brief moments, I also realized just how much I miss living in Woodbridge, my old Detroit neighborhood. I’ve lived here by Belleville Lake for a year and a half now, and I love it. But last night, I was feeling nostalgic, and had an excuse to stop by Ray’s Big B party store at Trumbull and I-94. “Milk,” I thought. “I need some milk on the way home from work, and I’ll see Ray.”

Five minutes, a half-gallon of milk, and an unplanned bottle of 1800 Coconut Tequila later, I was back on the road home. Ray seemed distracted and stressed, which is hardly ever the case. Some local came back in after paying, and pushed his way to the front of the line, pestering Ray for a vodka shot to go. Then, he was a quarter short and mumbled, “I’ll getcha later Ray, I’ll getcha later.” I flipped an extra quarter into my order, to pay it forward. That got a smile.

Adding to Ray’s chaos was a new young employee, blabbing his ear off behind the counter. He was polite, but visibly distressed. We usually talk at length about Detroit Tigers baseball, the state of the neighborhood and the city. On occasion, his dad Kendu comes out from the back, and wants to talk Persian poetry with me. An interesting, neighborly relationship to have, for three years running now, and seldom out from behind the thick bullet-proof glass barrier that separates us.

It’s always a good time at Big B Party Store. See below. And stop by.

And all this? Just for a spilled-milk moment? Yes. And, I’m not crying over it. That’s zen.


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