What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I walk to 7-Eleven almost every day.
Sometimes it's for food or coffee, sometimes it's to get money from the ATM (my U.S. bank card only works at 7-Eleven ATMs and the post office ATM), sometimes it's to pay bills. Right now, it's kind of the center of my outside-my-home life.
I know what some of you may be thinking: 7-Eleven is the center of your life?
You may be imagining the gnarly convenience store with the questionable characters lingering out front that so many American 7-Elevens resemble. When I lived in Hollywood, my closest 7-Eleven smelled like cigarettes, and the cups for the Slurpees were always pre-moistened and/or sticky.
But Japanese 7-Elevens are more like bodegas. Think little food marts that have snacks and actual food that one can actually make a nutritious lunch or dinner from. And really, the sushi at Japanese 7-Elevens is cheap, not-scary, and way more tasty than its low price point might dictate.
Also, my near-daily walks to 7-Eleven are helping to keep my anxiety from swallowing me up. Since I work from home (working from coffee shops is not an option here) and spend most of my days alone in a big, sparsely furnished apartment in rural Japan, there's a lot of room for my anxiety to overflow.
Lately it's been more than overflowing, it's been threatening to drown me.
On one hand, "such is my life" – I kind of expected this. Moving always makes my anxiety spike. As much as I love moving around the world, I am wary of change and, all things considered, slow to adapt.
On the other hand, anxiety and fear is what cripples the creativity and discipline I need to be able to work – work being the one cozy constant I've had these past few years of country-jumping. I wouldn't call myself a "workaholic," but work is what soothes me.
And while I don't have the luxury of just NOT working when I'm anxious, my anxiety makes me feel like there is an anchor chained to every thought. Nothing comes easy, and every thought feels like a battle between clarity and doubt.
Anxiety robs me of the joy I typically find in my work. Anxiety is an asshole.
The one thing I've found that pulls the drain on the overflowing tub of anxiety I've been navigating these days is walking to 7-Eleven. It gets me outside, it gives me something to look forward to, it is a part of my schedule (and I loooooove schedules) where the primary purpose of it is to feel good, and it keeps me in touch with the fact that I live in a unique, lovely part of Japan.
Plus, nothing pleases me more than catching a glimpse of my neighborhood cats and dogs.
While my jaunts don't totally drain the anxiety tub, they get the waterline out from under my chin.
So here's what it's like to walk with me to 7-Eleven. Maybe this will give you some idea as to how to soothe your own anxiety; maybe you just want to see what life outside of the neon lights of Tokyo looks like. Really, if you're anything like me, you're just nosey and like to see how people live.
Whatever it is, I hope this little diversion gives you some calm in your day. It did for me.
First, I have to walk out my front door. It's really nice and chilly out right now, but not cold. Plus, check out my neighbor's tree.
Heading up my street, a short street with a bunch of little houses and plots of farming land crammed onto it, I always keep my eyes out for cats and dogs. Cats are elusive, and I've only seen one little orange and white fellow skulking around his garden and outside my back door. I call him Milo.
More often I see a little Shiba dog hanging out while his owner does stuff with vegetables on his little plot of land. Can you see him?
We take note of each other often but have not yet made friends. We will.
Just beyond my little block, past two very big houses that have lots of spider webs hanging between the pointy corners of the roofs, is the main intersection in my my neighborhood. There are lots of vending machines and a goods delivery center. I also think there's a tiny community center here, but I can't read the complicated Japanese, so I don't know.
I live for Japanese vending machines, every one is a taste adventure. Right now, my favorite drink is called Match. I like the berry flavor. I think all Japanese drinks taste like the '80s, and this one tastes like the sweet, "fruit"-flavored sugar water you'd beg your adult to buy you from Albertson's after school (you probably only got it on your birthday or Halloween).
Sadly, this machine has no Match. But Mr. Louise is really into that Gym soda on the top left. I think it tastes like the early 2000s in a bad way.
Passing the vending machines and the intersection, you cross under the train tracks. I am so tempted to climb up there and walk along them like a movie kid, but all the signs say it's a bad idea.
Finally, after leaving the train tracks and crossing one more street, the promised land is reached.
On this trip I bought onigiri, little seaweed and rice triangles stuffed with pickled things, fermented things, or fish. They bring me joy.
And as a bonus, Japan 7-Elevens are really into giving you prizes for spending money. The shelves behind the counter look like some bizarre Dave & Buster's prize case, where your prizes are salted pork medallions, beer (the other day Mr. Louise won three beers), or, like today, a scarf:
This is a Harry Potter thing, right? I don't know.
So that was my trip to 7-Eleven today. After coming home, I ate my onigiri lunch and enjoyed the fact that my head was clearer and my heart was not pounding anymore.
The nerves are starting to creep in again (it's dark outside now; the first hour or so of night sometimes sends me into a mild panic — does anybody know why?), but I had a solid few hours of fairly focused work. It was a good day.
I hope you enjoyed tagging along. And I hope it helped you in some small way, either as a diversion from your own head, or the knowledge that someone else is fighting the good fight every day.
A smart person once called stuff like my daily journey to 7-Eleven a "survival bribe" against anxiety and depression. Survival bribes are the little kindnesses we pay ourselves that give us reason to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, to carry on.
What is your survival bribe?