While wheeling my trolley around the supermarket on Sunday, I bumped into a woman who was mouthing to no-one in particular, but perhaps me, because I'm the one that was right there in front of her "I don't really want to be doing this anymore." I smiled in that British way (smile and nod, says Vivien, it's what the Queen does, amazingly diplomatic but not really committing to anything) and continued to trundle, rounding down the pasta aisle, being temporarily fascinated by the different kinds of couscous and pausing. I felt bad. I should've said something encouraging. It didn't sound like she was in good shape. As she turned into my aisle I caught her eye and said "Me too! I really don't want to be here much either." "I just don't like shopping, she said. I've lost so much weight" - she points to her jeans which hang off her hips - "and I cook for people who don't really eat and seem to be happy with the same thing every time. I have so much anxiety about shopping." She trails off and uses her right hand to push her floppy dark blonde hair out of her eyes. She looks apologetic, but she's smiling a little. She points outside the window "My husband is sitting in the car.." and rolls her eyes benignly. "Why?" I ask. "Have you told him you need him?" "No," she laughs."He wouldn't get it. Since the pandemic he thinks he's exempt from going into supermarkets." I give her a sympathetic look. "I'm so anxious," she repeats. "I have a job interview on Monday, nothing big, just a job at the farm shop." "Oh but that's wonderful," I say, "it will be good to get out and be around more people, don't you think?" "I hope so," she says. And then we're at the checkout; she's next to me. And that's when I do that thing that embarrasses my children so. I say, "I know this may sound a little nuts, but I spent a long time in California" (I always say this; it's code here for woo-woo/hippy-dippy but also kinda cool). "There's a breathing thing you can do that really helps for anxiety.." and I go on to describe box breath. The woman thanks me politely. I'm wondering if I will regret this. I think of my children and how mortified they'd be.
I woke up feeling alone in the world today. (It's nothing to worry about; it's something that goes after I've been up for a while). I said something like "We're basically on our own, let's be honest" to Charlie, an existential cry into the void from a seven year old. "You're not" he says, and irritatingly I know he is right. But as if the universe heard this, I rode through a triangle this morning, a triangle of grass with a road sign in the middle, and at the very moment that I rode through I saw my friend K peering through the round window of glass at her front door, my friend Jane in a smart small grey tractor, cutting the buttercups in her horse field, and on the hypotenuse, a grey electric VW driven by no other than my friend Lizzie, all together and at the same time. It made me think about the nature of time, and how it really isn't linear. For me, at that moment, having woken up feeling alone, the universe conspired to have three people I know be at the same place at the same time. I know, it's a little silly too, but it does remind you to print out these words and stick them on your mirror:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE