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When Shopping Becomes a Stress Test

Like everyone else, I’m home and following the rules for social distancing.  I’ve never had a cleaner, more organized house. My dog groans now when I beg him to take yet another walk and unbelievably I am almost done with a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Okay, so maybe I’m only 50 percent finished.

Before the Stay at Home orders went into effect, I went to the grocery store.  I bought some of the items that I thought we’d need for a few weeks.  My goal was to store up on some essential items, but avoid stockpiling.  But, now, over a week later it was time to refresh the pantry.  My husband and I made a list, organized by the store layout.  We split the list so we could be in and out of the store as quickly as possible and planned our trip as early as possible hoping to avoid close interaction with other shoppers.

When we arrived at the store’s parking lot, we realized that we were not as early as we thought. 

As soon as I got out of the car, I knew this was so much different from any other grocery shopping trip.  Rather than grab a cart from the lot, we went inside the store for ours.  Just thinking about how to pick up the spray bottle of disinfectant  was a challenge.  Wrapping a paper towel around the bottle first and spraying the entire cart, remembering to let it air dry, and then carefully pushing the trash can open with my paper towel was an incredible initiation into the “new normal.” 

Everyone in store, the shoppers and the staff, was incredibly patient and polite.  We all waited for our turn at the shelves, giving each other at least a 6 foot space.  Passing in the aisle was more of a challenge.  If possible, we made U-turns, if not possible, we smiled briefly and turned our faces in the opposite direction to pass.  Although many of the items shoppers were looking for were sold out, I did not see anyone get angry.   We shoppers understood.  We knew we were still lucky to find at least some of our items.

Safely, back in our car, I was overwhelmed with the level of stress and fear the outside world had caused.  The importance of realizing, acknowledging, and addressing these feelings is important.  None of us knows how much longer we will need to stay in our homes.  Staying connected to others is critical right now. 

It was also precisely then, sitting in the car in the parking lot,  that I understood on a personal, heart-wrenching level how this relatively minor interaction with the world did not begin to  compare to the daily experiences health care providers who are helping people they know are infected with the virus. Many do not have adequate personal protection equipment. And yet, they have not given up. 

Take care of yourselves. Find ways to stay connected to others.  Stay at home.