Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back to Milk

I hadn't planned on drinking the second mini carton of milk, but it was just sitting there on the table and I needed something in my hand.

It was late, I was upset, and the milk reminded me of the comfort from a childhood school lunch line. The carton of milk was sitting next to an identical empty carton of milk and a half-eaten slice of chocolate cake. The two milks and piece of cake sat on a cheap wooden table in the middle of my "junior suite" in a business hotel less than a mile from the airport.

Everything about the junior suite hotel room was effortlessly convenient and utterly impersonal... Everything except for those little, seemingly vulnerable, out-dated-looking cartons of milk.

I pulled open the waxy cardboard nozzle, and the luke-warmish creamy taste mixed with the slightly fuzzy texture of the spout pushed me over into it. I started to cry.

Familiarities. Cycles. Looping back to the beginning after reaching a false finish. These are the positive or negative promises of life. My dad used to say it like this, "The only thing you can count on in life is change." I am not sure who was first quoted saying that famous saying, and I am too tired and milk-drowsy to look it up, but you can bet that whether it was an army general, a president, an author, or a janitor, they knew that their sunny days would eventually turn shitty and their shitty days would turn back to sun.

I shuffled into the bathroom, clad in a scratchy hotel robe. I looked at my jumble of cosmetics and rolled my eyes at all of it. I had a flight in less than eight hours and I hadn't even told my team what time we should meet. There were logistical elements, like returning the rental car, meeting in-coming clients, and hitting the ground running in the next city. But all I wanted to do was sullenly sip on that little carton of warm milk. It was crazy to even be drinking the stuff. My life had been all about almond milk for months now (it actually has more calcium than dairy).

I did one of those dramatic things that girls do every once in awhile. I sat on the cold tile bathroom floor and slumped over to cry.

Like a tired and confused kid, I drank my milk and considered things with an air of self-pity.

I thought about this week's return to business travel and how it was endangering my recent sense of life-satisfaction and overall serenity.

Airports, airplanes, strangers, hotel beds – these are all things that I enjoy. These are things that have interesting and exotic scents. These are things that make you feel like you are going places in life.

But sometimes in life, you want to be right here. Not there. Not the next city. I liked what here was beginning to feel like, and now my here requires a Do Not Disturb sign. Here is a grey treadmill at 7:00 AM, an endless supply of Complimentary Spring Water bottles and daily-refreshed boxes of Kleenex folded like little Japanese fans.

Jon Kabat-Zinn tells us that wherever we go, there we Are. But, what if what we Are is tenuous at best? What if what we are relies on a delicate balance of friends, family, grocery stores and guitars? (These are all things you can't really take with you on business trips.)

Strip away the friends, the groceries, the cats, the familiar-floppy-home pillows and scented candles and you get... Valet parking. Courtesy wake-up calls. Baggage claim. Geometric carpet.

I am forced to find myself amidst the business traveler camouflage; forced to unearth me and my green bike bag from the brown, black and navy blue polyester pant suits.

I'm tired and lost tonight. Tomorrow I might purchase a magazine at the airport. I will look out the airplane window, waiting for the silver fuselage to puncture the morning cloud-cover. I will continue to search, looking inside my chest cavity for something comforting, something that is familiar and reminds me of... Me.

For tonight, (which is actually early tomorrow), that comfort comes from a soggy, little carton of school-lunch-line milk. That comfort also comes from writing to you.

Drink up. Be brave. Get in bed and try to sleep. You can pack your suitcase in the morning.

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