Aug 10, 2005

Big-Box Shopping and the Integration of the Self

Great title for a conference paper, eh? I was telling my friend W. the other day about how I've decided to do a lot of my shopping and errands in Media, because I like the energy of a downtown and try to use independent merchants whenever it seems reasonable. (And Swarthmore is great if you need earrings, sandwiches, or a haircut.) She said, "Oh, no, it's big-box shopping for me until the kids are older!" I could tell she wasn't really taking in my recommendation for Deal's, an old-fashioned general store with very good prices. W. continued, "I try to do everything on my list, and when it's all done for the week, then I do what I want or shop where I want."

It's that work/leisure split again, surfacing in the life of a stay-at-home mom, for whom the split, I would think, is pretty difficult to sustain. It's easier when you work for a paycheck during the week and go off sailing on the weekend. Her life strategy certainly is more efficient than mine. But I couldn't do what she does because it doesn't feel quite right to split life into the Obligatory and the Fun, two dreary and soulless categories (to say nothing of Obligatory Fun). The way I figure is that everyday life is full of blessings if we are ready to see them. Take the endless project of food shopping. Supermarkets are usually boring and that music drives me nuts. So I go to farmer's markets, Trader Joe's, an independent butcher, a great fish market, the Swarthmore Co-op, depending on what I'm getting. It takes time but I feel better about my choices and I've enjoyed the transactions much more. And while I'm in the neighborhood I'll pick something up at the place next door. I like to feel I'm in a place.

I choose to shape the "have-to's" into something joyous whenever possible, instead of trying to get them over with. Does that make sense?


mc said...

That's a really great way to look at things, Lauren... especially as I'm sitting here stewing about a work thing I can't let go of, it's good to remember the joys of everyday life.

Songbird said...

What a beautiful philosophy! I can apply it to shopping (we use the big box basically for paper products, at my husband's insistence); I love our Wild Oats, where I see people I know both shopping and working, and the pace is slower and the produce makes you glad to be alive and filled with appetites for tomatoes and watermelon and corn. And the Farmer's Market even moreso.

Scrivener said...

This kind of shopping is something I miss about living in NY. It's so hard to maintain in Atlanta, because traffic is so bad and everything is so spread out, that it'd just be impossible to manage.

Anjali said...

With Mira in preschool in the fall, I'm so looking forward to doing this... with one less child. With 2, I have found it next to impossible.