Sunday, February 8, 2015

Returning the Cart

It's hard to be appreciative of everything all the time.  In some ways that would be unhealthy, because being dissatisfied can inspire positive change and progress.  It's also distracting not to be able to take basic things for granted, or else we'd never get anything done.  As with most things it's best to find a balance.

But for the most part I don't think people appreciate what they have enough.  I'm often surprised by the kinds of things many people become openly dissatisfied with.  It's a miracle most days just to breathe, and when I'm healthy I try not to take even that for granted.  When I get outside in the morning I try to remember to take in one good breath and just be happy that I can.  It would be insane to try to appreciate everything we should be grateful for every moment, but I figure one or two representative moments can help put things in a better perspective.

Probably the most unlikely thing I do that I remember to mark in this way is every time I put away a grocery cart.  I know it annoys most people to have to return the cart after unloading groceries in the parking lot, especially when the weather is bad.

But I always think of my grandma.  I loved my grandma.  She was generous and smart.  Later in life in particular she had her routines.  She preferred to grocery shop at a particular Kroger and had a system with her coupons and became distressed whenever the store rearranged anything.  It always seemed like a bit of a hassle to get the shopping done the way she did it, but she enjoyed the routine.

When she became frail and lost the ability to go out to the store herself it was hard.  I know people around her wanted her to feel as if the burden of the grocery shopping being passed on to others was somehow a plus, but I don't think she ever saw it as anything but a sign of her loss of independence.  There was no way to know when a particular trip to Kroger turned out to be her last.  It's hard to let go of the mundane, the routine, and sometimes harder when you don't get to feel the goodbye.

So I think of her when I return the cart at the grocery store.  Because I remember when it hit me that she wouldn't be doing it anymore, and that if she could magically be well enough to gather her coupons and push that cart up the aisles one more time she would enjoy it.  The freedom of it, the independence of it, the sheer fact that you have to be alive and well enough to do it, would not be lost on her.

Every time I return the cart--even on a bad or overly busy day--part of me always appreciates that I still can.


  1. I read a post once that a friend had written about "remembering the lasts"- the idea being that we always get so focused on the "firsts" (especially with kids and milestones) that sometimes we miss the last time something happens, and in their own way, the "lasts" are important, too. It resonated with me, and so your line "there was no way to know when a particular trip to Kroger turned out to be her last" reminded me of that. (I'd share the link but she's since taken her blog down). Anyway. My point was, this is great post. We do need to take a moment, now and then, to appreciate the routine things, because one day even those won't be a part of the routine anymore.

  2. I'd give a lot to remember the last time I hoisted my youngest onto my hip!

    1. I'm pretty sensitive to lasts, and I find them so hard. And a lot of firsts really are lasts all rolled into one, because the first time a kid can do something on his or her own is often the last time you get to help, and it's bittersweet. Although changing the last poopy diaper I have no nostalgia for--there should have been a party for that had we known.

  3. Another wonderfully thought provoking post, Korinthia! I love how you've tied the sentimal to the otherwise boring chore to make it take on a whole new meaning and turn it into something you enjoy.

    I'm fascinated with playing with mental perception these days... ie, messing with the brain to make things mean a certain thing or other. For instance, when I have a headache or a nasty cold and am feeling miserable, or on a cloudy, grey winter day, I've started to intentionally take a few moments to really feel the misery and commit that yucky feeling to my memory. This way on days that I'm healthy or the weather's awesome, I have something stark to contrast it against and really appreciate it, no matter how boring or blah the day otherwise is.

    It's kind of like playing with photo-editing software... same picture, but now I have control on the dials for increasing contrast, saturation, clarity until I can make pretty much picture looks pleasant, or at the very least acceptable, in my mind. Your post above makes me realize that there are a whole lot of different "algorithms" to do it! :)

    1. The thing I ponder is the fine line between attitude adjustment and being delusional. Some things you can rationalize to a point and it's healthy, but beyond that not so much. When you mentioned "really feel(ing) the misery" it reminded me of when I used to get migraines and how they were worse when I tried to fight them. If I just accepted the pain and lived there it somehow wasn't as debilitating. But I wouldn't go as far as the instructor in my birthing class who, when asked about pain during childbirth (which we were all dreading) she would only say, "It's an interesting sensation." (Uh, no, that's PAIN, and accepting it helped, but calling it something else was just silly.)

  4. I've been meaning to post here. I read your post last week, went to target, and while I pushed my cart back across the parking lot in the frigid cold I thought of your grandmother, I thought of you...I smiled.