I’m finding it hard to start this post, because of a high level of embarrassment I have about it.  I remember writing a post several years ago about how useless embarassment is, and how we can all simply decide not to be embarrassed anymore.  Well, that was my arrogant early twenties, and here I am at almost 30… embarrassed, and finding it hard to step out of it.  In my early twenties, choices seemed clearer — obviously, I’ll act based on my ideals and stand proud and confident.  But now, as my choices have unearthed complexity beyond anything I could have imagined, and the “clear” ideals start to contradict each other, how do I justify choices that uphold one ideal while undermining another?  Maybe the escape hatch is in stepping away from trying to justify…  I write this post not to defend my choices, but to put some thoughts down and work with them, and to challenge my embarrassment by sharing myself as I am, wrinkles, confusion, and all.

Our kitchen is full of food again, and it feels relieving.  I feel it in my body, a deep release of tension and anxiety. Tension is still in my mind as I wrestle with ideals and plans and numbers, but my body has relaxed.  It’s a step.

We all went to the store together, when Jeffrey called on Friday afternoon and said the card had come in the mail.  We debated going to IGA or Whole Foods — convenience or quality? — and decided on Whole Foods.  Our plan is to go to small, local stores from now on, but the major restocking of the kitchen was best suited for the ample supply of the national chain.  When we got there, we told the kids they could choose whatever they wanted, just no candy.  I was impressed with our choices — mostly staples, with a few treats.  Lots of fruit and cheese and nuts, and other things we had stopped buying months ago, like hot sauce, salsa, and lemon juice.  The kids got really happy about boxed cereal and sour cream.   Their exuberance was contagious — despite my complicated emotions, I found my excitement in the bulk bins: dried figs, apricots, and blueberries, along with rice, flour, and cornmeal.  The family treats ended up being one chunk of chocolate, three packages of bacon, guacamole, yogurt, and orange juice.

As long as I remember that this is a chapter of our lives, not the whole book, I can roll with it.  We’re in a time of acute need, and this system exists to help people in need.  My judgement and frustration (and embarrassment) is that we knew we were headed in this direction, and we didn’t make the necessary changes or plans to keep us from here.  In my conception of how the world works, it seems like we should be punished for our failure to plan, instead of rewarded with free food.  We were granted almost twice as much as we usually spent on food, when we had more money.  I fear that it’ll be too easy to keep this crutch, and we’ll resist weaning ourselves from the luxury.  What’s the incentive now to make the changes to have a more sustainable life?  Integrity… My belief in cooperative life (I’d rather be served by people I’m serving than be served by a giant bureaucracy)…

I have friends who would argue that food isn’t a luxury, that it’s a basic human right that should be provided to anyone who needs it, and that providing people with food should be one of the main tasks of a government.  It’s a tricky balance… are those dried blueberries (at $14 a pound) a basic human right?  In my ideal vision, it’s the task of a community of people working together to provide food for themselves as a whole.  Government is something different… focused on facilitating the resolution of conflict.

Nothing feels clearer after writing this… I’m tempted to just erase it and try again another time, but the meaningful part of this exercise is in not hiding, stepping out of my shame.  So, here it is.  I don’t have it all figured out, no great philosophical justification or political rant… just pieces of the story.