The Going Gets a Little Tougher Every Day

Yesterday, I did not go to work because I was sick. I haven’t been well for some time because I have inadvertently been making myself ill. I needed a day to myself. I needed to get well again. I needed to remind myself that my life and my time are just that: mine. Also, it was a Monday.

I spent the day writing. I spent the day pumping myself full of good energy and convincing myself that I am worth something. I promised myself I would start taking better care of myself. I would not let myself become unwell again. I haven’t gone grocery shopping in over a month. Before I went to bed, I wrote a note for myself on my bathroom mirror: “TODAY IS THE DAY YOU BUY GROCERIES.” I wrote in all caps so I could not ignore it.

Whatever I did yesterday, it worked, because today I woke up and I even though I didn’t feel great, I felt something. I felt like the day was worth getting up for. I went to work and I smiled. The day was bearable. I didn’t get a headache like I normally do.

After work, I came home and looked at the mirror. I read my note. I told myself, “Yes. Yes, I will buy groceries today. I am taking better care of myself now because I am worth taking care of.”

I went to the store. I loaded my cart with bread and vegetables and milk and cheese and meat and other things I needed to nourish my body. As I dropped each new item in my cart, I was happy. I needed these things and they would take care of me. I would take care of me. I would go home with these groceries and make a meal and I would eat it and be happy. I would put the leftovers in the fridge and eat them for lunch tomorrow. I did not put soda in my cart. I did not take candy down from the shelf. I walked past all the sweets. “I am taking better care of myself, starting now.”

I put all my things on the conveyor belt that led to the scanner which brought all these things one step closer to becoming mine. I was so proud, laying all those things out on the belt. I was keeping my promises to myself. It was a small victory.

At the scanner, the young girl asked me how my day was going, and I told her, “very well, thank you.” It was not a lie. Today had been better than most other days I’d had the last month and a half. Today was better than my birthday had been.

I pulled out my wallet and I ran my fingers over the slot where I keep my debit card. It was not there. I did not panic at first. I looked in the other slots, because sometimes I make mistakes. It could have easily been in another slot, but it was not. I looked at the clerk. “You take credit cards, right?”

She shook her head no, continuing to ring up my items that were slowly looking like they would not be mine after all. I asked her if I could write a check.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t accept checks.” I love the grocery store I go to because I can buy some nice things for not a lot of money when I shop there. I am very interested in cheap groceries right now because I am a millennial with a liberal arts degree and not a ton of spending power. But in that moment, I hated the grocery store.

“Okay, then I need you to stop what you are doing,” I told the cashier. I couldn’t stand to watch her ring up another item if I wasn’t going to be able to take it with me. “I don’t have my debit card with me.”

“I can suspend the sale while you go look for it,” she said. “Maybe you just left it in your car.”

I nodded and went to my car. I looked for the card but I knew I wouldn’t find it. I called the restaurant I where I had used my debit card the night before to see if anyone had turned it in. No one had. I drove to an ATM. I didn’t know the PIN number for my credit card, so I couldn’t take out any cash. I went to a place where I knew they cashed checks. They would not cash a check I had written to myself. I had pleaded with the desk clerk.

“I am kind of in a bind right now,” I told her. “I have lost my debit card and I have no other way to access my money. I am trying to buy groceries.” I am trying to take care of myself. “Is there anything you can do for me?” She shook her head in a defiant “no” and asked the next customer to come forward. I have never felt so dismissed, so defeated.

A man in line asked me to borrow a pen. I like my pens very much and I don’t like lending them out at all. I usually keep an eye on them when I let someone use them just to make sure people aren’t chewing on the cap or secretly stowing it away in their shorts pocket. I am on edge about lending my pens out until the moment they are returned to me. I handed him my favorite pen and said, “You can keep it. It’s just a pen.”

I returned to the grocery store. I saw the cart full of things I wanted but would never be mine. The young cashier had returned the things that needed to be kept cold to the refrigerator. She smiled when she saw me. I tried to smile too and I apologized for the inconvenience I was about to cause. “I cannot buy these groceries,” I told her.

I could not buy the groceries at that store. She generously offered to return all my things that were not my things anymore to the shelves. I let her. I didn’t have enough energy to insist she didn’t have to do that.

I could have gone to another store–one that accepted credit cards or would let me write a check. But I didn’t. I could have tried harder to take care of myself. I did not. Instead, I cried in the parking lot for exactly one minute. Then I went home. I had no more fight left in me.


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