Human Scouts, Troop 2020

Recently my dear friend Kate sent me a recipe for Pumpkin Taco Soup in the slow cooker, and I was pleased to see that I had every ingredient already in house; all I had to do was take chicken out of the freezer and pull things off the counter and the pantry shelves. A few days later I asked my sister-in-law for her Black Bean Brownie Muffin recipe, and once again felt glad when I realized that everything I’d need to fulfill that muffin tin was already inside of my home.

My first feeling was one of relief and comfort: nothing would need to be added to the grocery list, nothing would need to be purchased, and nothing would need to be carried into the house to create this meal for my family. I’d prepared for the possibility of these recipes by keeping plenty of a lot on hand. I could create wholesome, protein-rich, hearty food to nourish my people (bonus: I can even share with my Pod Squad member who is gluten-free!). How wonderful it was to already have in my possession the hardware for assembling this dinner! How satisfying to already own within my equipment the tools necessary to put it together! What a feeling it is to have one’s needs met before they even really become needs.

There is implicit privilege in going through day-to-day life with stocked shelves. A full larder is something too few people on this planet can claim. The fact that this was my second thought pronounces that privilege. These thoughts struck and stuck. They’re still there.

Another thought also occurred that transposed this idea from within the home to within a human. This is what we’re all doing here, day in and day out; we don’t know what we’re preparing for, but we’re doing the best to be ready for it. We’re shopping every experience, everything we read, everything we hear, and sampling from things we already know or think we know, to collect the best stock of supplies for facing whatever life is going to present us with (I promise I tried writing both that sentence and the penultimate clause in the previous sentence to avoid ending with a preposition, but it didn’t go so well). We don’t know what’s going to come next, but we’re bound and determined to take every measure necessary to gather those things–both concrete and immaterial–that might help us later.

For example: you find a snappy blue blazer a size too big for your son at a consignment store. Your sister has been dating the same guy for a few years, so you’ve been thinking they might get engaged soon. It’s a really good deal for the price, and those things are EXPENSIVE at full retail. So you buy it and hang it in his closet in case there’s a wedding next year. Or a funeral. Or something else fancy that you haven’t even considered yet. You never know, right? You’re front-loading that feeling of relief when an invitation arrives to find you already prepared! You’re putting stock in your future sense of comfort, of knowing, literally, “I’ve got this.”

Another example: you’re a parent, and raising kids is hard. You don’t know how the next phase of their lives will present, so you read. You talk and you listen. You watch other parents. You learn and you learn and you learn, cherry-picking what knowledge might serve you next time a child is in the midst of a tantrum or asks if “hell” is a bad word or still won’t eat solid food at eight months old or tells you that a kid at school says that evolution isn’t real or still wets the bed at the age of ten. This process usually begins when your first child is on the way and you find yourself with the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting in your hands.

A final example: you’re always searching for ways to improve your ability to react to things. You’re panning everything in life for those little flecks of gold that you can slip into your psychological pocket, touchstones to center you when faced with challenges. You know these gold flecks when you encounter them; sometimes it’s a sentence that resonates (“negative energy transfers from one person to another like cold air blows through an open door”); sometimes it’s an idea (“the way you react to things other people say tells you something about yourself”); sometimes it’s an example set by another (“when you spilled your cup of coffee all over your grandmother’s plush white carpet, she just laughed”); sometimes it’s a reminder (“the child is just seeing how far she can push before you lose your temper, so it’s important that you don’t”). It’s these gold flecks that buoy us through those moments when an unwelcome emotion raises its hand to slap us upside the head. The flecks steady us, give us breath, help us take that emotion’s raised hand and bring it to our lips.

Whether we’re doing it consciously or not, we are in a constant process of stocking the shelves of our ability to handle whatever recipe life hands us and demands we make. No one has all of the ingredients for every recipe, nor does anyone have all of the ingredients for some recipes all the time. Sometimes a person runs out of eggs the same way she’d run out of patience; sometimes we don’t have enough soy sauce for the amount of pork we’re told to cook just as our confidence might run thin when faced with an onerous task. Some people, for a variety of reasons, have more pantry items than others, and some people have more inventory of certain items at any given moment. I imagine the Dalai Llama has several jam-packed cellars full, whereas an abuse victim in foster care might have more dust on his shelves than cans. Can you imagine how it would be to experience this world with an unlimited supply of every ingredient one could possibly need, no matter what page of what cookbook the universe could slap on your countertop of life? Maybe that’s what divinity is.

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