When the going gets tough, I go grocery shopping. Too often. Usually my list has about 4 things on it, virtually the same every time: grapefruit juice, yogurt, pizza crust, vegan cheese. We always need those, but I always end up getting other things I think we need: paper towels, seltzer, dishwashing liquid, ice cream. Then I get home and realize that I’m only prepared for my husband’s breakfast and my son’s dinner.
That’s a problem.
So then, if I can pull it together, I think of one possible meal that will feed all of us – spaghetti, pork roast, steak, chicken. Then I need to decide which store will have what I want (I visit, on average, 5 different stores every week, three of them more than once) and spend an inordinate amount of time reading news and playing candy crush while I decide what time is best for me to make another store trip. I seldom leave the house specifically to grocery shop – tacking it onto another errand gives the illusion of efficiency when it is anything but.
It’s not always this way. There are weeks when I plan and shop for meals 4 or 5 days in advance. Part of it is seasonal – it’s easier to keep on hand and grill many foods that will suit everyone. At one point I got a farm share and was marginally successful at using up even the unusual foods that appeared in my weekly box (full disclosure: I nixed the kale).
I can’t blame the special diets because I’ve been doing them for so long I’m used to making 2 or 3 separate meals to meet all the criteria. If everyone is home and we all have pizza, I assemble three kinds: gluten-dairy-soy free, gluten-free with cheese, and wheat pizza with cheese.
So somewhere in my brain resides the capacity the plan, shop and cook meals without multiple random disorganized shopping trips. That part of my brain is just not operational at this time. In the early years after diagnosis (but before special diets) I think we subsisted entirely on hamburgers, spaghetti, roast chicken and grilled cheese. I don’t remember eating anything else (except that one Saint Patrick’s Day when I made corned beef and cabbage and key lime pie, which might have been the worst menu ever).
Years ago, a friend’s father was diagnosed with cancer and her mother spoke of standing in the market, unable to choose anything. At the time (I was SO young) I thought, “How hard can it be?” The answer is: really hard. My mind is occupied with other things and unless I haven’t eaten for two days (okay that never happened – more like 18 hours) food just isn’t a priority. It should be noted, however, that this doesn’t stop me from eating everything in sight in the process of not caring about food.
So the transition has hijacked the food organization section of my brain (along with other sections that have been hijacked by cable news, but I digress), replacing it with elaborate schemes to convince my husband that Chinese food from a place 45 minutes away is a really good idea. Except it’s not because he and I are the only ones who crave dried chicken with chilies and apparently we need to feed our children, too. For the record, they are all old enough to fend for themselves, but I kind of have a thing about feeding everybody in my house, whether they live here or not.
I’ll be glad when spring comes and the transition ceases looming and starts being. The uncertainty about what exactly will not go right – because it can’t be perfect – will be replaced by real successes to be enjoyed and real problems to be solved. I am overwhelmed by not knowing if what we have planned is indeed what we should have planned. Did we make the right choices? Talk to the right people? Ask the right questions? File the right paperwork? Are these the right services? Will we lose funding? How can we possibly thank everyone who helped us over the last 18 years? Who will stay in our lives? Who will leave? Will his feelings be hurt? Will he find new friends? Will we? Should we? Are we too isolated? Once I let one question in, all of the others come galloping in behind it, and most of them have no answers other than to wait and see. I hate that.
In the meantime, I have to go and sort through the groceries I bought and see if there is any dinner in there. Chocolate chips and parsley, anyone?