i’ve started going to a new corner store – to call it a bodega might be stretching the definition some. it’s been a challenge; if you don’t suffer from anxiety, you might not realize what an enormously big deal a change like this is.
my life is built on routines. structure makes me feel like i’m safe. it’s hard to function when your brain feels like you’re under threat and is constantly telling you to withdraw, run away, and hide. when the thoughts are so loud, and with apologies to the franchise, fast, and furious, anything that mitigates the mental stresses in a non-self-destructive way is welcome. i’m learning to accept my patterns without buckets of self-condemnation; they are infinitely better than the self-destructive coping skills i used before.
i do the same things at the same time almost every day. every morning i get up, have one of my two, morning cups of coffee, and start my computer routine. morning celebrity gossip which i know is crap but enjoy is up first. i read the celebrity “news” while eating my daily piece of chocolate. sometimes it’s two pieces; it depends on the bar because i’m “allowed” fifty calories of the stuff. i suppose i could have more but i’ve found that “more” is a little triggering, leading to bingeing and purging. i’m working hard on not doing that anymore, so i stick to the smaller amounts.
once i’ve had my gossip fix, i check my email accounts and post links to stories that interest me on social media. i grab a second cup of coffee before starting to read blog posts. once my coffee is done, i have breakfast, which is also eaten in front of the computer. i’m not fond of sitting down at the table by myself. there are articles aplenty on how one should eat alone: set a nice table, use the good cutlery, have some flowers nearby, and make it special. unfortunately, when i eat at the table alone, i feel ridiculous. since the goal is to eat, i do what works for me.
the whole process takes about two hours. if my mood is fragile or i’m feeling unstable, i avoid twitter. you can find a lot of ugliness in those two hundred and eighty characters. every other morning, once the morning routine is done, i drive to the corner store to buy cigarettes. i could walk, but that would mean going out into the world and possibly encountering other random humans. i seldom enjoy that.
until quite recently, i went to the same store every day. things on walton mountain have changed, however. there’s been some significant staff turnover at the store i used to frequent. i don’t enjoy new people for quite some time after their introduction, so that was hard. they also re-organized the store. things aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and i find that agitating. the new staff don’t know i’m a regular, so they keep pushing suggestive sales on me at the counter, and i hate that, not the least because i have difficulty saying “no”. once they offer, i feel guilty refusing. the changes have made me quite miserable, and i’ve been unable to adapt and adjust since they are ongoing.
since the store was making me so uncomfortable, i decided to take my business to the one across the street. i’ve been there before, on occasion, and i liked it. i like the layout, they carry the diet pepsi flavour i like (cherry), and best of all, it’s family-owned so barring divorce or accident, i’m going to be dealing with the same people for quite some time.
unfortunately, they’re very friendly; that’s been a challenge. i find personal interactions difficult. i never know what constitutes effective small talk, and when i first meet someone, i avoid eye contact, which creates a poor impression. they don’t seem to mind my oddities, however, and as i’ve continued to patronize their store, i’ve gotten comfortable with the staff and am better able to look them in their faces. it’s nice to be able to match appearance to voices.
it’s nice that they’re getting to know my quirks. i don’t buy in multiples, even if there’s a deal on; excesses of things stress me out. i don’t sign up for points cards. i’m not sure why, i’m just inherently resistant. i always take the debit receipt. i need it because i track all my purchases in a ledger. this is partly because i’m a bit compulsive about things and partly because, being on disability, i have a fixed and minimal income; it helps to know exactly how big the pot is at any given time.
it’s nice that they don’t treat me badly when i have an off day and can’t manage to meet their gaze. it’s a difficult problem. people don’t like it when you don’t look at them; i can feel their discomfort, which only makes things worse. i don’t blame them, they can’t help their reactions, they’re innate. people instinctively react that way to furtive behaviour and avoiding the gaze of others comes off that way if you don’t explain. mostly, i don’t unless they are someone i’ll be seeing regularly. my eye-contact issues feel private and it makes me uncomfortable to get into it in detail.
luckily, they give me a pass at my new store. eyes up or down, they are pleasant and not too intrusive, so i’ve been relatively comfortable maintaining the change. this is good in the specific and in the general. in the specific because it’s nice to have a neighbourhood spot. in the general, because now i know, with absolute certainty, that changes to the way i do things are manageable. despite the thoughts that my anxiety likes to throw up, change definitely won’t kill me.