Finding Zen with Mr. McKenzie
I have been called Mary Poppins since I was in junior high- sometimes in jest, sometimes in a derogatory manner, and I came by the nickname quite honestly. As most of us have, I’ve seen some tough times, but I made a decision all the way back in eighth grade that I wanted to look for the good in life. I don’t ignore the bad things- I just acknowledge them, try to learn from them, and do my best to find the ray of light that is always there somewhere. Somehow, I was lucky enough (after some big bumps along the way) to marry someone who has mastered the art of finding the good, finding his Zen, no matter the situation. Even Mary Poppins needs a lift every now and then, so I am always open to the lessons I learn from observing Mr. McKenzie (Dan’s home repair alter-ego) – even when he’s not repairing old wiring or cooking a fantastic meal.
I don’t know how I got so blessed to marry Dan, but I have no doubt that I came to Birmingham to find him. He is not perfect (thank God, because what would I do?), but so often he reminds me how to be a better human being. Along with his position as facilities manager for a performing arts theater, Dan is also a yoga teacher and a licensed massage therapist, and these jobs fit his personality so well. It seems that Dan, who is ten years older than I, has been on a quest to find his center for quite a long time, just like me….but he is ten years ahead of me in the learning curve. There is a calmness about him that calms me and others around him. I can count on one hand the times I have seen him lose that cool in the almost twelve years we’ve been together. That’s a pretty darn good success rate…much better than my own.
I had another opportunity to observe Zen Master McKenzie in action just this week. We went to lunch later than usual due to a recital rehearsal, so Dan dropped me off and went to find a parking place. We enjoyed our lunch date and then headed out to the parking lot to go back to work. Suddenly, Dan stopped in his tracks, “My car is gone- it’s gone!” He had parked in the only lot available, one where you have to stuff money into a box, which he did. No matter, the Mini Cooper, our beloved ‘Blue MaGoo’, was missing in action. My stomach sunk- what had happened?
At that moment, Dan saw the tow truck at the other end of the parking lot, already loading up another car. He went up the the thickly bearded man to find out what happened. The man tried to ignore Dan and continued to load the car of his next victim. Dan continued to talk calmly with him, repeatedly asking him why his car had been towed when he had paid the fee- wouldn’t he at least come look? I’m afraid that I was not as calm as Dan. While I did not yell, I may or may not have said, “How do these people sleep at night?!” in my best Mary Poppins stage whisper. Injustice always gets my goat.
Finally the very quiet man walked over to the parking spot where Dan had left the Mini. When Dan said,”I parked right here in spot 2 and left five dollars in the box.” The man replied, “That’s not spot 2.” The issue here was that while the company watches the lot like a hawk and pounces to tow anyone they can, the painted numbers have faded and are very difficult to read. It looked like a 2 to me, was the second spot from the end between what looked just like 1 and 3. Dan stayed calm and kept talking with the man, showing him why he thought it was spot two, and to please check the money box to find his money there. As the dialogue continued, I called a friend to come pick us up and take us to my Bug at school so that we could spring the Blue MaGoo from jail.
Suddenly, the man said, “Look- I believe you. I’ve been tellin’ them they need to repaint these numbers forever. I never do this-ever…get in the truck and I’ll take you to your car. There’s only room for one of you.” Dan beamed, and I was in a grateful-yet-still-peeved haze, as Dan scrambled into the truck and I waited for my friend who was already on his way. Chalk one up to the good guy. I have no doubt that the man is used to having people scream at him and lie to him on a daily basis. Dan was so sincere, so obviously telling the truth- and he stayed calm. That was the key. Mom used to tell me that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar, and she was right. I’m so glad that Dan figured that out, too.
And so, another lesson learned from my sweet husband: Don’t jump to anger, stay calm and in your truth. It may not always work out the way we hope it will, but the odds are ever in your favor when you at least try- and you’ll just be a happier person in general. I will do my best to remember that the next time I encounter rudeness or unfairness. I have a difficult time showing anger anyway, and I know that holding it inside only poisons me. I love the Buddha quote, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” So very true. Well played, Mr. McKenzie…well played.