Tears are welling up in my eyes as I place my groceries on the conveyor belt in Kroger. The elderly woman with chopped gray hair, is ahead of me and buying all the marked down bakery items and 3 quarts of marked down buttermilk. The man, sort of with her (sharing a cart after all) but sort of not, because he separates his groceries from hers with the divider, has gleaned all the rest of the marked down cakes and cookies. I wonder. He too, has some discounted buttermilk. He is big and he is obese. What will they do with all these chemical laden sweets? He looks at the cantaloupes I am buying and says, “Ahh, I was so tempted, but figured, not this time.” I’m not sure what that means. Should I give him mine and pay for them? Then, he squabbles over the prices being rung up and frets that he cannot find his $10 bill. His total is $30.36, which oddly includes a copy of Consumers Reports at $6.99. He tells the cashier that he filled his gas tank yesterday and had to go to the bank to get what was left in his account to pay for the gas. I am getting choked up now. He tries to make jokes that aren’t funny and no one laughs, not even politely.
My turn now, includes mangoes, peaches, the cantaloupes, cottage cheese, organic cereal and Greek yogurt. Purist? Dieter? Effete food snob? I have my reusable bags for which Kroger gives me extra points. Where are those points and how do I use them? The bagger struggles with my nylon flat bags because he has some type of palsy and completely mangled and tangled hands that can barely move, let along pick up each peach to put into my flat bags. I try to help him, but he pulls away and drops each peach separately in agonizing movements. Now, I am overwhelmed and fighting to hold back my tears. It is all so hard for everyone. It is such a damned struggle for us all to hold it together, to get the things done, to pay for them, to move them, to complete them each and every day…. do we really have to emulate Jesus carrying his cross ALL the time?
I am tender. I am vulnerable. I am in a complete state of terror and panic. My ill son, so very, very ill for the last few years with Chronic Lyme Disease, curled up in a fetal position on most days up in his third floor, isolated bedroom, has a new symptom. He has been bleeding on and off for some time and has hidden this, spending inordinate times in the bathroom day after day. He says it gets better, and it gets worse. I am shocked. I do the thing no one should do, when I go online and look up the symptoms for Colon Cancer. They all match to a T. We rushed to the general practitioner yesterday in the hopes she would find hemorrhoids. She did not. Yes, the blood was dark in color. We need to see a proctologist. I go directly from 0 to 100 in seconds and find myself in the “wanting to rip my skin off” place I am familiar with. I range from overwhelming terror to panic to hysteria feeling that in his ill state he could never survive another onslaught and that I simply could not survive that lack of survival. Confusing? When panic and fear take over all Zen and rational behavior, this is what happens. We cannot see the doctor for 5 days. I feel I will never survive 5 days. I may not. But what does that mean?
My kind and quirky therapist has me come to see her last night. On the way there, I find myself driving behind a screaming ambulance. On the best of days, I cannot, absolutely cannot drive behind an ambulance because I return immediately to the trauma of that moment on 5/3/95. I especially cannot do this tonight, so I am beginning to crumble before I ever arrive. I am jealous of all the people I know who look like they are having happy normal lives. I am jealous of my old acquaintance in the Hamptons whose one daughter just married this weekend, while attended to by her very pregnant sister. They went to nursery school with my kids. They are normal. I am envious. I am jealous of my friend who I met in Europe in the 70’s and whose very wealthy, healthy and successful son just got engaged and is planning a fabulous NY wedding. I do not wish these friends ill harm in any way and I really am happy for their joy, but along side that is envy. Can those two emotions coexist? Perhaps. So, when a smiling couple emerges from my therapists office, indeed, I am jealous of them too.
Basically, the therapist tells me that I need to get my act together and I can see the fear on her face when I begin sobbing and shaking. I can feel my whole body heaving when I try to describe the fear that I am accusing her of not understanding. Who really can understand the depth of dread and angst that I live with? No one can. But perhaps, that doesn’t matter. Peter is not my only child, she reminds me. It is true. I must remain standing through the tornados to care for the others, especially the little ones. I need to imagine that things may not be the worst, and might be less than that. I need to divert myself from the ruminating. Is that possible? Don’t know. Will see. My mother, my crazy, crazy mother used to say, “To stand from fear, set free and wait.” Did she leave me some wisdom?