Saturday night I asked Jason if we could go to the markets on Sunday (I can’t drive or navigate new places solo yet). He said if I was feeling up to it, we could. Sunday morning I confirmed I still wanted to go. For most of the year in Alice Springs, a market is held each fortnight in the Todd Mall. It’s a lovely market and I enjoy going and seeing all the pretty things for sale, mingling with the crowd, sometimes buying a coffee, sitting on the grass out front of the church, alongside the Aboriginal ladies with paintings to sell and watching the world go by. I usually go alone or with a friend, as Jason isn’t much of a market person. Despite this, he agrees to take me.
I am happy at the thought of getting out of the house and change into jeans and a warm top, stopping to even put on some earrings, a bracelet and a pretty blue scarf. I’m dressed and I thought ready to go, but as I gather my wallet and things, I slow, my feet dragging in response to some unknown anxiety. I stop in the kitchen, hands on the cold bench top, taking big slow breaths. Jason gives me the hurry up signal and I apologise telling him I’m feeling anxious. He tells me he knows why I’m procrastinating and reminds me this was something I wanted to do and was excited about, “So get your bag and let’s get going.” I realise this may sound a tad harsh but pre-outing nerves are not new in our home and he knows how to spot them in me. By telling me what to do next, he gets me moving, forward towards that which makes me anxious, knowing that generally, once I arrive at our destination, I am fine. This day I think I am anxious about being in a busy, changing environment and around crowds. I wonder how I will manage, being effectively blind in one eye, and still a little unsteady on my feet. Nonetheless, off we go!
As we approach the mall from the car, I spend the first few minutes just taking in my surroundings, the noise, the people, the colours, the music, the stalls and all the associated conversations. “Okay, I think to myself, it’s not overwhelmingly loud, I can mange this.” As we begin navigating people, pets and stalls, I realise there are two other factors I need to consider, lighting and ground surfaces; both are highly changeable depending on where one steps. The sun, whilst delightfully warm, blinds me completely and I stop and start attempting to clear my vision before moving forward, my hands reaching out hesitantly, feeling to ensure I don’t walk into anything. I am also unsteady on rough surfaces, in addition to difficulty with depth perception, so the ground in the mall, with its curbs, steps, tiles and changing surfaces serve to challenge me with every step. At times, my sole focus is on not tripping or falling over. I’m sure anyone could understand why the thought of falling and hitting my head, fills me with cold dread. I am however a believer of the ‘prophecy of self-fulfilment’ in that if we focus long enough upon an outcome, we can generally find a way of causing said outcome.
I take a few quiet moments to quell my anxiety and remind myself that I know the mall well and love this market. Jason will help by holding my right hand and making sure I don’t walk into anything I can’t see on that side. I grip his hand and ask him to hold on a little tighter than usual as it feels more secure and we head out. Jason sees a stall selling African hot sauces and can’t resist trying some.
We steer towards the stall and both miss the step down off a curb. As we land heavily, Jason laughs and apologises for not seeing that one. “Some bloody seeing-eye dog you’d make.” I reply. We’re okay though and that bolsters my confidence in navigating this ridiculously busy place (Alice standards of busy apply).
Slowly as we wander the street going stall to stall, I relax, even pulling away from Jason at one point to explore a stall where I thought I saw craft kits on display, only realising once my curiosity had been sated, that I had lost him. I look for him with increasing alarm. Where the hell could he be? I look more slowly this time, and see him buying food two stalls down on the other side. Not sure that he knows where I am, I head off, looking from left to right, carefully manoeuvring around the people between us, which is thankfully only a few. I reach his side and accuse him of abandoning me, to which he reminds me, it was I who ditched him. I guess I felt braver…when I see something I might like to buy. Who knew retail therapy could cure anxiety?
We proceed and I get a coffee whilst Jason buys me a bag (a whole bag!) of steaming hot cinnamon doughnuts and we find a seat in the sun. I feel happy to be outside, in the sun, with Jason, having conquered my fears and eventually relaxing enough to enjoy this outing. We bump into a few familiar faces whilst here and they all express surprise to see me out and about so soon after surgery.
Yeah, I guess I am doing pretty well at the 5-week mark. I think I will excuse myself for having some anxiety. I’m doing great and I love Jason even more for hustling me out the door to go do the things that bring me both opportunity and joy.