I had my most recent breakdown in the neighborhood grocery store.
I had my most recent breakdown in the neighborhood grocery store. In the canned vegetable aisle, to be exact.
It was near the end of December, and I went in to buy a can of tomatoes to make soup. Suddenly, I was faced with a wall of canned tomatoes of all types, labels and varieties: Roma, organic, peeled whole, diced, crushed and so many more my vision blurred. Looming nearby were cans of tomato paste, puree and tomato sauce.
My heart began to pound. I felt light-headed.
I thought, “I’m having an anxiety attack. I’m having an anxiety attack about a can of tomatoes.”
I felt dizzy. I thought, “I have to sit down. Right now. I have to sit down in the canned vegetable aisle and wait until kind grocery clerks come to help me to my car, asking in quiet voices if there is someone they can call.”
I didn’t sit down on the floor. I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, grabbed a can of tomatoes (Any kind. I didn’t care.) and went home to make my soup. I also made a little loaf of bread to go with it.
Year’s end is a crazy season. All around me, all over town, I saw shoppers with wild eyes and hair frizzed by the holiday spirit. I saw sellers and servers who were hollow-eyed and shell-shocked. I was in both camps.
I thought, “This episode in the grocery store is an epiphany. It’s the end of a busy year with a lot of personal losses, and I’m tired and I’m stressed. I have been running on adrenal overload. I need to stop. Right now.”
So, I did. I stepped aside quietly and let Christmas pass me by. No gifts, no parties, no decorations — except one string of lights in the front yard (my duty as a good neighbor) and one whimsical wreath by artist Nancy Godsey.
I also sat, as quiet as a mouse in the grass, as New Year’s and Valentine’s Day roared past like noisy 18-wheelers.
Then I looked around me and thought, “Declutter! I’m drowning in stuff. How many pairs of black pants and shoes do I need? How many flower pots in the garage? I am akin to a Bowerbird that collects brightly colored trinkets for its nest.”
About the same time I had my crackup in the supermarket, I discovered I have magical powers. I can make things disappear! I have always been able to do this with cash, but now I can do it with objects. I use a pair of scissors to cut one end of a ribbon, turn around to cut the other end — and the scissors have disappeared. I take the lid off a jar, and the lid vanishes. I will attend the next wizards’ and magicians’ convention in Tulsa, not in costume, but dressed as myself.
What has always saved me is more rest, less stuff, better nutrition and a good book. For me, reading is a cure for most any ailment. However, Julie DelCour wrote in the Tulsa World that liquor stores outnumber bookstores 3-to-1. Americans spend $2,500 annually on entertainment but only $100 annually on reading materials.
I understand devices, gadgets and the Internet have lowered our attention span to 8 seconds. Eight seconds is less than a goldfish’s attention span. Being drunk with a short attention span may be why reading is difficult for some people.
Are Tulsans reading? I called Chris Rogers, Tulsa’s Central Library circulation manager, and after research from the circulation department staff, he told me the most popular book of 2015. “The Girl on the Train,” a best-selling psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins, was checked out 1,984 times.
I’ve read it! I’ve read it, and so have nearly 2,000 other Tulsans and library patrons — let alone readers who bought the book.
I’m OK now. We’re not goldfish. We’re reading, we’re in libraries and not bars, we’re sober, and we’re not having breakdowns over tomatoes. We’re all OK.