Chicken Salad Miracle

It's far easier to sink into the overwhelm of a society, a world, thrown into chaos than breathe deep in the moments of safety and love that surround most of us daily. And now I give you my disclaimer on how that statement is in no way intended to downplay the severity of this pandemic, but rather highlight the very human experience most of us spend so much time and energy trying to shed. Life does not exist in some happy utopia. Suffering and hardships are all around. For many of us, right now may be our first real experience of this, and we simply do not know how to react.

My suggestion, don't.
Don't react.
Instead, lean in. Open your eyes wider, Feel the feelings, Take a deep breath and sit a moment in the pause. When the overwhelm subsides you will be left with a choice, how will you RESPOND?

Seems simple enough, but rest assured, it's not. And I am no pro at it. It's still one of those things I fight mightily. I don't like to accept life on life's terms, ever. I like to rail and yell and beat the hell out of my current situation first, then maybe I am exhausted enough to pause and breathe heavily. If I am lucky, my brain is tired and in that second of quiet I might hear the truth: this is what it is, and I am powerless.
Ooooo-kay, I am powerless. Yeah yeah yeah. I hate that damn word so much. But it is true. I cannot change that there is a pandemic anymore than I can change whether the earth rotates on it's axis. But, I can keep getting out of bed each morning I am blessed to open my eyes. I can make my bed, fix my kids breakfast and sit with them so I remember to feed myself. I can check work e-mails when these tiny humans are preoccupied with their new distance learning, instead of when they need my attention. I can not have work conversations with my partner while cooking, and subsequently burning, the bacon. I can take a shower and get dressed like I have somewhere to be and things to do, because ultimately, I do. I can keep seeing my therapist weekly, even via video. I can text and call friends and family, and sit in on video meetings that remind me I have a community. I can buy groceries that we need, and not spend on things we don't. I can keep doing the next right step before me. And ya know what, I can be completely human and fail at this sometimes too. All of this is okay. Because this is not normal, or a new normal. THIS IS TRAUMA. We are isolated and facing a beast that no one knows how to take on or battle.
Many of us will lose.
So many.

Yesterday I hit my limit and had to admit I didn't know what the next right thing was, plus I had this urge to make homemade cast iron skillet biscuits. I will add, I have never made homemade biscuits or anything in my cast iron skillet. But this seemed like a very normal thing to do. Alas, I did not have buttermilk or cream of tartar (see below for possible substitutions for these things, and the recipe I may end up using. I may also tell you if they were good or not, the possibilities are endless).
So, what did I do? I made a list of essentials we needed and headed to Trader Joe's, because at least they were taking social distancing and sanitization seriously. That's not even a word, FYI. Sanitization is my prediction for the 2020 additions to the dictionary. Back to TJ's, this is my unpaid plug for them, awesome people and place. Armed with the cash we had on hand, I was on a mission. I did my best to socially distance in the store, though I was curious about the young mom with an infant who seemed oblivious to this and kept hovering near me. Deep breath, Jess, you got this. I finished up sans cream of tartar. Dammit. But hey, lots of good snacks and fruit and dinner options. Win for the family. I even abstained from buying my favorite chicken salad. You can make it yourself, Jessica. At checkout I knew quick that my cash stash was going to be short. Fine, dried fruit and giant coffee are not necessities. The cashiers were so sweet, asking how I was, laughing about the hardness of it all. And still, it felt so off. Not normal. I decided to give it one last go on the cream of tartar and went to the Kroger across the street. Dear, God. Such a stark comparison. You would never have known there was a pandemic. People going about like life is completely fine. No social distancing, no cleaning, no attempt whatsoever. It was packed, shelves were bare. And there was no cream of tartar. I walked over to the coffee aisle with my 8 dollars in my pocket. If I couldn't make biscuits, I was buying some better coffee. I stood there feeling the weight of it all. Reminding myself on this empty aisle that I made this whole trip for necessities, that I was social distancing and that grocery shopping was the only time I was in contact with others. And still I felt shame. Shame that I needed this excursion to feel okay. Shame that I didn't try harder. Just shame.
At that very moment an older gentleman (and he earns that title, because his kindness is forever imprinted on me) walked up and interrupted my self-shaming thoughts.
"Hi, I've seen you before at a meeting. I'm Joe*."
Whoa. I don't always know how to handle these moments in public, even though I am VERY public about my recovery, still. But in this moment I felt seen. Truly seen.
"Hi Joe, I'm Jessica. Nice to meet you (no handshake)."
He started to walk away when I said, "Hey, thanks for talking to me. How are you?"
I meant it, he would never be able to know what this moment meant to me, and how wonderful it was to be seen. How he had stopped my shame cycle, and given me peace.
He doubled back and continued talking, telling me about this chicken salad that he sells at the Kroger deli. He asked if I was a vegetarian, and my response is exactly what you would expect from PhD;
"No, but I eat vegetarian sometimes." Sigh. Dear universe, one day maybe I will be me and not a people pleaser. What does that even mean? I swear I can use words and make sentences.
He was kind and politely ignored my odd response, then he handed me a coupon for a free chicken salad. Free, y'all. This time I kept it simple, I was getting overwhelmed by all the feels, "Thank you." was all I could get out.
He began walking away again, then turned around and asked if I would be getting it today, so I said yeah. He handed me the one from his cart.

I bought my coffee and some Reeses Eggs for the kids, along with my free chicken salad. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, as I was barely holding it together. $0.12 was all that remained of my grocery cash stash. I cried leaving the store. My little chicken salad miracle. I remembered that I do believe in miracles, the tangible realness of simple acts of kindness and love. The coincidences we need. The words said just right, at just the right time. I don't look for them, but in those quiet moments where I am not reacting to everything around me, I may just have the chance to experience them. Y'all I have no idea how our little small local business built on a big ass dream and lots of blood, sweat, tears, and love is going to survive all of this. I don't know know if my vulnerable family and friends will survive this. I don't know what tomorrow holds.
What I do know is that my friend was right, sometimes the next right thing is to do nothing, so the miracle can find you.

My kids' school time screen time is wrapping up, so I am to. I will leave you with some newly gained pro-tips:
1) cream of tartar can be substituted with white vinegar or baking powder, healthline had a good list.
2) the biscuit recipe I am trying ASAP, as promised, by The Country Cook
3) link to an online community that can help you remember your recovery steps too
4) and finally...because you will want to know if I succeeded at biscuit making, my IG is @drjessicalgroves

Breathe, friends. You are safe, you are loved, and you are not alone.

~ Dr. Jessica

P.S. Dear Chicken Salad man, Thank you.

**This is my story, which means only my name is relevant. Names are always altered out of respect for other people's choice to tell their own stories.**


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