Why this happens I'm not sure, but it seems like the more prepared I am, the more likely I am to be derailed. Here's what happened to the best of my recollection. I woke up insanely early, this happens to me a lot and I often wonder what would happen to me and my life if I could figure out how to get enough quality sleep. After a while I realized that getting up to do something was a better strategy than staring at a ceiling I couldn't see. I'm not exactly afraid of the dark, there are times when I prefer it, but it has a tendency to amplify feelings of loneliness. Distraction tends to work in those situations so I tried reading things on my phone. Pretty soon I was down several rabbit holes and frustrated with myself for that. I think I eventually was able to fall back asleep, only to be rudely awakened by the noise of my phone. It was going to be a long day at work, but I had done things the day before to set myself up for success so I was optimistic about my day. 

We were busy at work. One thing that is difficult for me is figuring out whether my manager is in a thinking mode, or a feeling one. She has both and since she approaches things differently than I do I can't always easily tell what she wants at a given moment. Sometimes it feels like she is talking when there is a ton to do, but I've learned to trust her because she doesn't say things just to hear the sound of her voice. That day I learned that she was going to try and reach out to her mother. This is just my opinion, but I think she has some complex emotions regarding the woman who walked out on her and her siblings as a child. I tend to have trouble with my mom, Thanksgiving was around the corner and suddenly I had a very bad feeling about the conversation. I wanted to be supportive, but I don't think I was very genuine. I felt like the best thing to do was to give both of us some space so I started walking. My choices were right, or left, and I chose right because there is more of the store that way and sometimes little things catch my eye and I can get work done that way.

I'm not sure if I approached one of my friends or she waved me over, but I was talking to her when she asked what size shoes I wore. Probably because my emotions were already high I was apprehensive about answering, but since I couldn't see any way this information could be used against me, I told her. A customer had given her a box of footwear, she offered me a pair of shoes and for someone who has spent years selling them to others, I'm just as prone to making the same mistakes others do. The shoes were not my size, but the brand ran small. The laces were thick and black, I liked the contrast provided by the sole, and I was also tremendously touched by this woman's generosity since I know what shoes cost, I know what they are worth, and I recognized that she was giving me a gift she could have used herself. Gestures like that affect me profoundly. I went from worrying about mom situations to feeling like someone needed to pull this woman aside and protect her from the harsh cold greedy world in which we live. We've had the pride conversation before, I took the shoes for several reasons. I felt like she wanted to give me something, I thought they would be fun, and I couldn't see any harm in accepting them.

My day went downhill from there. I needed sleep and didn't feel like I could ask to leave early because I wasn't sick. Then I started feeling physically ill. I was so thirsty it felt hellish, it didn't seem to matter what I drank, my throat was dry and parched. People told me I didn't look well and asked what was wrong. Then a friend of mine called and I talked to her. I warned her that it was very warm in the store and offered to buy her a beverage. She said she would like some tea and I mistakenly thought that she would want a cooling refrigerated drink instead of a hot one. When she arrived I went to the cafe for her tea. At this point in time I felt very disconnected from reality, as if I was in a movie where I was being told where to go, what to do, and what to say to others. The feeling persisted despite my usual tricks to reconnect. Finally my manager told me I could leave a few minutes early and I was so incredibly grateful I wanted to fall at her feet and kiss them. I went upstairs with my friend, we sat for a while upstairs, it felt like a switch had been flipped. One minute I was listening to what she was saying, the next there was silence inside of me.

I sat there for a while in the quiet zone, lacking the energy to move, knowing I needed to leave. She kept asking me what was wrong and I couldn't tell her. The lights were too bright, the place was too warm, I was thirsty and tired, I just wanted to go home and lie down for a while. The shoes were waiting for me when I went back to my locker. Seeing them scared me, but it went beyond mere fear. They felt evil, malevolent, alive, and intelligent. Somehow I made it downstairs with the shoes in my bag. I retrieved my water bottle and walked over to my friend. Her face told me that something was wrong, but I had no idea what it was. Obviously there were other people in the store, but it seemed as if it was just the two of us and the shoes. I was stuck with a new dilemma. She might not know that these shoes were dangerous. But they might not be dangerous to her and tossing them in the trash would be depriving her, or someone she knew of a brand new pair of shoes. I gave them back to her with some mumbled words that didn't sound like my own. There was no sound in my head, just a deafening screaming silence. I felt walls going up around me and I hoped they would keep her safe as well. I got into my car and started driving. The music seemed to help.

On my way home I heard a song that triggered some positive emotions. I drove down the road I had just traveled and stopped at the library. I confessed everything to a friend of mine and I'm so glad I have people who listen in my life. My friend had told me to text her. I wanted her to know that I was sorry for the strange way in which I had behaved, and it wasn't anything personal, but she had the shoes and I wasn't certain what her reaction would be. Had I permanently damaged our friendship? I had no idea. I sat there grieving for the friendships I no longer have, but it was an internal process. I couldn't eat, ran out of water, and knew that I should eat and drink something, but it seemed impossible to meet those needs. The librarian kicked me out before I was ready to go. By then my fantasy was lying down on the floor and spending the night there, but that was out of the question. I drove home slowly, fearful of myself and other drivers who were in a hurry on the freeway. I couldn't tell you what I did when I got home, but I must have arrived and done something. I had the next day off and that was a blessing.

When I worked at the shoe store the last manager I had threatened to slap a fellow employee the second week she was there. We were alone in the store when there was an incident. I went in back and suddenly she was standing before me. Stacks of shoes hemmed me in, she told me I was insolent, insubordinate, and I didn't know it all. She said other things too, but once she raised her hand and told me she wanted to slap me my mind went into survival mode. Nobody would hear me scream. The back door was alarmed, the front of the store was behind me. She was larger and taller than I was, she kept talking, I knew it was important to remain strong and keep my wits about me. The monologue continued until it ended. I think I was asked to give an apology and complied, I have a vague memory of her squinting her eyes at me and telling me that she knew my words were insincere. I didn't respect her and she knew it. She needed me and my sales ability, but had no desire to learn anything about footwear. She had come from a clothing store and no clue how to fit anyone. I thought I was trying to be helpful when her niece was in, she perceived it otherwise. Who knows where the truth lies.

I needed to figure out why the shoes bothered me so much. I ran the incident past a trusted friend and got her opinion. She felt like they triggered something and I agreed. My manager is super good about helping me release trapped emotion. I start crying, I think I've cried more at this job than I have at any other, but I could be wrong. I laid down to think. I asked myself what the shoes represented or symbolized and why I had been so terrified of them. When I am really scared I can't cry or tell anyone. The quiet is loud inside of me and it seems as if anything I say is going to be the wrong thing. I almost never buy shoes with laces even though I prefer them. They are hard to find in my size and because of a bony prominence on the tops of my feet the laces usually hit the wrong spots. When I was admitted to the mental hospital a patient tried to wrap the phone cord around her throat. I could see the laces on those shoes coiling around my neck, the ends slithering toward each other while it became harder and harder to breathe. None of this was apparent on a conscious level when I gave the shoes back to my friend. I can still picture them very clearly and I'm still afraid of them.

The apology to my friend doesn't feel like enough. I both want to help her understand and to protect her from anything that dark even though I often think she's a much stronger and more resilient person than I am. The shoes are not actually going to come to life and I feel stupid for entertaining the feeling that they would somehow magically animate themselves. I've had panic attacks before where I wanted to run as fast and as far as I could. I think that may have been what happened that day at work. The first time I told my therapist about my experiences with a picture I had hung in the living room at the house where I used to live she looked at me and told me that it sounded like a panic attack. That was another case where it felt like a non-living entity was going to come to life and get me. It sounds ridiculous and I can't believe I'm typing this. That memory has faded with time, I sold the picture to a man whose girlfriend loved it and I felt like I had some closure after it was gone. I love art, but that piece needed a new owner. As far as I can tell there is a connection I'm making between a harmless object and women who have physically bullied, intimidated, or threatened me in the past.

It feels like I did a very hurtful thing to someone I love and respect. I'm sure she will be kind, I think she knows that I wasn't being intentionally rude or ungrateful although I can see how it may have seemed like that at the time. By the time I got to the library it felt like my blood had turned to crystals of ice inside of me. Sometimes the silence is clear, dry, and cold, other times it is dark, damp, and chilly. If I had to describe it, there are times when it feels as if I live in an unfurnished ice palace where everything is brilliantly sharp and glittery while other times it feels as if someone is leading me to an underground cellar that is rough and dirty. Warm people can help when I am in the ice palace. Taking a bath sometimes works when I am chilly. I would like to figure out why the words cold and chilly seem like different sensations to me. Maybe the best way to describe it is whether the perceived temperature drop feels external or internal, or both. It is really scary to feel disconnected from the reality that others are experiencing. It feels like nothing and nobody can help.

But I know that is untrue and there are people who care, sometimes it feels like I can light invisible candles or start fires other people can't see. Then I am warmer and safer, sweeter, connected, loving, giving, and receiving. The journey may be filled with obstacles, but an optimist is someone who sees the opportunities the challenges present. I might see her at work today. I'm nervous, but know that I can handle this and more. I love the color black and wear it frequently. Who knows, I may even wear my black shoes.

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