By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
It happened again yesterday. I went to the store for “just a few things.” An hour and more than a hundred dollars later, I pushed an overly full shopping cart out of the store and stuffed more than a dozen bags into the back of my SUV.
As I drove home, I went through a mental checklist of all the things I’d bought: Milk, bread, cereal, lunch meat, laundry detergent. Check, check, check. I had all the essentials plus lots of other things that seemed necessary when I’d cruised through the aisles.
But then a maddening question popped into my head: “How is it possible that I have a car full of groceries and still have no idea what to make for dinner?” Has this ever happened to you? It makes me crazy.
I actually considered pulling into the drive-through of Chick-fil-A because the thought of putting away all those groceries only to drag them out again and cook something seemed like more trouble than it was worth. (Plus, what does one make with ingredients like milk, Tide with Bleach, bologna and Cheerios? I’m pretty sure you can’t put that stuff in the crock pot and come back home to anything that’s edible.)
I talked myself out of the fast-food drive-through mostly because it felt wrong to go out to eat when I’d spent all this time and money to bring food home. I put away the groceries and then stood in front of the pantry, gazing into it with a blank, hopeless stare.
That clueless feeling reminded me of those times when I look into a closet full of clothes and yet have “nothing to wear.” Men won’t relate to that feeling but women know it well. Even with a closet bursting at the seams, we only wear a fraction of what’s in there. And if the handful of favorite jeans and tops happen to be dirty, well, we may have to stay in a bathrobe all day because we don’t have a single thing to put on. Ridiculous? Yes, of course. But we feel it, nonetheless.
It’s the age-old problem of “too much and not enough.” I still don’t understand how those two things can exist in the same kitchen or closet or even the same universe, but they do.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of “too much and not enough” is far more personal than groceries or clothes. It whispers to the inner critic in all of us – that nasty little voice that tells us there’s “too much” to do and we’re “not enough” to do it successfully.
If only I was good at planning menus for the week, I wouldn’t end up with a shopping cart full of food and yet nothing to make for dinner. If only I was smarter about fashion, I’d know exactly how to assemble these random separates into an outfit that makes me look like I’ve got it all pulled together, inside and out.
But the truth is I don’t have it all pulled together. And some days are more chaotic than others. Just like the kitchen pantry and the bedroom closet, I am too much and not enough.
In times like these, I have to go back to the basics – back to what I know will work even when I’m short on time and inspiration. Jeans and a sweater to greet the day. And when the groceries are all put away and energy is waning, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner will work in a pinch. It’s not fancy, but then again neither am I. I am too much and not enough and perfectly imperfect, just as God made me.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.