I went to my old job today. It just happens to be in the mall, where there are lots of people, shopping, for a lot of clothes, in front of me. Just thinking about possibly having to go back makes that anxiety bolo tie appear, sitting heavy on my chest and tickling me just above my gut. Both of my boys are between sizes. Skas has these really long legs and this tiny, narrow waist. Pants that look comfortably long (I’ve always preferred pants that reached well below the tops of shoes) are too big in the waist for him. This meant I had to go to a store that sells pants that actually fit him and not a discount/outlet store where the crowds are much smaller. My last, and hopefully not final, job was in a department store in the mall and I knew I could find jeans for him there and, lucky me! I had a coupon for $20 off $50 so I forced myself to ask Kasper to take me there.
The store has its own doors leading outside so we didn’t have to go through the mall (another reason I was able to persevere and go) and I almost got stuck in the doors. I’ve always had anxiety, I’ve always been like a diet-controlled diabetic; only with anxiety and pep talks.
Just put your head down, Kt, go in, get what you need and get gone.
Now it’s not so simple. As much as I want to keep my head down so as not to be noticed, I put my head down to watch where I’m placing the tip of my cane. I put my head down because I’m gauging the width of the path and the swing of my affected leg. As I approached the door I remembered the many times I rushed out in my heels after lunch to sneak a cigarette in the green energy parking spot that was never in use. I’m caught up in a memory of pacing along the building with a cigarette in hand when I notice the doorway is not only narrow but it has a stupid ramp I’ve never seen before. My affected knee doesn’t bend too well and I sometimes get wobbly on the smallest inclines which makes me anxious. In response, my affected arm goes into full rebellion mode and props itself rigidly in the air beside me. I can’t see my left arm, it’s in the area of my vision I don’t notice, and I’m far too concerned with the ramp and squeezing through this narrow effing doorway. The only thing that saved me was Skas rushing to get through first. I stopped to let him through and saw my fist getting ready to jam itself right into the door frame, allowing me to manually lower it.
My old department which I basically supervised for my supervisor is the first register and, man, do I miss working! I hated my job so much. I quit for all of the right reasons. The pay was too low, the hours too long, the responsibilities too hefty and not spread out enough. The store changes, policy changes, corporate changes, it was all too much. I had migraines all the time, we were not getting ahead of our bills; it was terrible. I tried a family vacation. We went to SA zoo and some museums; just Kasper, Skas and me. It was the most time the three of us had spent together since Skas was born. We came home from our little vacation, I signed up for college and the next day I put in my two weeks. I missed my job after I quit, of course, but I “knew” I was going to get a new one, a better one. We struggled financially but I “knew” it would be worth it after I started an actual career. How was I to know I’d end up pregnant six months later and then paralyzed on one side in 3 more months?
So now I look back and I feel so incredibly stupid because of everything I complained about. I tell Kasper to take the boys down the escalator to stop the begging and I took the elevator alone because the escalator, something I used to run up and down every day in heels, now gives me vertigo as well as motion sickness. I’m hobbling along the hallway to the elevator that feels like this endless tunnel in some cheap linoleum hell and I hear the familiar rattle of metal wheels on those tiles. I can imagine myself standing on the bottom bar of a Z-bar, surfing through the store after replenishing the floor of my department because I was that bored. I pass the associates door and it swings open and I hear they never fixed that annoying squeak that made it impossible to sneak in and out of the area until I learned the passageways of the red team (the stock and pricing team that seem to hide in the walls of the store). I step into the elevator, thankful I could stick out my cane to keep the doors from the last passengers’ exit open for me. Even though I took the elevator up, that familiar odor of band aids and cheap lemon cleaner eluded me; it was much stronger and completely unavoidable now without my kids to distract me.
I exited the elevator, something I had done hundreds of times in my past, and I look to my left. It’s a door that leads to the stairs I would take to sneak brownies from the break room if I didn’t have time for a break and using the bathroom. Sometimes I took the stairs, running in my [3 inch] heels up the two flights if I felt the elevator would take too long. Ha! It’s hard to imagine a day in my life when things like elevators and moving stairs were too slow for me! I don’t think I could describe the grief that still overwhelms me when I have these revelations of how my life differs today from yesterday. It weighs on me like a duffel bag full of rocks I’ve been lugging around long enough for the strap to permanently melt into my shoulder. And it’s supposed to be invisible?! People can’t see that you are still grieving and if they do see it, they’re like:
Like it’s not allowed. Your grief must end immediately when everyone else that is not going through any of what you are going through says so. Otherwise, you’re full of self-pity and not worth anyone’s time. So I push on because I’m in the middle of the store I used to work in and it would totally suck to have a meltdown among the folded young mens jeans and display of gift cards. I don’t know where my family is but I told them I’d be in my old department hoping to find some jeans that aren’t skinny and are hopefully clearanced. The departments are a little mixed up from when I quit but I can still look at the walls and remember the projects we did, the many times I’ve kicked off my heels to climb a ladder to hang a wall or a redressed mannequin. I can remember moving tables of jeans because it was easier to take two other girls with me to move the whole table than it was to take everything off and put it all back on after moving it. I remember my former physical strength. I remember the interactions with others and I remember having those same expressions of frustration and irritation as the associates from having to deal with back-to-school shoppers with coupons and a thousand questions I don’t have time to answer. I remember not having the time to have anxiety when talking to people I didn’t know. It used to take me a couple customers to finally get out of my shell and it would be hard to slow me down afterward.
I came home from the shopping trip and began reflecting as I have been doing here and I realized that I have been so lost in the painful embrace of nostalgia that I failed to actually experience the anxiety I feared would consume me just before I exited the car to enter the store. I miss working, I miss the activity and the menial everyday irritations that mean absolutely nothing in the real, real world. I have no idea if I will ever be even half as physically able as I want to be again but I know that avoiding the places I need to be because of my anxiety is only hindering any progress I have a chance to make.
Damn, I actually miss wearing heels and dressing up for work with my crappy idea of make-up. I never thought that would be something I’d ever say.