This post is going to delve into some fairly personal topics… mostly because I need a space to process and work through these tears that are pouring down my face. If you choose to read it and comment, I ask that you be kind. I’m in a tender place and I have created this space as a space of safety for all who enter herein. Including me…

groceriesI went grocery shopping today. A big accomplishment, I know. For me… it was huge! Not that I have difficulty grocery shopping or that I hate it or anything, but because of the insights that happened while there…

See, it all started when I opened my email early this morning to discover two different emails from people who want money from me. My budget is less than a shoe string and I’ve had unexpected expenses this semester that have ran me into zero faster than I had planned. A couple months ago, thank goodness, I went to the state health department to get CHIP insurance for my daughter, since her daddy and stepmom were no longer married and, therefore, she was no longer covered on her stepmom’s insurance. In the process of qualifying her for that insurance, the State covered me on Medicaid and her on food benefits. Because I am a full time student, I don’t get food help, but they were willing to give food help to her. A part of me wanted to turn them down and say, “No, *I* don’t need the help.” But, honestly, sadly, I do, just like so many other people in this nation need help. And I’m so so grateful to know I have a buffer if I get really sick or injured.

I am very grateful for that little card in my purse because it gives me the opportunity to say YES to her once in a while, rather than always having to say, “Honey, I don’t have the money…” The first time we went grocery shopping after getting that card, she wouldn’t ask for anything because she has gotten used to shopping on a tight budget. When I asked her if she wanted some Nutella, her eyes popped out of her head – first because I was even suggesting that we could get the simple pleasure of Nutella, but, on top of that, I was giving her permission to get the big one. Our tastes are simple so grocery shopping has never really been an extravaganza – even when I did have a lot more money than I have now, but having the ability to give her that small gift was such a relief.

The thing is, I know that there are millions struggling out there right now and that many of us are in a very scary place, financially. So, while part of me is grateful that I have that little food card and insurance in case of emergency, I also have HUGE fears that one day it will suddenly be gone and there will be nothing left, no way for me to care for her and worst fear of all – that I won’t be able to provide for her… and then what???

Have I applied for jobs? Yes. So many I’ve lost track. Have I had any interviews? Yes. Two. Two in two years. I’ve applied for jobs for which I’m far too overqualified, have been told as such and haven’t even been allowed to interview because of it. One of the interviews I went to was for a job that was the exact description in the job I was doing before the company closed on 9/8/09. They told me in that interview that I was, “too good of a match” and sent me on my way. Really. So I went back to school, in the hopes that I could get training in an entirely different field to get me a bigger pond to swim in. Now my school is funded with grants and student loans and if I could fit a job in amongst my screwy schedule, I would lose my funding and my insurance. How is that right???

Anyway… back to the email from this morning.

I left earlier today to take Kait to her stepmom’s so she could celebrate her little sister’s birthday with her all weekend. As I was driving along, my fears started mounting. I can’t pay that bill. And I can’t pay THAT bill. And there’s only enough money for two more days of gas… and… and… and… The fears were running through my head so loudly I was breaking out in a sweat. At the same time, I was in the process of saying “no” to something I really wanted to do because it involved me driving some more and not being able to pay for my own lunch. So, it was a no. And I was so sad. Sad. Scared. Sad. Scared. It went around and around and around.

Kait looked at me and said, “Momma, are you okay?”

I probably looked sheet white and my hands were shaking. “No. I feel really agitated. Actually… I feel terrified. And sad. And… angry. All of it all at once.”

She knew what I was talking about because I had shared my email discoveries with her, “Yeah. I can imagine. It’s gonna be okay, isn’t it, Momma?”

I didn’t really know.

I dropped her off and walked out of there feeling so depressed after being there and grateful for my living quarters, comparatively speaking. I felt the tears brimming that have been threatening since Thursday. They fell over several times on Thursday as I sobbed my way through cleaning out, sorting and releasing most of my storage unit, finding stuff in there to sell off, donating what’s useable but not sellable. And crying. The tears spilled down my cheeks as I got in my car, another thing for which I am profoundly grateful, and I glanced at the full tank, feeling grateful again and then a HUGE wave of fear slammed into me. I can’t pay those bills. I don’t have money for gas. Oh God! 

egg nogWe needed milk and so I pulled into the grocery store parking lot feeling grateful, once again, for that little buffer of 3.5″ x 2″ plastic card in my wallet that said I could get that milk, some bread and maybe some more Nutella since Kait was out. I got one of the tiny carts and headed right back to the milk section and discovered the Egg Nog was out for the holidays. I cried. I love Egg Nog and I could get some. That little blessing of a card could provide me with that and I cried in gratitude… silent tears. I walked on with milk and Egg Nog in my little cart and I thought, “What will I eat for lunch?”

It was an odd question, as I had just had breakfast and we didn’t really need anything other than milk, so I brushed it aside. Until I got to the canned meat aisle. Then I heard, “I want a ‘Jen Sandwich’…” Now, a ‘Jen Sandwich’ is a white albacore tuna sandwich with bread and butter pickles on Grandma Sycamore bread made lovingly by my best friend, Jen. But, to get a ‘Jen Sandwich’ right now is impossible because I’m here and she’s not. She’s off on a God Walk and touring the country bringing Light to the world and I’m… here. So there I was, in the gratefully deserted canned meat aisle, crying my eyeballs out because I missed my best friend.

I did the only thing I could think of… I texted her and made her cry too.

About 15 minutes later, I walked out of the grocery story with an $89 gallon of milk. As I pushed my teeny, albeit full, cart to the car, I contemplated the fact that I had needed only milk and yet I had managed to spend $89. I didn’t “need” any of the stuff in my cart, but none of it was outlandish. There was tuna and mayo and bread… At any rate, it was more than just milk. I realized as I put the three bags into my car that I had spent that money at the grocery store because I could. Food is the only department in which I currently feel abundant because the State has provided me the means to feed my daughter. I purchased $89 dollars worth of food because I couldn’t pay the bills that are now due. I purchased that food in an attempt to fill a void that cannot be filled. I purchased that food – which will sustain our life – because… let me repeat this… because I can’t pay my bills.

As I unloaded the groceries, I pondered the awareness and the tears flowed some more. Then my phone rang and my beautiful friend, Jen, was on the other end. Finally we could talk and laugh together in the way that I can only do with her. Then she said something that stopped my heart and my breath, “With as empathic as you are, Ang, and the way you run the emotions of the world, it is no wonder you are in such big emotions with what has been going on in the world.”

“What’s been going on in the world???” I felt a little ditzy that there was something big enough going on in the world to be sending me through an emotional tail spin and I had no idea about it.

“Well, they killed Gaddafi on Thursday and some of his family too. It was torture. And then the Saudi Prince died in New York on Friday. There’s all kinds of political unrest going on around the world.”

The tears wouldn’t stop falling. And, suddenly, I began to understand why I have been crying for two days straight. It’s more than just the fact that I can’t pay my bills or put gas in my car. Yes, that is scary and sad-making. Yes, it’s embarrassing and humbling that *I* can’t provide food for my daughter, but the State is. And yes is with huge gratitude that I nod to my father and his wife for taking us in after seeing the living conditions of others. It’s more than all that, though.

It’s our world.

I am a bringer of Light in a world that is succumbing to darkness and with that, I feel the pain of the world. I. feel. the. pain.

And, suddenly, not being able to pay those bills doesn’t seem that big of a deal anymore.

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6 Responses to Tears in the Canned Meat Aisle

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you, this was lovely.
    Sometimes I can’t pay my bills, either. But lots of other people have it much worse.

  2. Cele says:

    Angie, breathe in and rejoice, shake off the woes of the world, take one day at a time and be. What is meant to be will what isn’t won’t and the rest won’t make a difference anyway. Be the light and beauty you are.

  3. jen says:

    My dear Angie, I wish I could explain to you how much I feel reading this. I’m having a hard time finding words, but this is my best effort.

    Tears. Love. Laughter. Heartache. Smiles. Hope. Connection. Sadness. Trembling lip and shaky hands. Wisdom.

    Thank you for sharing this.
    I love you.

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