I was looking for athletic pants for Joe, my oldest, at the store. He needs some pants to wear while he does his running workouts to prepare for our 5k. I looked up and recognized the woman browsing the racks next to me. I had a lengthy dialogue with myself in my head that went like this:
I know her. Who is that? Oh, right, a friend of Sue's. Should I talk to her? She knows Sue died, right? Oh right, I remember somebody told me that they had told her. Was she at the funeral? I have no idea. If I talk to her, what will I say? I'll have to remind her who I am. I'll tell her I'm Sue's sister. She will get that look in her eyes and she'll say, "I'm so sorry about your sister. How are you doing?" I'll have to tell her that I'm doing okay, no matter what I'm actually feeling because telling people you are not okay makes them very uncomfortable. She will tell me how sad that whole situation is, or that she can't believe that Sue is gone, or something else like this. I'll have to say something comforting to her. She'll ask about Sue's kids. Again I'll need to say that everything is going well, because telling people the hard truth just makes them upset. I will have to find a way to break away from the conversation and go back to trying to find pants for Joe. She'll look at me with sad eyes and walk away, probably a little more bummed out than when she arrived.
All of this took less than 10 seconds in my mind. I made a quick decision to turn the corner, and hide from her in the next aisle.
What you have to know is that this is very uncharacteristic of me. If I see someone in a store that I know, I will always, always stop and talk to them. So I started wondering why I hadn't talked to this woman. Then I began the questioning phase in my head, in which I go over my own behavior and try to figure out why I'm doing what I'm doing.
"What's wrong with me?" I wondered. My mind scrolled through possibilities:
I must be overly stressed right now.
I have entered into some new stage of grief that involves avoiding people in stores.
I'm depressed! I should call my therapist. Do I need to be medicated?
I'm so self-involved due to several issues with the kids that I have lost my ability to be social.
Sue's death has fundamentally changed who I am to the point that I won't talk to people in public anymore.
I'm avoiding my grief and therefore won't speak about my sister.
I finished my shopping, and went out to sit in my car. I was sad and upset, and needed a few minutes to sort through my feelings. Right then, my phone rang. My friend, Donna had called to check in with me.
Donna knows all kinds of things. She knows grief all too well, and I often bounce my issues off of her and she always talks through them with me. I explained to her what had just happened.
Donna said a lot of things, but what it all boiled down to was, "If you don't feel like talking to someone, you don't have to talk to that person."
Oh. Yeah. That's right. It's okay to just not be in a mood to be social. It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm having some sort of crisis, or I need to buy a self-help book, or I need to consult a doctor. Sometimes, as humans, we feel like talking, and sometimes we don't. Duh.
I drove away from the store and a song came on the radio that I remembered from when I was in college. I never paid much attention to the lyrics back then, I just liked the melody. I started to sing along:
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain.
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line.
And the less I seek my source for some definitive,
The closer I am to fine. The closer I am to fine.
(Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls)
I felt as I was singing the words, that they were what I needed to hear today. I felt like it was telling me to jut stop it with all the stupid overanalyzing, overthinking, second guessing, and worry. Sometimes the best explanation is the simplest. I haven't gone over the edge into darkness and despair. I just didn't feel like talking to this person, on this day, at that moment.
And the more I can lighten up on myself, the closer I am to fine.
Click here to hear the song