Monday, February 22, 2010

Suspicious Activity

Bank of America takes issue with my living in New York. Any time I venture beyond Wegman’s for my shopping needs, they send an alert. An alert, if you didn’t know, is where they call, send an email and cut off access to your debit card because of “suspicious activity.” Granted, I can accept that paying $4 for a crappy skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks is suspicious—even so, I was a bit surprised that buying one at the mall a town over was enough to send BoA over the edge.
I probably would’ve handled it better on a different day.

Because nothing in this world can be as easy as I'd like it to be, I occasionally suffer from anxiety issues. Even better, I don’t always know when or where they’re going to appear—kind of like a crazy uncle or an evil clown, really. But no mind. My son turns 8 next weekend. He’s very excited about this. I, on the other hand, am wondering why my baby went, and just who is this kid with a natural talent for snowboarding.

I digress. Again.

So, I pull into the mall parking lot (by Macy's, in case you were wondering). I have my list, my bag, my phone in my pocket, a jacket. And, apparently, a panic attack waiting to happen, though that sucker stayed in hiding until it had a nice audience to work with.

So I walk through Macy’s, into the mall proper and it hits me. If you’ve never had one, anxiety/panic attacks are absolutely wretched. There’s the breathing issue (you can’t), the shaking issue (you are) and the whole world feels like it has gone solid. Walking takes a supreme act of will because you’re pushing not through air, but something with more substance. Jell-O maybe. Or pond sludge. It always amuses me that people think I’m “a strong woman”—that’s because they’ve never seen into my internal quagmire. Anyway.

There I am, standing in the mall, almost paralyzed. It takes every bit of will I have to keep moving forward rather than retreat at a dead run (I’m imagining how bing tackled by some dread security guard in the middle of Macy’s due to “suspicious behavior” would've helped). But I manage to shuffle forward. And there’s a Starbuck’s, in all of it’s crappy-coffee glory.

The problem with anxieties like mine is that if I give in to them, I’m done for. Retreating means that it wins, and that it will be harder to face down the next time, or the one after that until, eventually, I become the crazy woman who never leaves here apartment. Fortunately, I recognized it for what it was, which made it…well, I’m not going to say easier.

Struggling to breathe and to stay upright, dizzy from the internal push-pull of anxiety I forced myself to walk to the coffee kiosk. Each step was deliberate—what I told myself was that I was going to get a cup of coffee, sit down, do a visual survey, then take it from there. That’s the way this mental game works—a baby-step executable plan. Coffee. Chair. Survey. Those things, I knew I could handle. One at a time.

The universe is fascinating.

As I’m standing in line, I’m looking around, watching people get their coffees, wander in and out of the stores. There’s one woman in particular, dressed in all black, in her 50’s with white-gray hair, glasses. She gets her coffee, notices that I’m looking around, we make eye contact. She finishes doing whatever it is that she’s doing to her coffee walks toward me, leans over and says “we’ve all become coffee snobs.” We laugh for a second, she continues on and I get my crappy skinny vanilla latte.

Amazing how random words from (perhaps not so) random strangers can give us the momentum to move forward in moments where we’re not sure it’s possible. I sat, I surveyed, I was finally ready to buy presents for my snowboarding dude.

And then the phone in my pocket buzzed with a message from the Bank of America asking me to please call and verify that I had just spent $4 on a crappy skinny vanilla latte in some weird town in Upstate New York.

Monday, February 15, 2010

9 Things, a List

A list of 9 things I've considered writing about:

*Ghost Cat
*How to Piss Off a Customs Agent
*Tim Horton's v. Tim Horton's (or: why the heck is their coffee better in Canada, and why don't American outlets sell dutchies?)
*The Great Bologna Challenge
*Flat Tires, Clogged Drains and a Dozen Other Things I Forgot That I Know How to Fix
*Call Me Bonnie
*Metaphoric Land Mines and How to Find Them
*Old Lady Walking Shoes
*Tales From the Laundromat