Sitting alone in my car at the grocery store I found myself at the very beginning. Literally, the very beginning of my new life as an adult as I would come to know it. I wasn’t really sure how I’d even come to find myself here. Afraid to walk inside. Hot tears streamed down my face. I felt my phone buzzing on the seat next to me. I didn’t know who was calling or texting or emailing and I didn’t really care. I needed a moment to myself, to let the gravity of what I had just done roll over me. I had just signed a lease on a house, a house I would start my life over in.
I was leaving my husband.
I had worked all day, met the leasing agent and now I had to pick my baby up from daycare, in one hour, and I needed to have something to feed us for dinner. I guess I assumed, I should be worried about what I would cook for breakfast too? All of my decisions felt so incredibly basic, and so challenging, all at the same time. I had been planning this for months, yet here I sat, coming to pieces and second-guessing everything about my life, everything about myself, every decision I had ever made.
In those moments, nothing else mattered aside from going through the motions, food, sleep, shelter. However, I couldn’t stop my mind from racing as I thought about all I would have to do in the days ahead of me. If I can just survive the next 30 days everything will be fine. Life can’t get any worse than it is, right now, at this moment. Right?
This is it, the baseline from which I can rebuild my life.
If only I could just stop crying and pull myself together. I watched the clock tick for five more minutes as I sobbed uncontrollably alone in my car. Surely, I had time for a five-minute pity party.
How had my life come to unravel so completely? This can’t be happening to me. I had meticulously planned a cookie-cutter life for myself, tied up neatly with a white picket fence. Yet here I was. Square one. I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on or a pot to cook dinner in. What have I done? The fear washed over me in waves. It was paralyzing. Could I really do life, and all that it entails, all by myself?
I didn’t have all the answers, but I knew I could make it through a trip to the grocery store.
A little person was counting on me to get me to pull myself together. Reaching into the back seat I pulled out a package of baby wipes, carefully removing one from the package. I’m going to have to learn to make these things last… I dabbed my cheeks gently. Ran my fingers through my hair, took a big swig of water, clutched my handbag to my chest and got out of the car. Phew, that wasn’t so bad.
I remember greeting an older woman outside as we both reached for a grocery cart. I smiled at her warmly, you go ahead, I told her calmly, patiently waiting for her to grab a cart ahead of me. I felt like my anxiety was going to come flying out of my chest at her like some sort of weapon. She looked at me so sweetly, can she see the stress on my face? I was working so hard to hide my stress on my face. Thank you, dear, she said to me.
I felt like I’d just dodged a hand grenade.
I hadn’t even made a list of things I would need for dinner. Start on the outside and work your way in basics, eggs, milk, water, a roasted chicken and frozen veggies materialized in my shopping cart. What will I do with my trash? Trash can, trash bags, dish soap made their way into the pile. I don’t even know who I was selecting the cheapest of the cheap kitchen essentials off the shelves that day. The last time I’d made selections like this I was completing a wedding registry. Oh, how I had agonized over which place settings were “us.” Which pattern did I prefer? Which colors were the most versatile? Everything that mattered in my past seemed so petty to me in those moments. I chastised myself for the 20th time that hour, you are such a moron. A $40 box of 20-piece imitation glass plate ware went into my cart.
Only the basics, that’s all you really need.
I could hear the clock ticking as I made my way through the store. The phone was buzzing in my handbag again. It was so loud I had to close my eyes for a moment to center myself. Will it ever stop buzzing? Can’t everyone else hear how loud it is ringing?
I found myself staring down a coffee maker I was trying to convince myself I didn’t need. Right there on the left of the coffee maker was a coffee cup that read “You got this girl,” into the basket the coffee maker and the cup went. Three hundred and fifty dollars later I was off to pick up my baby, on time, from school with my brand-new kitchen in tow. Welp, now I can make dinner tonight, breakfast and lunch tomorrow and all the days after that too. I patted myself on the back. No victory was too small to celebrate that day.
Buckling my little one into the back seat, we were off to our “new house”, where that precious little mind was none the wiser of the inner turmoil their Mom was facing that day. As I placed my head down that night, the anxiety pulsed through my body, I swear I could feel my toenails throbbing with stress, but I knew, since I made it through today, I could get through tomorrow too.