My favorite grocery store closed last week.
This is a big loss to the community and a big loss to the employees who lost their jobs. It’s also a big personal loss to me.
Not because of the plethora of organic and environmentally-friendly products, not because their core values were about community and giving back, not because of the apples and bananas they gave away to children as their parents shopped, not because of the community center inside the store where I would frequently pass ladies playing dominoes, people in book club discussions, or men in ties having Tuesday meetings over $5 sushi and $2 pints.
Almost every single day in the city, at some point in the day, I would find myself landing there, in the upstairs of the grocery store, looking out at Tobin’s school. (You could see his school across the street from the upstairs of the store.) I would sit and work on my computer with his school in sight and the low hum of music and conversations and item scanning as background to my tasks. It had become a home base of sorts for me, and I would sit in amazement that my son had such a fantastic school to meet his needs and I had this place to park and work.
This grocery store had become a sacred space of gratefulness.
The store’s last day was also Knox’s last day in the city with me. We went in and tried to find something to buy so we could have a token to remember this place. There was nothing much remaining, so we settled on a few honey sticks for Knox and some white sunglasses (with bottle-openers on the ear pieces) for me. For a total of $3.18.
The very next day, I drove by the store—car empty, heart full of feelings—and cried.
I remembered all that place had meant to me over the past two years. And all that it represented to me. That place had held me during the hardest time in my life… when I couldn’t even make it out of the car, so I had sat in the parking lot looking up at the friendly lettering. I had worked on so many projects there, once even creating wooden key chains for Christmas gifts: sitting in the floor by an outlet, using a wood burner to etch letters into pieces of wood and a drill to make a hole in them, and then stringing them through chains—all from that upstairs floor. I’d had phone meetings there, parent meetings there, lunches with friends. And even actually used it for groceries.
A friend recently lamented, “I hate change. That’s my problem. I always want things to stay the same.”
I’ve always kind of liked the excitement of change, of new. I’ve never really dreaded it. But she got me thinking about that. And how the kinds of changes I was thinking about were really the ones we choose, or the ones that have some sort of novelty or sense of adventure about them.
Or the changes we need. Because sometimes we just need a change. But even then, change can be challenging.
But the bad ones? The hard ones? The ones that knock us over or sideswipe us while we’re just starting to catch our stride? Yeah, I don’t like those.
In yoga, my teacher has us take a deep, deep breath in. And then exhale it all the way out. Then breathe in again, but this time as we breathe, she reminds us that everything changes… that the breath we are taking right now is different from the breath we just took… that we’ve lost cells and gained cells and so much change has gone on inside our body just within the time we took that breath… Because that is life… always changing.
And if the tiny cells within our body can’t stay put… why should we expect anything else to remain the same?
Knox is in the third grade this year. And that both breaks my heart and thrills me, as I see him growing into such an amazing person.
Tobin looks taller and more “big boy” every day. And I missed so much of his baby and toddlerhood that this also gives the same heart-wrenching, excited ball of emotions.
And I’ve tried.
I have significantly younger siblings that I’ve watched grow up so quickly all around me, so I’ve always known that when I became a parent, I needed to soak up every single moment that I can with my boys. And I’ve been intentional about that…
but even still… there is no stopping the force of time.
As I’m typing out this post, Knox is on the couch reading and asks me to make the light brighter. But I’m in a groove and don’t want to get up so I remind him where the light switch is and he says, “But, Mom, I can’t get up because I have a cover on. And it’s perfect. And my cover will never be this same way again.”
And I’m thinking how profoundly true that is. So breathe it in, son. And then… get the light.
It seems there are times when life is just how we want it:
The job is good. Home life is good. Mental and physical life are good. Relationships are good.
And you breathe in and out and think, This is perfect.
But then? Change.
Whether you plan for it or not. Whether you want it or not. Whether it’s a positive or a negative.
Change finds you.
Because it’s all a part of it… the never-ending evolution of things. It’s impossible for things to just pause. To remain static.
It’s not how the world works.
We’re all a part of this dynamic, messy moving forward of things, and it seems we can either breathe through it and see where it goes, we can stick out our claws and fight to stop the motion, or we can miss it entirely.
But still it moves. Regardless.
Both of our boys came to us during the in-between seasons.
Knox came home in October, and as I watch the leaves change each October, I’m reminded of the gift Knox is during the winters of my life.
Tobin came home in April, during a spring after one of the longest winters I’ve experienced. And each spring I’m reminded that the leaves really do turn green again. That winter really doesn’t last forever, and eventually things grow back. Tobin is my reminder of this promise.
I used to think of life kind of like this:
There was “normal” life—things going well, everything positive. Then something “bad” would happen and you just had to pray and get through it, so you could get back to “normal” life.
It was like I was trying to hold the perfect, easy, happy and keep it… like putting that crazy glue on legos to hold them in place.
If I could just keep my head, make good choices, pray and seek God, then the bad would go away and things would go back to the happy, shiny.
I don’t believe that anymore.
Because things are always changing. And there are some things that will always have an element of hard to them.
But “hard” doesn’t mean “bad,” it just means “hard.”
Now I think of life kind of like this:
There is just “life.”
It’s comprised of ever-changing hard moments and ever-changing high moments. And once I stop resisting the hard, stop fighting against it or dreading it or resenting it, once I start working with the hard…. The Good can happen. (The kind with the capital “G.”)
Because God loves us through the highs and God loves us through the hards.
Because both are great teachers.
Because nothing stays the same. The highs don’t stay forever and the hards don’t stay forever. They work together. Always changing, always growing us to become who we’re meant to become.
The more I realize this truth and let it sink down inside me, the less worked up I get about change, and the freer I am to experience and enjoy life—regardless if I’m in a valley or on a mountain.
I’m sad that my favorite grocery store is closed.
I’m sad that Knox is back in school and I’m alone again in the city.
But I know that I’m in transition. I’ll be sad for a while, and then a new “normal” will get established.
And I’ll be fine. I’ll get used to the new routine… and then it will change.
Because that’s how it is. That’s how it all works.
So I’ll keep pursuing TOB.