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.
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.
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.