The way I aimlessly wander through the aisles of Target is a lot like how I spend my least gratifying days of motherhood. For better or for worse, I lose sight of my purpose and by afternoon settle on just doing better tomorrow. Maybe there is a list but there is no plan and I already know that I’ll be in a battle with myself for presence.
As I set my purse in my cart and walk through the doors, I am resolved. I’m just going to fill my cart with what I need. I’m not going to be distracted.
The First Thing You Do Matters
Just like how Instagram and emails first thing in the morning can set the stage for a downhill spiral, so can . . . the dollar section. At Target I get comfortable in the dollar section. I indulge in the dollar section. What’s this stuff going to add up to? $10. Oh well.
But what I’m not seeing is that Target is training me to get comfortable filling my cart. I’m practicing the act of putting inconsequential things in my cart but really, I’m being psychologically primed before I get to the higher ticket home goods upstairs.
The same way that dollar section sets the tone for how the rest of my aisle wandering of Target will go so does my cell phone in the morning. I know what lies in my inbox hours before I really have the time to deal with it. I hop on Instagram and see all these accounts with their fake mornings. I know they are staged. I know they hired a photographer with a lens that looks nothing like real life. I know that they probably just bought and returned all the clothes. But despite knowing all this, I can’t unsee it. I’m engaged in inconsequential media and likely to be distracted by it all day. My lack of presence will probably be felt by my kids. In turn, their behavior will shift, then likely mine in return again. The first thing you do when you wake up (and when you walk into Target) matters.
Trained to Be A Cart Filler
Here I am, now trained to fill my cart with things. Things I don’t want, things I only think I need. I also fill my day with things. I’m a classic filler. A cart filler, a schedule filler, a closet filler, a pantry filler. I mindlessly fill things without even realizing it. I fill my schedule to the brim, I fill my quiet time with social media and mindless scrolling. When I’m burnt out on that I might fill my time with pinning house projects I can’t afford. Somehow, my filling now has me looking at other people’s lives and reflecting more on what I think their life story might be than what mine is. I spend my day mentally balancing other people’s checkbooks and then walking the aisles of Target without any regard for my own life’s balance. Oh wait, didn’t I see @soandso do an Instastory about this product . . . fill the cart.
I’m pushing the elevator button (our Target is two stories) knowing that I still ‘need’ to get through toys, kids clothes and home goods but definitely have $100 of things in my cart already. I tell myself it is ok to be here. Browse these aisles and buy these things. These days are long and you work hard. But the more money I make the more I waste. The more I put in my cart the more comfortable I feel putting more in the cart. Yet the volume of my cart is disproportionate to my contentment.
My daily calendar, just like my shopping cart is full. Full of things I don’t need and I don’t really remember putting there. Why do I have two Instagrams? Why am I documenting our every move? Do I need to see every else’s day when I sometimes feel barely present enough to know what happened in mine? Or am I just filling?
Paralyzed With Indecision
Now I am back on the first floor with this shopping cart that’s filled to the brim and I don’t know what to do. I can’t walk away from it all together, that would be weird and a waste of my morning. I still sort of still like all these shiny things I’ve loaded up. Besides, putting all this back would be time consuming and awkward. Would I restock every item one by one? Put back that seat on the board nice and tidy like I never had it? Or do I take it to the cashier and apologize, maybe lie and say it was a mistake. “Sorry Megan, I don’t actually want to join your oils team and also can’t make that glam party even though there will be cheese and wine.”
As I stand in the elevator, still contemplating my future but also catching the spring bathing suits calling my name, I become paralyzed with indecision. What if I just stand here between these two racks of really cute pajamas sets…or wait. . . over there in the middle of swimwear.
Yes, I’ll hide from myself in swimwear and then again over in tote bags.
Without taking a step forward or back maybe it will be ok? I’ll stay on the first floor, move laterally and just keep shopping. Yes, my cart is full but I haven’t bought these things yet.
Can You Really Pay For It All?
This is where we all get stuck, in Target but more importantly in motherhood. Not only am I filling my life and schedule with things I can’t emotionally afford, I forgot to mention that hanging on to the edges of my cart is my two kiddos along for the ride. They are reaching into the cart grabbing for a mint Milanos that I opened in the Chip & Joanna section as a bribe for their behavior while I get lost in pretty things. They watch me fill my schedule just like they watch me fill the cart they are hanging onto. Flawed or not, my example is likely to become their model.
The only way I know to fix it is to findf my best friend. She’s not the new favorite friend I met upstairs bonding over the pink throw pillows, that mama is in another section hating herself for having it in her cart. My best friend is more like a security guard, the person who is there to make sure I don’t move on without paying for everything. Can I pay for everything in my cart? Can I really pay for it all? How much will it actually cost me?
In that moment as I tell her everything, I hope that she will just say “me too” and we can walk out the store together like Thelma and Louise. But today she doesn’t. She leaves for a minute and comes back. With her is a new cart, an empty one. “This is your cart now,” she says, “walk out with it empty, fill it halfway, or fill it to the top again. Whatever you decide is right.” Then she grabs my two kiddos off the cart, takes their hands and says, “I’ve got them covered, take as long as you need.”