A regular patron came in once and things didn’t go well. By regular I don’t mean that he is normal – he just comes in a lot. His paranoia has gone to new heights. He makes a previous boss’ end-of-the-world preparations look like child’s play.
He has a thirty year supply of seeds. He is raising his own food. He talks about raising sheep and goats and chickens. He even has a beehive. Sometimes the story changes and he is just reading about how to be self-sufficient. He might just be preparing to be prepared. He believes that you can’t trust anyone or anything. He believes that the government is out to get us all. He might be right. Who knows? There is no way to check.
I’ve noticed that all these preppers don’t seem like happy people. Somehow all of this stocking and storing, this training and testing, doesn’t seem to be making them content. Somehow, instead of getting a sense of calm that they have everything under control, they seem even more wound up.
I can handle only so much of this kind of talk. He has shared some of his theories with me in the past about how things are going to go bad very soon and I always feel physically ill afterwards.
I want to be present for people. Sometimes I have to allow myself into situations that are uncomfortable for me in order to personally grow and learn. But this time was different. Perhaps it was a cumulative effect. His most recent rambles weren’t especially paranoid, but somehow I was affected more adversely than usual.
I started to feel a pain in my stomach shortly after our conversation ended. I thought my hernia was acting up. I developed it when my Mom was sick and I had to lift her from her bed to get her to the bathroom. I remember the feeling of my muscles in my abdomen snapping from the strain. She wasn’t especially heavy her whole life, and she was even less so then because of the chemotherapy, but I wasn’t trained for that kind of lifting. I’ve strengthened my abdomen quite a bit in the past few years with water aerobics and yoga, but that kind of injury never fully heals. I’ve learned that if I do a forward fold it usually helps.
Not so in this case. I waited a bit, and then went to the bathroom. While sitting there, I thought about this pain. It kind of reminded me of the pain I had when I was in my first year of college. That wasn’t a pain from any physical illness, but it manifested in a physical way. It was a pain from stress, from anxiety, from fear. It was the pain of being too far away from everything I knew and facing a whole lot more of the unknown.
Back then, I went to the student health services and they gave me an anti-nausea pill that knocked me out for half a day. I didn’t want to be unconscious this time, but I also didn’t want to be in pain. So I prayed. What do I do, Lord? The answer? A hard exhale. Just like in yoga class, the “ocean sounding breath”. Just like one teacher says “Fog up that invisible mirror in front of your beautiful face.” So I did it. Huhhhh. I felt instantly better. I did it a few more times and the pain was all gone.
I then decided to tell that patron the next time he came in that I can’t listen to his prepper paranoia any more. It has nothing to do with my job anyway. Just like finding out that I am allergic to a certain food and I no longer eat it because it makes me sick, I have to do the same with people and ideas. If they make me sick, I shouldn’t let them in my head.