It's Halloween night and I can honestly say, I brilliantly ignored it. I didn't carve one pumpkin or pass out one piece of candy and I am grateful for the opportunity. This was definitely not my preferred behavior on this night. Embracing Halloween and celebrating all things ghoulish is my norm, but with everyone gone from the house, all I wanted for this night was that it pass quietly and it did.
I ignored the night that usually brings me such joy because we are not in a "normal" place. All I wanted from tonight was to get through it without feeling incredibly sad and focusing on the loss. Last night I made a plan of how I would spend the entire day and night alone. I made my to-do list and decided to actively ignore the obvious. No sense making myself feel bad about something I and my family had no control over.
One of my to-do's was to go to the drug store and get a loofah. It would get me out of the house and I would not be spending money I don't have. I took a shower, dried my hair, grabbed my purse and drove to the store. I searched quickly through the store to find my purchase, in order not to hear the giggling kids picking up last minute Halloween items. I walked to the register and stood in line absently looking at the woman behind the counter. She looked so familiar. I couldn't place her face, but I was certain I had seen her before somewhere else. My turn was next and I gave her my card to scan and she told me the total as I dug through my very sloppy purse for the money.
"Sorry I am taking so long", I muttered, "I am having one of those days, well actually one of those weeks." And I laughed in spite of myself.
"I am having one of those years," the clerk said to me rather wide eyed. "I feel you,"I responded. "No, really," she said. "Not like this one."
I stopped what I was doing and looked at her. I wanted to really see her face. I knew I would regret it if I didn't look at her and see what she was trying to tell me. She looked down in embarrassment, possibly thinking she may have said too much. "Trust me whatever it is,' I said, " I have probably gone through it." I smiled directly at her. My eyes told her to go ahead and tell the complete stranger what it is that has her so sad. The invitation was there and as open as an upward palm.
It turns out she returned to work after years of being some one's wife because her husband left her. She is barely getting through the days that stretch out before, because she no longer knows if there is any good to come her way. I watched, I listened, I empathized. I told her I had written a book about what she was feeling, the isolating loneliness, the depressing idea of waiting for every shoe to drop directly on my head, the saying,"it can't get any worse", then watching my life implode from all the worse. I told her I would bring her the book, so she could see she is not alone and yes, Virginia, there is happiness after all the terror. I told her about my manfriend, Michael, and how kind he is. She said, "To you? My husband was nice to everybody else, but not me." I looked at the sorrow in her eyes and I made sure she got the importance of what I was saying to her,"Especially to me, mostly to me. He puts me first." I heard a small gasp come from her lips. I knew exactly what she was thinking. I had been her. She struggled to believe that such a man could exist. I leaned in and told her, "Be grateful you got free. There is so much more out there than some stupid guy who can't see who you really are." I promised to bring her my book, so she could see she is not alone. I promised her there is happiness after all the pain. I reminded her to be grateful for what is, even when what is feels like crap.
I left that store knowing that I had just witnessed horrors far beyond anything special effects could drum up for my favorite holiday. I left feeling that I was supposed to be there, spreading hope to one very discouraged woman, working at a drug store. I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that very moment. I felt so grateful to my core that my day allowed for me to be there for a person who needed the smallest amount of reassurance. Tomorrow I will go back up to the store and see if she is there and give her a copy of my book. I will let her know that there are many of us who have been crushed and have been resurrected from the ashes like the phoenix, to become better, stronger and happier people.
Here's what I know for sure- I know the biggest reason I wrote my book and will continue to write, is for that woman in the drug store and every man, woman, and child who feels like they are completely alone in there tragedies and sorrow.
We are all in this together. I believe my job is to let everybody know.