I’ve never been good at combination locks. I’ve tried to avoid them my entire life. My high school was so small that we didn’t even lock our lockers. I’ve had jobs where I’ve needed to unlock a combination lock safe. I just allot myself extra time for cursing in frustration, but eventually I get it open.
We have a row of lockers at my current job. When I started there, over six years ago, I was given a combination lock.
“Uh, I kinda suck at these,” I said.
“It’s not hard, you’ll get it,” my manager Jerry gently said to me.
“No I won’t,” I thought to myself.
I just left my locker unlocked in the beginning. Just leaving the u-shaped arch positioned to look like it was locked. I had outsmarted my ineptitude. I had thought outside the box. I had left my stuff unsecured.
One day, for whatever reason, I locked it. Like locked it shut. I had no idea what the combination was. I had forgotten it. I’m not sure I ever really knew it actually. I went into a panic.
I had completely forgotten about this incident. Six years later, as my coworker Ryan and I teased a new guy about his locker and other rookie stuff he would need to know, Ryan reminded me. A memory from the dark days. The ‘how the hell am I even here?’ days. He reminded me how panicked I was. It was Friday and I needed to get to Temple. He said he felt so bad. He was watching me pull and spin and go ape shit on this lock and locker.
“Do we have a bolt cutter??!!” I asked. We didn’t.
I remember the emotions of this incident more than what actually happened. Panic. Anger at myself. Desperation to get my car keys out of this locker and get the hell out of here. That feeling of being physically trapped turned into being emotionally trapped. This was no more than six weeks after my son, Noah, had died. What the hell was I doing here??!! Where else would I be? I can’t even handle a combination lock. I can’t even keep my…stop that thought. Physically stop that thought and so many others.
I’m so glad Ryan reminded me of this incident. I really am. It’s all about looking backwards sometimes.
See how far you’ve come.
How you have changed.
How you are healing… or at least a little less broken.
How you are simply still going.
When I came back to work after Thanksgiving last week, we had our company mandated Christmas music playing. The first song I heard as I walked out onto the sales floor was “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” from John Lennon.
“So this is Christmas and what have you done
Another year over, a new one just begun”
Woah. John’s voice. It hit me hard. But rather than question what I hadn’t done as another year has passed, Ryan reminded me of what I had done. How far I’ve come from that understandably panicked girl who’d just lost her son a few weeks earlier. Hyper aware and sleepwalking simultaneously. That still applies. It’s just changed.
There will always be a “before” and “after” Noah. A line of demarcation. For the rest of my life. And I still can’t handle a combination lock.