The Hardware Store For Milk

There’s a homily in one of the twelve-step programs I have attended over the years (which is almost all of them) that says, “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk.” It means that when we seek approval, validation or support from people who are unable to provide it, we are trying to get something they do not have to give. And though I have used this very expression as a guidepost for upwards of seven years, sometimes I catch myself doing it anyway, just showing up at Home Depot wondering if they have organic, carrageenan-free almond milk and then throwing a primal tantrum worthy of a disgruntled toddler when they don’t. I don’t want to go to the hardware store for milk anymore, but can someone please show me the way to the grocery store?

Are the directions in my phone? Because everything else is. Can I type my soul’s direction into Google Maps? Or is it Waze? At least that way any accidents I encounter along the way will be reported in advance by concerned Wazers. Where are life’s Wazers? The ones who are up ahead telling you the cops are around the corner, or maybe just warning you about a person you’re about to encounter whom you could really get into trouble with. If only a voice could blare out of the ether, “RUN!!!! You can’t see up ahead, but if you don’t turn back now, you will be going over a cliff shortly. Take my (disembodied) word for it.”

Problem is, we wouldn’t. At least I wouldn’t. I’m an experiential learner, and you can tell me a thousand times that something is so, but until I experience it myself I simply won’t believe you. It’s not that I think you’re lying to me, it’s that I fundamentally don’t trust your opinion. I don’t think you and I are going to draw the same conclusions, so I am always deferring judgment until I’ve experienced it myself. It’s. Exhausting.

As I learn to be an independent human being, emotionally self-contained and self-reliant, part of that is not seeking outside approbation from people who couldn’t provide it even if they wanted to (they don’t.) Also, I’m forty fucking years old and who cares if people really see me, as long as I do? Intellectually I know that loneliness can’t kill you… So if I see you on the street, you can say hi, and I will probably be quite entertaining to talk to for a while. Though keep in mind I am under construction, so please pardon the dust.

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2 comments

  1. There’s a Tanya Donelly line I’ve always loved from her song “The Storm”:
    “I’m not finished yet, I’m under construction
    You can peek behind the curtain if you want
    You watch, don’t stop, my reputation’s shot
    I just wanted to get it right”

    i know there’s more to this post than that, but we all work on out faults and cracks our entire lives.
    Sometimes, we have the right tools, sometimes we don’t. Would life be easier with a map and plan? Maybe.
    But, would it be as interesting? Probably not.

    For instance, with every post you make, I discover more about you.
    With every conversation I have with a neighbor or co-worker, something new.
    And, with every hurdle I personally climb, I learn about me just a little more.

    I hate some of things I have to do to grow. I wish I could know what you think of me, what the person I just talked to thinks of me, or even what my own daughter thinks of me. I may learn it. A person may tell me something. Then again, I may never learn, and they may never tell me. But, I hope I always progress, always find a way to move beyond where I am now to improve upon whatever foundation I can stand upon.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share this. What I think of you: smart, funny, loyal, seem like a great dad, considerate but with an edge. There ya go… Mystery solved. I wonder if you have my disorder… I often assume people are thinking the worst of me unless their faces are glowing with love. Forty years on the planet has taught me that my thinking might be skewed on this, but I still don’t do well with “reserved” types. We progress. We stumble. We try. It’s all we can do, so we do that.

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