do you map out where the peanut butter goes?

by rebecca on February 1, 2010

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      I used to be a person with a peanut butter problem. I cared about its location: on the door, top shelf. If I found the peanut butter on the third shelf I felt uneasy. If I found it in the body of the fridge, I came unraveled.

      In the beginning I was very precise about feeding our family. Breakfast was served on the breakfast plates. Fruit was served in the antique bowls I’d picked up at a garage sale because they were super special. I wanted everything to be memorable in the tiny moments that fed my family.

      I needed to see clearly and, consequently, I needed my cupboards and my fridge to be well mapped out. I was finding my way as a mother who was making a family. I was using food to nourish us as a team. The placement of that peanut butter began to have a holy significance.

       But my husband never really cared about peanut butter placement. He set it back wherever there was room. And, after he’d taken it out of the spot on the top shelf of the door, sometimes the condiments shifted, making it appear things were full. He had no real problem with three open jars of peanut butter. He figured we’d get around to finishing them eventually. And, from his perspective, we never seemed to run out.

       Until I ran out. After feeding people for twenty years I ran out of ideas, out of peanut butter and out of map-making energy for the fridge.

       I’m not sure if I ever liked cooking. I know I liked making a family, and cooking seemed like a great place to start. Family meals are a fabulous place to anchor a group of people together. So, I cooked, and kept the fridge well mapped.

       For years I nourished a family and we grew. My children grew taller and my family grew tighter. I put peanut butter on apples after we raked and jumped in the leaves. I spread it on crackers while we paddled our canoe. It made for great backseat sandwiches as we traveled through Europe.

       But these days I’m more interested in making brick paths to find my own way and planting gardens to discover a community at large. This is because I have the family I’ve always wanted. My map of the fridge served me well to get to this destination.

       These days my husband is doing some of the cooking. He cares about the refrigerator and how messy it can get. He gets frustrated when he can’t see to the back where the humus lives (he made some great humus the other day).

       Suddenly he cares about where things go and how we’ll stay organized. He wants to read from my map just about the time I want to burn it.

       Isn’t this the way things go in a marriage? He’s ready to play by my rules at just the time I’m willing to abandon them. Just like I have compassion for things in his life when he is long past needing it.

       This is how altared spaces come and go in my life. I needed that peanut butter desperately in the beginning when I was imagining my family and mapping out both my refrigerator and where we were headed as a tiny little group of four. Now I don’t have to be so precise. I know how to nourish my family and keep us together. The peanut butter can bounce around and it doesn’t really matter.

       There was a time, however, when that peanut butter really messed me up. It was after it had anchored me, but before I could let it go. I got confused and thought the precision of the peanut butter’s placement was what held my family together. I was wrong.

       The precision was in my attention.

       I shot my husband the evil eye when I pulled out two jars of half used peanut butter. “Neither of these were on the door of the fridge,” I’d say this so he knew he’d gotten life wrong.

       I’d missed the wisdom of the peanut butter placement entirely. It was there to help focus me; to bring my attention to the details of living. But it was not a tool of dogma I was to shove in the faces of my family members when they messed up.

       I get controlling about silly things. I think many people do. My altared spaces guide me to find the big things, but they are not the end in themselves. It was the family, the Love inside that family, I was searching for…and the precision of peanut butter placement helped me pay close enough attention to discover it. When the Love penetrated, it was time to let the peanut butter placement go.

       Now that my husband is as anxious to feed our family as I am, I don’t need to worry about jars of peanut butter and where they fit in the fridge. We all tend to get fed. Even my children, from time to time, suggest a snack or make a meal. We all feed each other. And we all help each other find the peanut butter.

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