An old habit: I go to the mall when I feel bad.
It doesn’t really work anymore. Malls themselves don’t really work anymore. For me it harkens back to seventh grade when I wasn’t invited to a birthday party and my mother took me to Maas Brothers for a Liz Claiborne purse. Navy blue with triangles.
Yesterday I was in the throws of an emotional hangover. Not an actual hangover, because then I would need a whole lot more than a mall. Something had happened the day before that’s not mine to write about. But let’s say, like that seventh grader, my feelings were hurt. Only this time it was regarding an issue much bigger, for a cause I deeply believe in. Doesn’t matter though. The old voices in my head say: “You are not enough. You don’t belong. Something is wrong with you.”
Of course all of this is untrue, and since I got sober and into recovery, I’ve embarked upon the long and deep process of exploring, surrendering, and experiencing healing. But sometimes I still wander into the mall. Past the kiosks selling hair straighteners, into the Gap, where I couldn’t even find a black T-shirt that fit. So I wandered into Macy’s, where they’ve opened up a discount shop. Castoffs from last season.
As I walked in the store, I saw a figure I recognized. Long skirt, beaded necklace. My friend Kim. She was looking at makeup palettes. I think I blurted out something eloquent like, “I feel like crap.” Upon which, she invited me to her home for a cup of tea. And tea we had.
Kim is a writer, and a former colleague, and a long time friend. We’ve worked on big projects together, and led teams, and shared our journeys as writers and editors. We have much in common, but she’s very much my opposite in some ways -- she’s a talented athlete and competitor -- fearless on a bike or exploring the outdoors.
Like so many of my friends, she’s forged her own path professionally, writing and speaking and teaching. She’s designed a life, and lives it beautifully.
I told her where I was, about the passions and projects I hold most dear now. She listened, and poured green tea, and held space for me -- to ramble, to confess, to share where I’d been, and where I want to go. We talked about tribes. She’s part of mine.
I believe we all need spaces where we can be heard, where we can express ourselves safely. To bring to the light our darkness and to still be accepted. Porches, patios, malls. Whatever it takes.
When I was leaving, Kim recalled the story of my Giving Key, the necklace I bought for myself when I turned 40, which I later gave to a mutual friend. “I think you need a new necklace,” she said, taking off the one around her necklace. Beads, green, red, and black, gifted to her by a mentor as Kim wrote her first book.
I placed it around my neck and hugged her and drove home. The sky was a brilliant pink.
The mall had exactly what I was looking for.