The Real World

My life-coach, Piper, told me about a used bookstore downtown that would give you store credit for used books. I decided I would go there and see what I could get in exchange for some airplane novels I had hanging around.

Venturing out into the world that day was hard. Since I was released from the hospital, I haven’t gone and done much of anything besides going to my support groups, appointments and meetings. That morning, everything sounded overwhelming and I didn’t even want to get up. I called Piper to tell her I was staying in that day and she basically said, “Get your ass out of that bed, woman!” and so I did.

Then I called Piper back. “OK. I’m up. Now what?”

“Get in the shower, dumb-ass! And I’ll save us a phone call – after your shower, GET DRESSED.”

After completing those tasks, I grabbed the box of books and went to find the bookstore, armed with my printed GoogleMap. Miraculously, I found it with no problem.

I looked for parking and found some parallel spots in front. I’ve parallel parked before. I know the drill. I’ve been an expert at it since I was 15. I’ve amazed people with my ability to snug a large vehicle in spaces a large vehicle has no business being. Seeing the open spots didn’t even register as anything that might be a hard thing. I pulled up to the parked car, swung the backend towards the curb and proceeded to place Bessy in between the cars. Only, I ended up not in the right place and my car was about 3 feet still in the driving lane. No worries. I pulled up and did it again. Same result. This time, I was embarrassed. SOMEONE was watching from SOMEWHERE on the street and they were laughing at me. I couldn’t see them, but I knew it.

I then began one of those endless up, back, up, back, up, back things where you do move closer to the curb each time by about 2 inches, but it’s very unsatisfying. I paused, looked around for the laughing people, and noticed a space that had opened up a few spaces up. The space looked bigger! I was saved!

I pulled out of the stupid space that wasn’t working and went up to the one that was bigger. Bigger enough, in fact, that I could just drive nose in first and swing the back in afterward. I thought. And I thought wrong. SO THEN I had to back out of THAT space and try to parallel park in it. IS THIS GETTING BORING YET?

I finally got the car’s tires only about 3 inches over the line and said GOOD ENOUGH, grabbed the books, wiped the sweat from under my pits with a slightly used napkin from Sonic, took some deep breaths and went in.

Inside was a woman furiously going through boxes of books and setting them into piles. She looked busy. She was busy. But, she saw me standing near the door watching her and correctly assumed I was weird. Then she held her arms out for my box.

As she started going through them, I noticed that the middle book of a trilogy was in the wrong spot and she wouldn’t know they were together. I reached my hand into the box and pointed.

“This one right here…”

“Yep. I see it.”

Why didn’t I stop there? She said she saw it. But I thought maybe she SAW it but didn’t LOOK at it and didn’t realize it went with the other two. I stuck my hand back in the box and pointed.

“Right, but this one right there, it goes with these two.” She continued going through the box, but replied, “Yes, I know my job. I got it!”

She wasn’t really mean. She was busy. And I was fragile in the middle of a really hard day where I was summoning courage I didn’t have to venture out in the world. And I even knew that at the time logically. She was doing her job, she was busy, and I was making her job harder and longer.

I straightened back up, leaving her bent over the box to finish and to my horror, I started to cry. Like, chin wobbling, crocodile tears and drippy snot cry. I stood there like a statue, 1. because I didn’t want to call attention to myself and 2. because if I left, I wouldn’t get my little red card with my store credit amount and I would never get a book there and I would NEVER come back in because I would be so embarrassed. So, I stood there. And I WILLED myself to stop crying.

The lady stood up, grabbed a card, glancing at me a few times, wrote down $27.00, and handed it to me. I took it and tried to smile.

“Um, are you OK?” I nodded yes and wiped my nose on my sleeve. She walked from around the desk and came in to give me an awkward hug. And then I cried harder. With noises. I was so horrified that I couldn’t stop and I had no idea why I was crying in the first place.

I decided to act normal. Why not? It couldn’t get worse. She asked me to follow her as she walked around the store pointing out things I might like based on what I had brought in. I kept sniffling and nodding and wiping tears. She patted my arm and went back to the front of the store and left me looking at Guide to Holistic Medicine. Being alone was nice, with no one looking at me. I kept trying to get it together, man, get it together! A few quiet moans came out followed by one semi-loud one. I was so glad no one was there to hear me.

I kept staring at the book, not comprehending what I was seeing and I finally put it back on the shelf, and decided to leave. I turned around and bumped into a short Asian woman who was trying to look over the Self-Help section. She looked at me with concerned eyes. “I don’t know what is making you so sad,” she said, “But whatever it is, you need lots of hugs.” Then she leaned up on her tip-toes and gave me a huge hug. And I gave her one back and it felt so nice. It didn’t feel awkward at all which surprised me. She rubbed my back and said, “There, there.” I thanked her and walked out the door, to the car, where I found that all the surrounding vehicles were gone, giving me easy access to leave.

I got in the van, locked the doors and called Piper to tell her how mean it was that she made me get out of bed and showered and go out in the scary world, but I was crying so hard that all that came out sounded more like the seals and whales talking together.


And I’m pretty sure she laughed. And today, I can laugh about it, too. But I don’t know if I’ll be going into that bookstore any time soon.

19 Responses

  1. I used to spend days in my place, too intimidated and scared to leave the walls so I get this in my own way. I’m so happy for you because this was a huge hurtle. Perhaps I could borrow Piper? 😉

  2. I think you SHOULD go back to the bookstore. The people are nice there.

    It happens… I was at my big important Fortune 50 job today, crying and snorfling as I put my half and halfs in my coffee…because for some reason I am triggered by being near a sink and I was in the kitchen area. I do the dishes and cry. That is what I do.

  3. It was very brave of you to stand there, to keep going after the crying. As SueBob aptly said above, it happens, and when it does there’s nothing to do but ride it through, it’s just your humanness peeking out.

  4. i don’t see why you wouldn’t go back there… they are clearly VERY nice and understanding people!!!!!

    Sometimes you just have to get through a thing. Glad you made the effort and got through it (and can now laugh)

  5. I’m proud of you — just going to the bookstore is ambitious enough, but a new one? Where you were picking books out AND selling them? That’s a big ordeal. Nice work.

    I have a pretty similar story that ends in me crying on the sidewalk outside Trader Joe’s, and I’m allowed back there. 🙂

  6. flawed… but authentic, and quite lovable. clearly the folks in that bookstore saw what we all see, Leah. I wish I could give you a hug too!

  7. Awww. I wish I could give you a hug.
    And seriously, you need to go back to that bookstore, bad day or good day, because they were kind to you. Strangers were kind. It’s uplifting.
    Also? I ALWAYS feel like people are watching me and laughing when I try to parallel park. I thought it was just me.

  8. Leah,
    I’ve been without internet for ten days, but I thought about you every single one of them. I’m proud of you. You know, I have a box of books bound for the used bookstore and it’s been three years and I still haven’t taken them in. I’m scared. You were scared too but you did it. Love you. xoxo


  9. my first favorite part:

    “because if I left, I wouldn’t get my little red card with my store credit amount and I would never get a book there”

    and my second favorite part:

    “whatever it is, you need lots of hugs”

    It’s good to have you back.

  10. I sit here everyday thinking
    Breath in
    Breath out Breath in
    Breath out
    Then it gets dark.
    I watch TV.
    If I’m lukcy around 4 or 5 AM I drift off
    Sleep fitfully
    wake up around 8 AM and
    do it again.
    Breath in
    Breath out
    Breath in
    Breath out

    I don’t leave the house because if I do I too will start to cry if some stranger makes eye contact. Or says “have a nice day.” Or God forbid says, “how are you?” That’s the worst. How are you? Huh? Do they really mean that? Should I really tell them how I am? Of course not. I know better. But sometimes for a tiny split nano second I think I might. But I don’t and I won’t. If I can just keep breathing for long enough maybe it will all change. But it hasn’t and it most likely won’t. Most days I just don’t understand the point. I really don’t. What would be different if I wasn’t here tomorrow? Really. Seriously? Not dramatically but really? Nothing. Nothing would change.

  11. I am an adoptive parent of a child just diagnosed with this disorder. I am amazed at how you can express yourself. I am desperately looking for support for families of children with DID. Can you help?

  12. The woman in the bookstore sounds lovely – isn’t it great when you run into people like that? And I know exactly how you feel about parallel parking, it’s so weird when suddenly you feel as though everyone is watching you and even if you know nobody is you can’t stop feeling insanely self-conscious!

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