It all started in the post-pandemic bread aisle.
It was circa day 10 of COVID-19 living, and I had ventured to the store for my weekly anxiety attack/grocery trip. Still a quarantine-shopping novice, I had asked the kids to make a list (Ramen, Takis, Nutty Bars, Mountain Dew, sugar cereal, and bagels*) still thinking that I could actually buy all of the things on said list.
*CLEARLY they were trying to take advantage of my fragile, pandemic-induced mental state because they KNOW I will not buy Ramen and Mountain Dew in the same trip. Separate trips, maybe, but the same trip would invite nutritional mutiny and I can’t have mutiny quite yet… they’ve still got a few years at home.
It didn’t take me long to realize that their unrefined teenage palettes were going to have to sustain a bit of a blow because shopping in a pandemic meant learning to shop with bare shelves.
Well, not exactly bare, but close.
There was Ramen, but only beef-flavored. (sacrilege)
The Takis were plentifully stocked (says something about the Takis,) but the Nutty Bars and Mountain Dew were in short supply.
Sugar cereal had been whittled down to the generic kind of Cookie Crisp and Honey Smacks. (Is that even cereal?)
And then, finally, the bagels… Oh, the bagels.
My daughter had specifically asked for Everything bagels, and as I turned the corner into the COVID-ravaged bread aisle, I realized she should have just asked me for a pony because the pony would have been a more likely find.
There was not a bagel in sight. Not even a stray sleeve of a reject bagel flavor like “french toast” or something equally abhorrent.
And not only that… there was no bread anywhere, save for a fully stocked shelf of “Sandwich Thins” (which says something about the Sandwich Thins.) And as I looked at the empty shelves in front of me, I began to feel a little realization playing at the edges of my quarantine-induced existential crisis.
When faced with uncertainty and considering survival, I realized the human body knows two things:
- Get toilet paper.
- Eat carbs.
And for #2 to have taken place, something magical had to have happened.
Something must have broken the spell.
What spell, you ask?
Well, in this case, the bread spell. You know, the “keto-is-life” spell designed to make us believe our health is somehow directly related to the number of carbs we ingest in a day.
And I’m not going to lie -I wasn’t sad about it. I like carbs and considered this a win for the inherent wisdom of the human body.
But what was most astounding to me was that we didn’t stop at empty bread aisles.
Instead, when the bread aisles ran empty, WE LEARNED TO BAKE. We filled IG with pictures of bubbling balls of dough and baskets of freshly baked brioche. Which is brilliant.
Take THAT SARA LEE… I most certainly DO do it like you, thank you very much.
And somewhere in the middle of the widespread baking obsession, I began to wonder…
If bread can make a comeback under these circumstances, what else might we find out about ourselves during the uncertain days ahead? Would our self-actualization stop with the carbs? Or would it keep going, spilling over into the other areas of our lives?
Like maybe the overwhelm of teaching 2nd-grade math using Google slides might also invite us to release the idea that the only good mom is a perfect mom.
Or does the pandemic make it possible to break down our attachment to having a clean kitchen in favor of spending precious moments with the people we love?
Or… and hear me out here… could all of this time with empty calendars and blank social schedules lead us to discover that who we are is not made any better at all by what we do?
And just as soon as I began to wonder, I also began to see it… the spell seemed to be broken everywhere.
Much like I watched my IG feed fill with yummy, yeasty treats, I went on to watch the women around me discover all sorts of things about themselves. I marveled as they sliced through their relentless desire to drive themselves to perfection, and opted to start taking naps instead. I was astounded by their willingness to get messy, play in the dirt, abandon every ideal they thought made them better, and allow themselves to just be. It was pure magic brought about by one broken spell after another, and it is a way of living I never want to come to an end.
So, as we move forward in the days and weeks ahead, I want to offer one thought to each of you:
Let the spell stay broken.
As the shops open and our calendars fill and our lives expand to include hugs from someone other than our spouses, remember that there was magic in learning to trust yourself with yourself.
There was magic in being messy and eating bagels and playing. There was magic in the piles of dishes and the naps. There was magic in remembering that self-care is more than your visit to the salon.
There was magic. And I want it to live past the pandemic.
So, let the spell stay broken, and let’s keep living on all the magic we can muster.