What Happens At the Grocery Store Doesn’t Have To Stay With You Throughout the Day
The Scent of Books Is the Antidote
The other day when I was at the grocery store doing the weekly shopping, something that’s never happened to me before happened. With only a few items yet to grab on my list, I parked my cart by the restrooms and ducked inside to…well…use the restroom. That in itself isn’t unusual. But what was unusual is that when I came out, my cart was gone. Vanished. Nowhere to be seen. I looked around the immediate area and couldn’t find it.
This was a fine howdy doo-doo.
It was especially ghastly because I was nearly done with the shopping and really just wanted to get home and do some more work on a personal essay I was writing about ashes, about moving on and letting go.
And now I couldn’t. And I couldn’t let go, either. I was faced with having to recreate my shopping list — which I couldn’t read anymore, since I’d used a bold-tipped pen to cross out the items as they went into the cart. How efficient I was to obliterate them from my short-term memory.
What made it even worse is that I’d have to go back through the produce department and open eight of those see-through plastic bags they provide for fruit and vegetables. You know…the ones that take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to open and are even worse since we’re still in a pandemic and who wants to take their mask off and lick their fingers to open eight problematic produce bags?
Even though I’ve perfected a secret technique to open them quickly and easily (it involves hand lotion), I wasn’t in the mood to start all over again.
But I couldn’t let go. Not yet.
I went to the customer service desk and explained my plight, hoping for some sort of compensation for my trouble (yeah, right). I at least hoped an over-zealous employee had been assigned to round up abandoned carts and my cart was still nearby, intact. But that wasn’t the case. While a store employee roamed the aisles looking for my cart (they had me describe what was in it), they made a couple of store announcements, thinking a customer had mistakenly grabbed my cart thinking it was theirs. No luck. No one admitted to it.
And I couldn’t let go. Not yet.
I didn’t want to leave the store, but I didn’t want to stay either. I was done grocery shopping for the day and called the man in my life to tell him I wouldn’t be coming home with any groceries and hoped there was nothing on the list he needed that day. He didn’t, which was great because he would have had to go out to get whatever he needed himself.
I left the store but didn’t feel like going home either. That would have been admitting defeat.
I couldn’t let go. Not yet.
So I sat in my SUV (who I’ve named Phinnaeus, which means “oracle” in Hebrew) for a while, nursing my sour mood, brainstorming where to go and what to do. Still undecided, I started the motor, backed out of the parking space, and asked Phinn to take me wherever he thought would be best. I often do this — leave the house on an adventure, not knowing where I’m headed until Phinn takes me to wherever. In the year I’ve had him, he’s proven numerous times that he knows better than I what’s good for my soul. That’s why he’s an oracle.
Fifteen minutes later, I found myself in the parking lot of my favorite bookstore. Yes! Phinn had done it again. From the time I learned to read in first grade, books have soothed my internal savage beast, as well as energized the sweet, disappointed sloth of my procrastination and hesitation.
I can’t say the odor of new books brings me back to my childhood, although I’ve had my share of new books as a kid. What I can tell you is that I don’t get the same thrill from the scent of old books. The musty, stale odor of them rings no magical chimes of delight in my world.
But new books — ooh la la! With their perfume-like aroma, I prefer the fragrance of new books over that of a bouquet of summer flowers. But that’s just me. And that’s who I’m writing about here. And books. And letting go.
Still carrying the frustration of the grocery store incident, I pulled open the double doors of the bookstore, took a step in, and — W-H-A-M-! — instant euphoria. The scent of new books hit me and healed me on the spot.
The divine smell!
I could have turned around and driven home right then, restored and rejuvenated, my outlook set right. Exhilarated. All because of the scent of books.
But I didn’t leave.
Of course I didn’t.
I roused myself and stepped all the way into the store, the smile on my face growing wider with each deeply inhaled breath. First I browsed the magazine section at the south end of the store and found two of my favorite publications that I hadn’t gotten around to subscribing to yet and decided to buy both of them.
The store had been rearranged since I’d been there last, so I went exploring to familiarize myself with the new layout. I strolled through sections I usually would have bypassed before, as well as the sections I’d normally peruse, drawing in the heady scent of books. I browsed the jigsaw puzzles (I’m not a puzzle person but enjoyed the tour anyway), the bargain books, the fiction and nonfiction sections, the new books with recommendations by the store employees, the music displays, the calendars, toys, and games.
Ahhh! Still taking in the scent of books, I was building a reservoir of book scent to be on call for me for when I can’t be at a bookstore.
Finally, I came across the land of journals and pens, tote bags and pencil cases, artists’ and writers’ supplies, and reading paraphernalia. In the rearranging of the store, this section had ended up where it had always been when the store first opened many years ago. To my disappointment, it had been relocated early in the pandemic. But now it was back in the niche it had occupied from the beginning. Back where I thought it always belonged.
The entire experience — the scent of new books, the browsing, and finding my favorite section of the store moved back where it started out — transported me back to a mindset I thought of as home, my fulcrum, my center. From here I could pivot in any direction and remain in harmony with my soul. Heck, I could have gone back to the grocery store and done my shopping, but there was nothing on my list I needed that day, or the next, and it was getting late.
Letting go had never been so easy (and it’s never easy for me) as it had been this afternoon.
It was time to leave the bookstore and let Phinn drive us back to our domicile, 23 minutes to the west with light traffic (according to the all-knowing intelligence living inside my phone, which creeps me out that it knows where I’m going next).
I took my place in the short checkout line at the front of the store and paid for my new treasures then headed out the door, my mind in harmony with my outer surroundings, just like it had been before the missing grocery cart incident.
I was aligned once again. The scent of books balanced me out, synched up my inner and outer worlds.
And you know what?
I’ll be going back to that bookstore, as I have done for many years now, whether or not I need an attitude recalibration or whether or not I need to let go.
The smell of books is T-H-A-T good.
Many of us know that books smell really good. But WHY do they smell so good? Read about it here.
If you really, really, really like the smell of books, here are some perfumes you might want to check out so you can bask in the scent all day, every day. Read about them here.
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And if you really, really liked it, you might want to check out my ebook, The Grapes of Dementia: My Journey of Love, Loss, Surrender, and Gratitude, available worldwide through Amazon.