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Monday, June 14, 2021

Pushing Shopping Carts…

… and other ordinary things I’ve missed.

I woke up this morning strangely aware that we had entered into “ordinary days” three weeks ago, but things don’t feel ordinary just yet, and I’m not certain they ever will again, and maybe they shouldn't.[i]  But, there are some pre-pandemic things I am looking forward to reclaiming. 

Some of the things I have missed are so obvious.  As an example, I eagerly anticipate the day when we can celebrate the Eucharist by means of intinction again.  I suspect we’re still a long way from that day, but I can still hope for it.  I can’t wait to go to work again, although I have been privileged and blessed to have had no interruption to my job or paycheck for the duration of the pandemic.  I recently took an 830-mile trip and was able to hug my parents for the first time in 18 months.  I have missed travel… and people.  This feels like “the big stuff.”

But I am also discovering these little things I didn’t even know I missed…

This past week, I needed something from the store.  Full disclosure: I needed tick repellent for my new puppy.  And oh…  this puppy is a story all his own, but if I digress we might never get back to the point of this post.  As has become my norm, I looked for the best option to order what I needed, online.  When I quickly realized I couldn’t wait a week for delivery, I did the next best thing and looked for the fastest no contact pick-up option.  I could order and relieve my puppy of these beastly parasites in six hours instead of seven days.  Better.  And then it hit me…  I am fully vaccinated.  I could also just drive to the store, go inside, and make my purchase right away!

To this point, I had been inside a store exactly seven times in the past fifteen months.  Four of these were pharmacy related.  Once I had to use the bathroom and was too far from home to get there (and please understand that I had driven 30 minutes out of my way at other times to go home to use the bathroom).  Admittedly, the other two times I gave in to secure my free birthday socks at Kohl’s and to grab the one thing I could not order (3 packages of Kool-Aid, I kid you not, especially funny for a family that does not drink Kool-Aid) for a Christmas gift.  That’s it.  Seven times.  Go in… get the products… get out.  No carts.  No browsing.  A couple of panic attacks. 

But this time, I took a cart.

As someone who studies liturgy and ritual, it should not have surprised me that this small action packed such a punch.  The first cart I attempted to take was so stuck inside another cart that I couldn’t manage to free it.  I rolled my eyes.  The second cart came loose without effort.  I wrapped my (gloved) hands around the bar, pushed it through the door, smiled (through my mask) and waved at the greeter, and felt completely overwhelmed for just a minute about the normalcy of it all.   

Two emotions simultaneously erupted inside of me – relief and regret.

I immediately relaxed at the prospect of reclaiming some normalcy in life.  And look… I recognize that this doesn’t even seem that great to a lot of people.  When I finally became eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in my state, I mentioned to someone that I was excited about being able to “get my life back,” and the response was that the vaccine wouldn’t allow anyone to get their lives back.  We would still have to mask and social distance.  But for a severe asthmatic who has been largely stuck inside her house or vehicle for over a year, pushing a shopping cart (mask or no mask), without worrying I might end up on a ventilator later, feels like getting my life back.

The competing regret kept me in check, though.  I can go to the store again.  Have I used this time at home wisely?  Will we all forget the slower pace and the days, weeks, and months clad in suit tops and sweatpants, which allowed us to attend to our kids and our pets between meetings?  Will we continue to look for ways to include people who cannot come to us for worship or classes or lunch? 

Things are going to change again.  They always do.  A good number of our regular rhythms and patterns that have been interrupted are going to become our reality again, and we are going to love it!  Yet it feels like a good day to consider to which of these things we actually want to return and from which of these things we might permanently part, for our own sakes but also for the sake of the people around us. 

We don’t have to go back to the way things were.  We probably shouldn’t! 


[i] I am well aware the ordinary days are more about being “ordered” than “usual,” but I love a good double-entendre…

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