Meltdown


I need to get a few groceries so, for the second time since this craziness began, I venture out from our home as the lone grocery shopper. We decided weeks ago that, when it was absolutely necessary to enter a store to pick up a prescription or buy food, I’d be the one to do it.

Since then I’ve entered the pharmacy where a guard sat by the door of a near-empty store; pharmacists wore gloves, masks, and face shields; and tape lines on the floor showed the correct six-foot social distancing space to leave between you and the person in front. We’ve seen people lined up outside grocery stores (again, with the recommended six feet of space between them) waiting for someone to come out so they can go in, as only a few shoppers are allowed in the store at a time.

Now, I drive across town, past empty shops with signs on their doors, to the grocery store I favour. Here there is no lineup, just a woman wiping down shopping carts in the entryway.

”Thanks so much,” I say, and she smiles as I take one and head into the twilight zone for a quick in and out.

Tape arrows on the floor show the recommended way to navigate the store. (I never do get the hang of how they’ve got it laid out, and end up fighting the tape lines the entire time I’m there.) I glide past the fresh produce. Nope. Not this time. I’m thankful for a freezer stocked with last season’s fruit and vegetables.

There’s lots of eggs where the shelves were empty last time I was here. I reach for a carton. Signs at the meat counter indicate just two items are allowed. I glide past that area too. I pick up yogurt, butter, and a handful of things I don’t ordinarily buy, but we’ve got an eleven-year-old in residence now.

Shoppers dance around one another maintaining a distance, some wearing masks. It’s awkward and potentially lifesaving. We all look a little bit stunned.

I queue at the checkout, far back from the man in front of me. When he leaves, I move forward to move my items from the cart to the conveyer. The clerk behind a plexiglass barrier smiles, weary. I’m already feeling the heaviness of being in this place for a short time this morning; I can’t imagine what it must be like to spend an eight hour shift here every day.

By the time I load the groceries into the back of my SUV and return the cart, I’m done. I climb into the car and just sit for a few moments. Breathe. Pray. My eyes well with hot tears. I drive toward home slightly numb and melting down fast.

I carry the first bags into the house where Gerry and Makiya are at the dining table doing geometry.

“It’s getting harder and harder to go there,” I say.

I try to explain, using the PG version of how a simple trip to the grocery store has changed. I put the groceries away and arrange a bouquet of tulips in a vase while Grandfather and Granddaughter return to their work and the lump in my gut gets hotter; the weight in my chest, heavier.

When I’m finished I closet myself in the bathroom where I sit on the edge of the bathtub and allow release. I weep silently into a towel, not even sure what I’m crying about. I just need to let some of this whirling emotion out or I’ll burst.

Then I take some deep breaths, wash my face, and stand tall. I head down the hall toward the kitchen. Makiya meets me halfway and, with no words, wraps her arms around me and leans in. We stand that way for a a while, whispering.

”I needed that,” I tell her. “How did you know?”

”I saw it in your face,” she says.

I kiss the top of her head and we go to the kitchen to pick up where we left off with our project of the day: making salt water taffy. We take some deep breaths and I do a silly thing with my arms.

“Okay, shake it off,” I say with a smile.

We cook taffy and later the three of us pull it, cut pieces, and wrap them in parchment paper twists. The burden of the grocery store pushes to the back of my mind as we do the rest of the day.

But, you know, that heaviness stays with me and though I do my best to move on, it never completely leaves. By the time we curl up to watch Anne With an E, I’m beyond done. Later, I fall into bed empty. It’s been a hard day. I expect there are more to come.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm here early most mornings with one of my photos and a few words about life and those thin places where faith intersects.
15 comments
  1. Linda, thank you for describing an ordinary experience in a way that demonstrate so vividly how quickly things have changed. I find myself near tears every day. Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable.

    1. Oh Maggie. It helps, somehow, to know we’re not alone in this, doesn’t it? Praying for you right now.

  2. This is tough stuff, but you described your “adventure” beautifully. I am planning to go to a mom-and-pop market later today for a few things.I am hoping it’s less crowded (which is normally the case), thus less dystopian.

    1. Hope your experience at the shop is relatively good, Paige. Dystopian. Yes, that describes my experience exactly.

  3. I am sorry you are carrying this weight on your shoulders. Our boats are heavy with the weight of loneliness and the unknown. Hugs to you from Oklahoma.

    1. We’re all carrying something heavy right now, Letty. Knowing we’re not alone helps, doesn’t it? I’m thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected. Hugs back to you.

  4. Letting out the tears and angst is one of the best things you can do. Carrying it for too long can result in a volcanic blast. At least that how it is for me. Stay well, Linda. We will get through this.

    1. A volcanic blast. That’s exactly how it is for me too when I hold things in too long, Joan. Having a better day today. Hope you’re well too.

  5. I ventured out yesterday with similar results. I’m staying “in” today, which means computer work and taking a LONG walk in the preserve. Meals are to be savored these days. And silence!

    My city feels like early Sunday morning all day long. Weird.
    Yes, we will get through this!

    ((( )))

    1. Long walks in nature, good food, and silence. A trifecta of healing practices for sure! I was saying to someone earlier that going out doesn’t even feel like Sunday because on Sunday some things are still open. It’s just spooky now. Yes, we will get through this. Sending hugs your way, Marian.

  6. Thank-you for your powerful writing. I have not yet ventured out since the lockdown, and will be going tomorrow – I really don’t know how I am going to find it …

    1. Hope you and your family are well, Alexa. And that your shopping trip is relatively uneventful.

  7. Since our governor put the stay at home order in place, we’ve not ventured out to any stores. I’ve been placing orders at a grocery story that delivers, but getting an open delivery date and time is beginning to frustrate me. And then I remember something I forgot and have to go back and modify my order.

    Yesterday I could feel the heaviness moving inside me and I knew that soon I’d have to release what I’ve been feeling since the middle of March. You have once again so vividly expressed my feelings while describing yours. I didn’t sleep well last night. Over breakfast I began to cry as we lifted up a friend in the hospital following a very serious ski accident. His injuries are critical and his wife can’t be with him. Once I started crying, I could not stop. And once done what’s going to happen now? Will the vessel I call my heart refill with the woes of today, yesterday, and then tomorrow?

    Sorry for the long comment. You’ve released something in I struggle to share. Thank you, Linda!

    1. Oh Sherrey, I’m so sorry for what’s happening with your friend. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for his loved ones–you included. Tears help me—and I know I need to release some more. I pray your own release brought a measure of peace or at least moved you closer to it. Some days are harder than others. Having dear ones like you to connect with helps. Stay safe, my friend.

  8. I am not the designated shopper in my house, so I haven’t felt that visceral impact you describe. And perhaps, in our small city, the experience is not quite as harried? But I too carry a heaviness in my body, mostly from keeping up with the horrific news. And from holding in my heart the growing list of friends and relatives who are directly impacted either in health or finances or both. You are now on that list. Thank you for documenting the daily life impact of a pandemic, even without testing positive.

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