Between the lines on a grocery list, nestled somewhere after Lysol but before arugula, is all the tiny ways you live your life. Your idiosyncrasies from how you clean the dishes or eat your food to your Netflix habits– they are the rhythm of your life. For these reasons, I love running errands with people. From post office to Target, I peek into an interiority not everyone gets access to. I see how you scan produce for the ripest apple, avoiding Granny Smith’s tartness for Gala’s sweeter taste. I witness your habits in the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru because you say Starbucks is “too strong”. I wanna loom inside the little worlds people create for themselves– how intricate and private they are. There’s nothing sexy about habits. The day-to-day isn’t glamorous or flashy unless you’re Cher. But there’s something delicate about our mundane routines and who we welcome into it. Our worlds are fragile, ones we guard with two hands for fear someone will deem it abnormal. So, when I get to see inside, when I’m welcomed into such a hallowed space, it is the greatest of privilege and the tenderest of intimacies.
I am the second of five children. As we were all vying for my mom’s attention, I weaseled my way into more 1:1 time by going grocery shopping with her. It became our Saturday ritual. We’d pile into our 2001 Honda Odyssey, and trek to Aldi– just us two. Those Saturday mornings became our own private world. In the repetition of routine, the threat doesn’t really exist. We’re able to soften and expand and talk without the shields we lug through this world. I didn’t have to cater to a younger sibling. I could just be the kid and my mom could just be my mom.
I replicate this ritual a lot. It never transpires intentionally. I’m at a friend’s house, or checking in with a mentor, somebody forgot something and so, we venture to the store. It’s so comfortable inside these worlds. We make them cozy to unwind.
Inside our little worlds, “I love you” is said in non-verbal ways: washing the dishes, taking out the trash, backrubs and baking a favorite treat. Unwound, we grow soft enough to cradle each other on the couch. “I respect you” reflects in our own self-care– an echo that “I love you enough that I want to keep you and not let this grow stale”. An “I care for you” is a roommate sparring with AT&T when the wifi is down or cleaning your sick up the morning after your birthday. It’s siblings not judging each other when the other screws up. It’s mom sending a care package of your favorite things when you’re an adult. Mundane intimacy looks so boring. It appears dull. There’s no luster to it, but so much heart and work. This is not the fairytale, but you can’t feel the fairytale. All those fables and sorcery will not care for you when you’re ill or depressed, and that’s where the magic of our interiority radiates. It keeps us safe in a ruthless world.
I don’t know if I’ve really let anyone into my world, Reader. This blog is the closest thing to it. I allowed exactly 1 friend into my last apartment. I don’t allow people over in general. Partially, because I’m messy, but also, because my world is safe in isolation. Because I know how to navigate the world alone. I singlehandedly accomplish errands. I do chores solo. I don’t like to sleep over. I attend weddings and concerts and work parties without a plus one because my heart doesn’t want to do that kind of math. I don’t bring friends to work out with me. Most of my friends don’t know each other, nor do they interact. That’s because I’m afraid that my many worlds won’t mingle well, and somehow, that’s a failure on me. People ask me what my friends are doing, and I say “Oh, they’re busy”. I am afraid to ask. I only know how to be an addition, never the central force. I tried to throw myself a birthday party earlier this year, but when it seemed that not enough people would come, I hastily pulled the plug. I didn’t want to be exposed as unwantable or a friendless loser. These words are my anxiety talking, and not me, but I feel them. They are grating and revealing.
Exposure presents a risk. There is the obvious risk of safety, but there’s also the risk of perception– I don’t live in the nicest place or drive the nicest car. Intellectually, I know our worlds are about the energy more than a physical setting. But I’m scared. I’ve carefully curated my own safety. The traffic cones, caution tape, and deadbolts are all of my own makings. The older I get, the easier it feels to reinforce these mechanisms rather than break them. I remind myself that safe isn’t all that there is. I remind myself that when life broke my locks, it made me bigger, even if it bruised me in the process.
I’m trying to unlock, Reader. This year, I’ve been bolder than ever. I’ve said the hard things, I’ve gotten my ass kicked, and it’s been one hell of a year. I wanna go back to the locks and my four walls, but they’re never the same after I leave them. I am no longer the same. A part of intimacy involves a certain degree of interdependence. I define myself by my independence. It’s such a point of pride that I’ve blazed through this life on my own. Allowing anyone that co-pilot’s seat feels like a concession, an undermining of my identity. I don’t allow myself to need or want. I work. I labor and hustle and distract myself with an absurd amount of work to distract and drain my human pangs. They howl. All the loose threads inside me dangle with the intention to be tethered to others.
I am always ready to leave. I tell myself that people don’t want me but the idea of me. Fingers feverishly lacing my sneakers, I say this over and over. A partial motivation for all the uncomfortable things I write and post is that it will be a red flag and people will leave. They don’t. My ugliest parts have seen the light, and still, you are here. But people will only endure so many red lights before turning in another direction. It isn’t anyone’s responsibility to babysit my baggage. It’s a cruel thing to constantly doubt the affection of others when they haven’t given me a reason to doubt them. Not everyone we meet must pay reparations for past abuses.
When I go grocery shopping, I want to take you with me. I want to introduce you to my favorite people and weave you into my world. I don’t know how to do this, and I’ll likely be a clumsy and nervous seamstress. But I want to. I am all nomad and no native– always invited to other people’s worlds without ever reciprocating. This is a condition of my own making, and for a long time, it was valid. For a long time, this is how I spared myself in some small way. I don’t need to be spared anymore. I need to be included. That comes from barrelling through all the barricades I made. That comes in the unremarkable magic of suggesting my place rather than yours.
Not everything was made in the big bang. Some bonds form in lulls, on quiet Tuesday, and in mundane rituals. Places like grocery stores, gym lobbies, church parking lots, carpeted living rooms bloom into the sacred ground without us noticing. And suddenly, few things seem as special as going to the grocery store, if only to know that you’re safe in the presence of another.