Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Monsters We Carry

 So, I went to get a doughnut on my break last night (don’t judge, I had PMS and an uncontrollable need for sugar) and there’s this woman blocking both sides of the doughnut case. She’s got her stuff spread out all over the place. Purse one side, coffee cup in the middle, and the box she’s filling with doughnuts on the other. Naturally, I smile and pretend to be waiting patiently when really I’m staring at her copper-colored wig, noting how out of place it looks on her. She seems a bit befuddled, but eventually gets out of my way so I get my sugar fix and make a beeline for the break room.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, she comes through my line a while later and does the same thing all over again. Contents of purse spread out on my belt, coffee cup in the middle, the older gentleman she’s taking care of on the other side, in a riding cart. I call a courtesy clerk up to help them out to their car while she fumbles about, and finally manages to pay. I’m in professional mode, polite and patient until she starts talking.

It turns out, she has just retrieved her husband (I’m pretty sure he is her husband) from a rehabilitation center. He is, she tells me, in worse shape now than when he went in. She points to his head, the side of which is swollen. Apparently, he was dropped a few times. Here, I make the shift from polite professional to real person with genuine sympathy. I mean WTF? You send your love one to get medical help and they drop him? Not even once, mind you, but several times? No wonder the poor woman is a bit unorganized! I wished I could do more for her than offer a sympathetic ear and someone to help her out to her car, but I couldn't exactly go home with them.

Later in the evening, I was reading Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. Have you heard of it?  It's the story of a young woman (played by Reece Witherspoon in the movie) who hikes the Pacific Coast Trail, well over 2,000 miles through snow and blistering heat--- alone. She carries a ridiculously heavy backpack that she calls Monster. The name is significant. The monsters that were once under her bed have crawled onto her back and stayed there. Isn’t that how it is for everyone? The difference is that most of us carry invisible monsters. We carry our history, all of our struggles, our pain, grief, fear and regret, on our backs. No one who sees us has any idea what we’ve endured or how far we’ve traveled to get where we are now. Even if where we are now, is just the grocery store.

Reminder to self: Be nice. Be kind. Be genuine. Note to everyone else: Don’t get between a hormonal woman and her doughnuts! 

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