All I wanted was to get my grocery shopping done for the week. That’s all. It was the only outing planned, so it SEEMED like it would be doable. Right?
Being first is our thing. Our life revolves around Michael being first. You could not begin to grasp how important this is unless you witness one of our “events” and then multiply it by one hundred gazillion (I’m looking for sympathy people). And then you might, just MIGHT, understand the insanity of our “being first” thing.
Trader Joe’s is my very most favorite grocery store EVER! I love so much about it, especially the fun energy and friendly people that work there. For kids, they have a “hunt” of sorts. When the kids walk in, they pick up a small pencil and a sheet that has a map of the store on it. There are four different stuffed animals that are “hidden” on different shelves. It feels like the kids own the store as they walk in, get their papers, find the animals, and then claim their treasure, which is a small candy or other treat stashed in the gem-speckled treasure chest near the check-out registers.
I’m in the produce section and have two items already in my cart. I’ve made it through the bread section. The kids are off on their hunt and we’re really moving along at the perfect speed for me, not too fast and not too slow. I’m actually feeling really good in this moment. And then it happens.
Insert moment of silence here.
Feel free to add a deep breath.
Mason found the four animals first in the Trader Joe’s treasure hunt. (String of under-the-breath cursing!) Michael goes red eyed and grabs and pulls my shirt. I am now in it, “it” being trauma.
I innocently ask, hoping to possibly switch his focus, “Sweetie, did you get hurt?”
“No.” Sniffle, muffle, growl.
“Then why are you crying? Did someone say something to you?”
OK, so I know exactly what is going on. Why in the world am I asking these dodging questions? In this exact moment I know for a fact, the same way I know gravity is going to keep me pulled to the Earth, that I am not going to switch his hyper focus. I suppose I just want to get my shopping done, but I know and he knows and Mason now knows that is probably not going to happen.
Mason found the animals first, so Michael starts to grab and bite me as discreetly as possible. He knows that people frown upon hurting others and that I don’t tolerate inflicting pain on others, even when his brother found the animals first. This is when the people around us start to eye dart. I have termed it eye dart for obvious reasons; they don’t want to get caught looking at the scuffle that’s taking place right in the middle of the produce aisle.
Michael then threatens: to leave the store without me, to go to the pet store alone, to make my day as bad as possible, to do whatever it takes to ruin my day. I retort, because I am now hooked in, “So you’re going to ruin my day because Mason found the animals first? Oh yeah, that makes sense.” More grabbing and trying to hurt me. More me saying “that’s not OKOK” and a stern “Stop it!”
I am now walking with Mason riding on the cart, between my arms and under the handle, and Michael clinging not-very-nicely to my back. Yeah! Let’s go shopping!
Damn Mason, finding the damn animals first. Just Kidding, GHEEZ! Good for Mason, in fact. And you shoulda seen Michael when Mason suggested helping him find the last animal . . . . whooo boy, that was getting ugly fast. I had to literally separate Michael from Mason as if they were fighting in the lightweight championship boxing bout. Referee striped shirt was missing, but the skill level of protecting my youngest offspring was pretty adept.
I try to get a few more items, figuring out what the heck my next step is. I start to giggle under my breath, (which, by the way, infuriates Michael) repeating the mantra, “I live insanity. I live insanity. I live insanity.” I suppose repeating that mantra isn’t quite as healthy as “I am love. I am love. I am love.” But who knows? I digress though . . .
Michael now says that the next item I buy has to be thrown away without being used. Huh? Oh dear God. “OK,” I say “one ear of corn?” Seriously, that answer really seemed to work. Whatever, man, we’re able to take a few steps and that’s farther than we were. So far, so horrible.
I try for a few more items, which becomes more like trudging up the steepest mountain in murky slime, bare footed with not a stitch of clothing on, as people are still staring.
I’m done; stick a fork in me. “We’re checking out now. Let’s go.” We make it to the front of the store and run into his old Talent & Development teacher, whom we all love. She wants to talk and catch up for a moment, and I whisper, “We’re in the middle of a major breakdown and I’m just trying to get out of here.” Michael starts crying a little louder because he heard me. Dammit.
How refreshing and serendipitous to run into someone who actually gets what is happening at that very moment. The tears start though. Not just Michael’s at this point; I’ve now joined in the sorrow. The sorrow of being seen, if only for a moment. The sorrow of life shifting on a dime, from pleasant to insane. The sorrow of not getting the Mandarin Orange Chicken that is only nine feet from me at that moment. Oh, the sorrow of it all.
Michael and Mason go to the front as usual to claim their victory prize. Michael never did spot the duck or loon. I suppose the scar on his soul for lying about finding them is easier for him to bear than to admit he was second. Who knows? I check out, we walk through the door, and Michael asks, “Can we go to the pet store?”
I rant now, because I’m frustrated and done and confused and overwhelmed and pissed. “NO, we can NOT go the pet store. I didn’t get my shopping done because of your breakdown, because Mason found a duck first. You want to go to the pet store? No, we are not going to the pet store!”
We get in the car and Mason starts going on and on about Angry Birds (a video game) and Annoying Orange (unexplainable videos on YouTube, which I strongly do not recommend but know that you’re going to check out as soon as you can) and I wonder, Does he dissociate during these moments? He doesn’t even know anything different. How does a six year old cope? When he was five, four, two¸ in utero?
So then I wonder, if I got more than 50 percent of my groceries, was it a successful trip? I’m definitely thinking not successful. I still have to go back and get the two most important things I need, juice and snacks for lunches. I continue to wonder was it successful as far as how I handled it? This is a tough one. I want to keep Michael’s self-esteem intact, and I also want to teach him what’s OKOK and not OKOK for living life.
And my next steps are to immediately call the meds doctor and say I can’t deal anymore. Or to get my ex-husband remarried so I can send the kids to him and his new love, and I’ll get a mundane job so I can relearn what it’s like to NOT have trauma in my life each day. Or . . .
Or I can continue to write these stories—for my healing, through each day—and hopefully share them with others so we can try to shift our mantras from “I live insanity” to “I am love.”
Time will tell.