I always thought spiritual enlightenment sprung itself unannounced during long meditative retreats, drum beating workshops or arduous vision quests, but for me, it was the fluro-illuminated isles of a supermarket that lit the light of insight.
I used to hate supermarket shopping, the repetitiveness of it dulled my brain. While I love food, the thought of having to push a cold metal basket with directionally opposing wheels frustrated me, it seemed like a time waster, a chore and a bore. Something you just had to tolerate. One day, life gave my own trolley (body) a heavy push in the opposite direction to which I thought I was travelling. The push was a gift in the form of a sudden bout of very poor health, and with it, my view of supermarket shopping, and other similarly “mundane” tasks suddenly changed, they became highly coveted chores.
The Gift of Illness
How is being ill a gift? Because being sick for almost three months straight, helped me learn the art of appreciation. I know three months is nothing compared to the long-term illnesses faced by many, but it wasn’t the duration but the severity of the confinement that had me take notice. Bed and house ridden for weeks on end, I was unable to do more than sit up to sip soup and wait for the sun to set on what I thought was another empty, and completely wasted, precious day; where nothing was achieved other than being able to say I made it through another 24 hours.
It was during the darker moments, you know, home alone while the rest of the world buzzed away in never-ending hives of activity, that I had my own buzzy Aha! moment. I suddenly coveted those previously dull and repetitive activities like ironing, washing and yep, the once dreaded supermarket shopping.
Small achievements are important milestones
When getting out of bed is the greatest achievement of each day, a simple, previously annoying activity like supermarket shopping suddenly becomes a highly desired goal. A sign of progress, little signposts showing you’ve made it from bedroom, to lounge room, from indoors, to outdoors, from home, to shop. Progress, no matter how small, is progress.
Forget visualising sitting on a tropical beach eating coconuts, all I wanted was the familiarity of a visit to my local supermarket, a place where I could be “normal” and not that sick woman, hidden from the world. A place where I could smile at the friendly checkout staff, and know that when asked how my day was, I would reply with an overenthusiastic, “Brilliant!” and really, really mean it.
Suddenly, I felt joy at the prospect of gliding down each aisle, marvelling at the 20 plus varieties of crisps, or the ingenuousness of Banana flavoured milk, which contains only 1% banana and yet, can still be labelled Banana Milk. I would nod approvingly at the precision with which heavily laden shelves are stocked with the useful and the useless. I’d smile like an idiot at other robotic shoppers, carrying out the “dreaded chore”, but wanting to stop and say, “Hey, you should enjoy this because you don’t know how awful it is to have it taken away from you”. I’ve realised that to be able to do even the most mundane of chores really is a privilege.
So my first return visit to the supermarket called for some skipping past the pasta and a twirl into the table salt, ending with a backward twist and the skilful throw of a cereal box, landing smack in the middle of the trolley. OK, it landed in someone else’s trolley but the look of bemusement on the shopper’s face made it all worth while. At least, I’d awoken them temporarily from their dreary, repetitive chore. It made me realise that with appreciation, our everyday tasks, even the seemingly mundane, can be as precious as those more eventful moments in our lives. It’s all about perspective.
So what did I learn in the supermarket aisle of enlightenment? I learnt that a chore need no longer be a bore when you think you will do it no more! And finally, my advice is next time you go supermarket shopping, give thanks that you can, because there are so many people who simply can’t.