The Breakfast Cereal Aisle of Life

I remember years ago reading an essay by a man who was born and raised in Soviet Russia. He was describing his first visit to an American supermarket. He said he nearly had a breakdown in the cereal aisle in the face of so many choices. He was used to choosing between two or three. Over 100 choices available? Just for breakfast cereal??? It was overwhelming.

At the time, i found his crisis humorous. Too many choices… What a problem to have! With my second decade thinking, it seemed unfathomable for variety to cause an existential crisis. But now, at this moment, i get it.

While in the throes of panic from my middle weedling leaving the nest, i find myself in the midst of a unique opportunity. My oldest weedling is on her own, more than capable, and on her way to making her own niche. My youngest is about to embark on a transition year. And as for me, for the first time in my life, i have to make a life choice that has no connection to a man. Not  being happily married, not unhappily married, not wishing to be married… no man at all to consider. Just me and my own future. The immediate vision is like that of Montana in the springtime… Fresh new grass and budding stems for as far as the eye can see. How exciting! I can go anywhere! My life isn’t tied to any stake at all! The possibilities are endless! Yeah, baby!

And then i start to consider them. All those possibilities. And i feel like the man in the supermarket.

While it is true that my choices are narrowed somewhat by the need to have an appropriate atmosphere for my son, that really only takes the raisin bran off the shelf. There are still so many other choices! Too many. So i take away any place that has bad memories. Wheaties, off the shelf. Places with no work for me. Mini-wheats, off the shelf. Places too difficult to travel from. Cheerios, off the shelf. But there’s still Life and Apple Jacks and Sugar Smacks, and Cap’n Crunch. There’s still Special K and Chex and Cornflakes and Lucky Charms. All these choices. Each with their own taste and appeal and price. The pragmatist in me has started making lists and charts, comparisons of the many brands available. The gypsy in me visualizes the many bowls of color and texture. The child in me sits on the floor of the store and weeps in fear and fluster.

To quote Maria Von Trapp, “When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Only in my case, he has flung open windows, doors, hatches, chimney flues and skylights. So many escape routes, and nothing actually chasing me. Oh, the irony. The only thing i know for certain is that i have been given this opportunity for a reason. That God has trusted me with something very special – my own future. A blank slate, a full buffet, a veritable Kellogg’s factory of choices. And i take the responsibility very seriously. After all, after i buy the whole grain goodness, i’m the one who has to eat it.

So the Gypsy picks the child off the floor. The Pragmatist makes a list of the cereals that meet the nutritional, flavor and price requirements. And all three of them will converse til the choice is made. I’m sure the dry-goods manager and the other shoppers will find this amusing. But, i suppose, so what? You could say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just cereal?” But me? I say it’s life.

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