So last week I went out to the mall. That’s right. To the mall. I took three big excursions last week, actually. Widget and I went to Target with Grandma on Thursday. Little Bear and I went to Land’s End on Friday. But first, I went to the mall, by myself, after yoga. It was a risk for me in several ways:
- I was alone.
- I would have to save enough energy to drive home.
- I had already been to yoga, which alone should have tired me out.
But I went to yoga, was feeling strong and empowered, and remembered what my oncologist had told me when I started treatment, “Don’t try to conserve your energy. It doesn’t work like that. If you’ve got it, use it.”
Now, in physics, this isn’t exactly true. Conservation of energy isn’t just a good idea — it’s the law. Lame physics jokes aside, if you have energy stored up, you can keep it for later, or you can use it, converting it to kinetic energy. But in life, biology, my case, with cancer, if I don’t use it today, there’s no guarantee that it will be there for me to use tomorrow. My body is using everything it can find to fight the cancer, leaving very little left over.
So this week I tried to use it.
I successfully navigated the first store, Macy’s, but didn’t find what I needed (does NO one carry Dockers anymore? Or are they as out-of-date as Garanimals?). Venturing out of the store and into the mall for the first time since well before my diagnosis (I had a baby, remember? And before that, 7 months of bed rest? And before that, a toddler just learning to walk and run, giggling, through the stores?), I looked out into the brightly lit suburban mall, and … panicked.
It was too far. Too much. Too many stores. I would have to walk all the way across the mall to get to the other anchor store, and there were all these new ones in between. New ones with names and clothes I didn’t even recognize. New ones where a sweater marked “L” really meant “XS.” New ones … without benches or places to sit in between. If I were to head to the other anchor store, I would have to commit to going all the way across the mall. By myself.
I didn’t know if I could do it.
But I had to try. So I did it. First one foot, and then the other, I walked to the first store. Then the second. Then I stopped and rested at the front of the third, pretending to look at something I knew would never fit. I’ll spare you the rest of the journey, but what I want to say — what I need to say — is that I made it. I was pretty tired, and very tired of the sideways glances and outright stares that my bald head and I got, but I made it.
All the way to the store on the horizon.
When I got there I was reminded of the goodness of human nature. I asked a sales clerk if I could use the phone at her checkout counter. While she shook her head in confusion, an incredibly nice 20-something guy walked over and gave me his iPhone. His iPhone. I kid you not. He had to show me how to use it. Yes, I’m that high-tech these days. Then he walked back to his station, asking only that I return it to the other clerk when I was done with my call.
So I called home to check on the boys, left a message, and then turned to give it back to the female clerk… who had disappeared in the meantime. Not speaking much English, she apparently didn’t hear or understand that she was to take the phone back. And the man who lent it to me? Gone.
So here I am, in the middle of the store, bald, confused, tired, and with someone else’s iPhone entrusted to me.
Reminded of the kindness of strangers, I went to track him down.
And I forgot all about the looks and stares that the other passerby had sent my way that day.