Stoic Mindfulness: A Morning Walk & Spilled Milk

Stoic Mindfulness: A Morning Walk & Spilled Milk

During a morning stoic meditation, I had set a goal to use less for the following twenty-four hours. Though I oppose any attempts at forced behavior, such as bans on plastic bags and straws, there are often very practical reasons to voluntarily conserve. On this day, my conservation extended to areas where none was needed, in order to fulfill the requirements of my exercise in discipline. Not only did I use and dispose of fewer things that day, but with the exception of a cup of coffee with milk, and several glasses of water, I fasted until dinnertime, thereby consuming less food.

I was out of milk, and wanted to enjoy my coffee, so I went for a short walk to the supermarket down the block. I purchased a half a gallon of milk at a self-checkout kiosk. Normally, I double-bag my groceries, for two reasons. Not only does it reduce the likelihood of an accident, but as an exercise in fiscal conservatism, we reuse the bags. We have a very small trash receptacle in our kitchen, in order to reduce the accumulation of food waste in our home, so the bags fit perfectly. In addition, we give our overage to my mother-in-law when we visit her each week. She has two dogs, and walks them twice each day. She also picks up after them, rather than leaving surprises for her neighbors. She is not a wealthy person, and the free bags save her the cost of buying dog waste bags.

On this day, I sacrificed collecting an extra bag for dog poop, and saving my mother-in-law four cents, and instead of double bagging my groceries in the usual fashion, I used just one bag. That was a mistake. 

As soon as I got to my doorstep, The weight of the milk tore through the bag as it crashed on the sidewalk. The bottom corner hit the sidewalk and formed a small leak. I was briefly annoyed and dismayed, but I was not angry. My morning stoic exercises softened the blow, and within seconds, my initial reaction was replaced with thoughts about ways to salvage the remaining milk. It became a game, framed within my exercise of being less wasteful that day, and what might have angered me had become a source of entertainment.

I wanted to fix the problem. Going back to the supermarket to get another half a gallon of milk would have been counter to the day’s goals, and I wasn’t having it. At first, I thought I could put the plastic carton in the refrigerator upside-down since the leak was on the bottom. Upon reflection, that would have been a poor solution, given that it would have created the new problem of opening and resealing an upside-down carton. I imagined removing it, uncapped, and spilling milk all over the refrigerator and the floor. Worse, I imagined doing so in front of my wife and cycled through a dozen possible reactions. Not happening.

With a bit more thought, I found a solution that salvaged the milk and enhanced my success at being less wasteful that day.

We save the plastic wonton soup containers that we get every time we order Chinese takeout. Though I should cut down on takeout, for the sake of my belly, the containers are versatile. We reuse them for storing liquids, rice, and other leftovers. I opened the leaky milk container, and poured its contents into two wonton soup containers, leaving a little room on top to facilitate pouring. Problem solved.

Besides the reinforcement of my stoic philosophy, which eliminated virtually all possible anger about an event that could not be reversed, I learned an important lesson. In my eagerness to be less wasteful, I was penny-wise, pound foolish. I saved the store a few pennies in using just one bag for my heavy carton of milk, and nearly lost $3 in the process. Sometimes, it’s better to spend a little more, to protect our larger investments.

Watch the Video About Spilled Milk Below

The solution to spilled milk

Featured image of spilled milk source: Pixabay

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Dennis Consorte