Polarity

It hits me as I am leaving the grocery store.

I used the new self-checkout feature in the store trusting that this would be faster than standing in line. I had only a few items. All my items had barcodes or were easy to identify. I had my own grocery bag – which caused the machine some distress at the ‘foreign object’ – and I had to have a cashier log in to the machine and approve my bag. But it was quick and  easy, effortless. I was feeling content that my lunch break would be minutes longer thanks to this expedited process.

I left the store and walked by the cashier again. She thanked me and said goodbye. I wished her a good weekend. And when I left the store, I was overwhelmed with sadness.

Rain shower

From this drop a mighty shower spilleth. (Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey)

It came out of nowhere. It felt as though I had walked through a portal to an isolated shower. Two steps back I was great, two steps forward I was so sad.

I walked further, noticing the feeling. I crossed the street to stop at the coffee shop. There were two people in front of me walking towards the coffee shop. One turned in and the other, an older lady, looked through the door but carried on with her heavy bags down the street. It suddenly felt like a privilege – almost elitist – to go get coffee. Why was I spending money on something I didn’t really need? What did this give me? I felt sad and ashamed — as though my hot and sweet drink would bring me some worth I couldn’t accept on my own.

Different things make me sad. Some days on my lunch break when I walk downtown I am overwhelmed by the homelessness and mental health issues that I see; other days I smile and can understand that each of these people are on their own journey, doing what they can.

picnic

What are you grilling up today?

I joined my daughter’s class for a field trip to the museum this week. On our lunch break I sat with a few girls around a picnic table. One of the girls asked my daughter what the treat was in her lunch. My daughter looked at me for clarification. “Do I have a treat?” she asked me. Sweets are not something I encourage, especially not daily, and my daughter packs her own lunch. “What did you pack today?” I responded. We noticed her applesauce had natural sweetness in it and the conversation quietly dissolved into other topics. Playing tag after lunch, my daughter found a lollipop in her pocket and ate it. The other girl didn’t notice.

Days later, this is still bothering me. It reminds me of my own childhood where there were few treats and I felt ashamed and left out. I was often told not to “beg” for other kid’s lunches. When I told my mom this (we lived in a pretty hippy area and for a few years ate a strictly macrobiotic diet) she said it didn’t matter: I was better for not eating sugar and processed foods. I understood her words but I could not accept it. It may have been better for my body, but it was not a social advantage. I know that I want to protect my kid from the judgements I felt so long ago. This, too, makes me sad.

It is hard to accept ourselves when we are judged on so many things. Never mind if your skin is clear or your stomach is flat (things I did and do worry about) it’s how alike another person you are that makes you acceptable. But I also know that we are all perfect and precious just as we are. And as I think back I realize it was me doing the judging of that little girl. She was just curious what my daughter had in her lunch. Maybe realizing that my daughter didn’t pack a treat that day will have her look at her own lunch differently. Maybe I can accept that questions are neither right or wrong.

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7 thoughts on “Polarity

  1. I am mired in my own thought process about children and how difficult it is growing up and learning all the “rules” of socialization. One of my child’s friends, no less, mocks her on a regular basis about being a vegetarian. She waves whatever meat she has on her plate in my daughter’s face and laughs at her reaction. Kids are merciless sometimes. I am so proud that my daughter is a confident person who usually is circumspect when things like that happen. I just feel that constant tug on my heart (it feels like sadness), thinking of all the petty cruelties she will experience (as we all do) as she learns to define herself.

    • Michelle,
      Kids *can* be fairly merciless – especially when it makes them feel better at the expense of another. Some of that is naivety and immaturity. I’m glad as my daughter ages she has grown more confident and understands that some conflict has less to do with “her” and more to do with what the other person interprets. Still, heartbreak is not an easy thing to feel or watch.
      It sounds like your daughter has a pretty loving parent
      in her life. Good for you!

  2. Sorry to hear that you got gobsmacked with the blues. I hope they’ve lifted by now and you can again savor the pleasure of a cup of purchased coffee guilt-free.The world is flawed, but you’re not the architect of its faults. You’re just living amongst them and trying to get by, even though that can be much harder for some to do than it is for others.

    • Dear V,
      Thank you for this. I like being reminded that I am not the architect of the faults in this world. In ways this reassurance means I don’t need to be affected and influenced by others choices or conditions (as much). I went for a hot beverage today and enjoyed it thoroughly.

  3. Having kids–especially daughters–is like reliving our childhoods sometimes. It’s hard to not project our experiences on them. I say “our” when I should really say “my.” This resonates with me because we are vegetarians (I’m mostly vegan) and so my daughter’s food has always been different. Thank goodness she’s now at a school where there are a few other vegetarians in her class. Feeling different is really hard, even if that different is somehow “better” it feels worse. It feels like deprivation. She’s also starting to have body image issues at the age of 8 and I struggle with how to react: how do I help her feel good about her appearance and comfortable in her body, beautiful inside and out, without reinforcing the idea that beauty is everything?

    • Hi Kylie,
      Our situations sound very similar: I’m also vegetarian/vegan and my daughter is certainly going vegetarian. I both rebel against and try to protect my daughter from the comparisons of food choices and clothing options and body image. It’s tough! I like how you point out that the ‘different’ may be better, but feel worse.
      Then, as we get older, we find our unique qualities are normal somewhere and then struggle again to stand out from the crowd.

      Thanks for your comments. (sorry for my slow reply!)
      take care,
      T

      • Hey–no problem! What are you, busy raising kids or something 😉

        And what you said about finding similar people and then trying to individuate again is so true. I just read a blog that was Freshly Pressed that touched on this. She made a great point about stopping trying to stand out and starting to focus on being meaningful and helpful. It really touched me.

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