Last Fall, I contacted a woman in the media whose work really moved me. Let’s call her Grace. As it turned out, Grace not only knew who I was but was a fan of my work, citing a book of mine as being one of her favorite.
We hit it off from our first conversation and ended up becoming each other’s “new best friend,” but only via telephone. Though we lived just an hour away by car, we both had disabilities that made it difficult for us to connect in person – mine related to chronic pain and hers related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Over the coming months, we had many long, dynamic, and mutually supportive conversations (replete with colorful plots to take down the patriarchy once and for all), without ever having met each other. It was all very 21st-century.
This morning, I was sharing with Grace my frustration and hurt around the confusing behavior of someone I’ve been trying to get to know. That conversation led to a larger one about how difficult it is to create and sustain authentic, healthy, and balanced relationships — given all of the crazy human drama in this world and the ways that one person’s damage rubs up against that of another.
Grace and I only half-jokingly talked about starting a group called, “How the Fuck Do You Do Relationships.” In literary terms, the moment was what one would call portentous.
Shortly after, we talked about the Macy’s one-day sale going on today, and I shared that I was considering going to shop at a nearby store – purportedly the swankiest and best-stocked in the local region. Grace shared her eagerness to come along, which led us to brainstorm how we could meet up halfway between our towns while still going to a somewhat decent branch.
I was lounging around in bed at the time, but Grace was near the computer. So she jumped on the internet and found a Macy’s exactly midway between us.
Having grown up in the area, Grace was familiar with that location. Although she had not found anything she liked there in the past, and while she expressed her disdain for Macy’s and department stores in general, she said it was a huge store; and she was excited to go with me. I presumed it was for the same reason I was willing to drive 20 miles on the freeway, which I never, ever do — namely, to have have the opportunity to finally meet in person, as well as to have the kind of fun that one only can have while shopping with a gal pal.
I was on a mission to buy “comfort fashion” shoes – specifically the Gentle Sole brand (they are awesome – go forth and buy), because I am making a concerted effort to get out of my chronic-pain-friendly yet fairly shlumpy clothes and sneakers. This agenda means I need to search high and low for comfortable, stylin’ alternatives that really work. (A whole lot more about “fashion pain,” as it were, in another post.)
Since the targeted Macy’s was located in a huge mall, Grace informed me, it would be best to meet up in the shoe department of the store. But there was a catch: Not only were there two different Macy’s within the same mall, but each had its own shoe department — one with designer shoes and one with lower-end shoes. The “comfort fashion” brands, we guessed, would be in the designer shoe section. So we agreed to find each other in whichever Macy’s store had that particular department.
Next was the matter of figuring out how to get there. After telling me that she hates YahooMaps.com — because in her experience, it is always wrong — Grace jumped onto MapQuest.com at my behest (“It’s always been accurate for me,” I said) and gave me directions. I told her I would need about an hour to get myself ready, so that I would have time to dance. She told me she would go ahead to the store and meet me there.
While taking a shower, I considered that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to go, because my shoulder was in quite a bit of pain. My ankle also was somewhat out of sorts but seemed to be holding up; so while the ankle issue crossed my mind, I didn’t think much of it. (Another portentous moment.) Regardless of my pain levels, my chronic pain isolation has been a big heartbreaking deal to me recently, so I’ve been making a point of putting myself out there in the world and developing/strengthening local friendships, even when it’s challenging.
I knew I would just deal with whatever pain I had, and I recalled what a friend with chronic pain once said to me – something to the effect of, “We have to balance that are conflicting needs. Sometimes we have to just bite the bullet and go out and do our thing and deal with the physical or energetic consequences after.”
So after dancing away as much pain as possible within half an hour and icing my shoulder and ankle for another 10 minutes, I put on my sneakers (in anticipation of walking the malls) and took off.
Story continues with Botched Attempt at Connecting.