I went to the food bank for the first time today, and checked my ego at the door.
You see, I am a mom.
- I am a woman who has at one point in my life gone shopping and thought nothing of spending $500-$1,000 in one store.
- I am a mom who made it a point for years to donate a bag of non-perishables to the food bank.
- I am hard working and entrepreneurial.
- I am well educated and less than seven years ago made $200,000 on the sale of a home.
I have also been unable to pay my bills every month for more than a year, have no health insurance and when I fill up my gas tank or buy groceries, it simply is added to my credit card balances.
There is so much uncertainty…
I found myself, brutally aware of the life circumstances of the past couple years that had brought me to this place… waiting in line outside the food bank, in the cold, waiting for the doors to open.
- Unsure of what I would find inside.
- Unsure of what would happen to my marriage, the health of my family, what we’ll do for health insurance and how in the heck I’m going to make all of this work.
- I don’t qualify for state health insurance or food stamps and yet I can’t afford the premium to purchase health insurance for myself.
The number of credit cards maxed out is a slippery slope and yet, we somehow make the mortgage every month.
All the horrible thoughts crossed my mind:
“What if someone I know sees me parking outside?”
“What if someone I know is volunteering in there and sees me, a woman of what they might think of as privileged, asking for free food to feed my family?”
“Am I worthy of receiving this? There are so many people out there far worse off than I am.”
“Should I just accrue more credit card debt and go to a normal grocery store?”
But I was not alone…
As I waited outside, the woman in front of me shared some of her life circumstances with me. She lived in her van. She told me about why she gets the canned beans instead of the dry ones… the overuse of propane is expensive and causes extra mold in her van.
She told me about where she chooses to park her van, mainly based on Wi-Fi access. She talked about her strategy around bathroom use, knowing which bathrooms open at which times and which church and restaurant parking lots are open on days their establishments are closed.
She was grateful for her Asperger’s diagnosis in her 60s and somehow found solace in the “answers” given to her…. explaining why she often felt like she didn’t fit in and how she didn’t understand people and their overriding self-interest.
As I listened to her, I thought: I don’t have Asperger’s, but I sure relate to her experience interacting with other human beings.
In the food bank itself, the volunteer staff was super friendly.
I was afraid I would feel worthless and ashamed, but no one actually asked me what my income is or what my scenario is. I was simply asked to show proof of residency, ID, and my family household size. I then got to shop with a personal shopping support person who walked me through each section and let me know how many of each section I was allowed. Three fruits, five vegetables, 3 soups, 5 meals etc.
My shopping self and my ego self had a little battle of the minds. “Beggars Can’t be choosers” one said. The other chimed in reminding me that my family’s food sensitivities are real and allowed me to say no thank you to certain foods, as free as they are, taking my children’s well being into account, as well as my own made it OK to prioritize.
My ego is still somewhat bruised…
I guess I just never anticipated this moment. I never would have guessed that that lovely expired food from the posh grocery store I used to shop at would be in my food bank basket, just slightly too old to eat.
Byron Katie says: “Your suffering is never caused by the person you’re blaming”.
It’s simply that chapter in my life that I stop blaming my husband for the ways in which he is not providing and start taking on the needs of our family.
The reality is, we need to eat, we don’t have the money to pay for our basic living costs, and there are kind people out there who have donated food to be eaten… it’s come full circle. Who knows, maybe I picked up a can of soup that I donated….
And, I’m obviously writing this anonymously because I’m not ready for my story to be told, with my face and family attached to it. Not that anyone I know will read it, but I guess my ego is still not completely checked at the door.
I don’t know what comes next…
I don’t know if our mortgage will be salvaged or if our marriage will stay afloat. What I do know, is that no matter what the future holds, it’s time for me to take life and my future into my full responsibility.
Out on the other end, maybe there is divorce and bankruptcy, maybe there is triumph and success, a more connected marriage, and children with compassion.
To be honest, I haven’t shared with our kids the nature of our scenario.
They did not go to the food bank with me today. I didn’t know if we would bump into a feisty homeless community or if kids were even allowed, but that’s an entirely different story.
I share this because I’m guessing I’m not alone…
What other things do we, as women, tuck our tails and do in secrecy? Abortions, miscarriages, affairs, sexually transmitted infection treatment… passing gas in public.
Come on ladies, we are all human. We all have wins and woes, triumphs and hardships. Although I’m a bit of a coward writing this under the pen name Dinah, at least it’s a start.
What story do you have that others need to hear… to know they too are not alone?
I have a fridge and freezer and pantry with enough food for at least five days in the house right now. My kids are asleep. The electricity is on. I am grateful, slightly ashamed, and still glad I didn’t see someone I know.
Shallow, yes, but this whole journey is very new, different, humbling, and crazy. Today was a new a different kind of day to say the least.
We’ve created Dinah as a pen name for all of us.
For every woman who is desperate to tell her real story, but, for whatever reason, “can’t” under her own name.
In Dinah’s name, we’re about to get very real, and tell the truth, some of us for the very first time.
“Dinah” is a safe space for all women to be universally women and to explore all of the stories we carry and people that we are underneath the layers that we share with the world.
Do you have a story to tell? Submit it anonymously here!