I was young and bright-eyed. A newly wed that went into marriage fully prepared. Fully prepared with my lists and checklists, my ideals and expectations. I knew what I was looking for, and I’d found it, we found it. We found each other. Our lists matched. Our desires lined up. Our ideals mirrored.
The thing with any list though is that life always has it’s own. With each day a new paragraph written. New lines spring to life as the chapters unfold. And those lists? They change.
I walk into the grocery store much the same way. Prepared. List in hand. I know what I need and the lines on my paper are ready for a check mark.
I’ll admit, grocery shopping is not my favorite thing. When I have time to really browse the items and stroll the aisles; to touch, feel and breathe in the scent of fresh produce, while arranging a menu according to the way each makes me feel? Yes, that I like to do. When it’s normal life and we’re juggling schedules of four littles, businesses and deadlines, well then it’s a “run in and check off the list, quick!” Those days I don’t like so much. Those days, my husband picks up the slack. Those days he gets a text that reads, “Stop for cucumbers. And cereal. And coffee creamer please. I’ll love you forever.” When I remember the “I love you forever” part. It’s just real, and normal, and the way the lines of our daily chapters are usually filled.
Those days I run out for necessities and return home only to realize I forgot the most important thing (I’m not the only one, right?). I mean, the coffee creamer is a necessity indeed. Too many times, I didn’t cross off something my list. Too many times, I’d left it at home. I forgot to add an item. I prepared for the wrong meals. I prepared for the wrong thing.
It’s funny, because Chris and I actually exchange a knowing look at each other when someone asks how long we’ve been married. Neither of us will admit it, but we always add it up in our heads before answering. Always. We don’t want to accidentally blurt out the wrong number, so our answers are slow and decisive. Counting back from the current month and year. Maybe it’s a side effect of so many children. Too many dates and numbers swirling in our heads to keep it all straight.
After twelve years of marriage (yes, I did the math, again, quickly in my head,) I realized that some of what I prepared for was the wrong thing. My lists needed some adjusting. Not everything I had planned on checking off, by this point in my story, has that satisfying red X through it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s okay, because with time, my ideas and expectations and lists have changed. They’ve evolved.
So what happens when we walk out of the store with a list that’s unfinished? What about those days something important was forgotten? Something was missed?
We don’t duck and run and never return to market, we can’t. We don’t avoid life because an expectation changed. We don’t throw in the towel, we just adjust the list.
Some days just call for a do over. Sometimes it’s about being flexible and changing the idea you had preplanned for, for something new and fresh that day. It’s about accepting the things you can’t change, while enjoying the red X’s on your lists along the way. It’s about the plan and the unpredictable.
It’s about finding a place you love and taking the time to smell the fresh, organic produce and dream of something sweet and savory. It’s about changing up the norm and making a date out of a trip down the aisle, the grocery aisle. It’s about remembering to text “I love you forever.” It’s about loving the one you’re with more than crossing off a list, even though that feels pretty good too.
I no longer hold my expectations as if they’re a list to be crossed off. I don’t let a catalog of ideals determine my happiness. I don’t let a menu of to-do items determine my love.
Sometimes, Chris and I will go to the grocery store just to be together. We’ll haul our clan, our family of six to the market, just to have more time with each other. Even when it’s not as practical, even when our minds scream, “Divide and conquer. Separate and make the most of your checklist.” Those days, we throw the list aside and explore the aisles to try something new.
In the spirit of exploration, we’re excited that Sprouts is opening near us. Simply put, it’s a grocery store that makes healthy eating affordable. We will browse the aisles, we will hold hands (when we’re not chasing kids, smelling the most delicious produce and crossing off our lists), we will chat with the butcher and select the best choices of all-natural, never frozen, grass-fed meats (at affordable prices). We will strike up conversations with helpful team members that are eager to support us on our journey to better health, and whether we’re choosing to spend time together while menu making or running in between errands, we’ll remember that whether we forget an item or round it all up in one glorifying, list-crossed trip, it’s less about the list of items and more about the trip, the journey, the life… together. Oh, and the yummy food.
“You have your list?” He asks me with an incredulous smile as his sideways glance eyes my hands, a list clearly evident. “It’s just a guide” I say, grabbing my tote.
In shopping, in life, my lists… they are just a guide.
This post was written in partnership with Sprouts – thanks for reading! Wishing you many spontaneous trips… to the store and in life, list or not.