Do You Have Lunch With A Crazy Person?

How is your mental health?

I don’t usually come up against moral dilemmas when out with my daughters thrift shopping. The shop has changed hands and no longer can I depend fully on the place to outfit me. I suppose it’s not a terrible thing to buy new clothes from real stores, but still.

We left a little disappointed and with empty hands and walked up the street toward our car. I had noticed an older lady outside of an empty storefront with what looked like a small rummage sale of framed paintings and other trinkets at her feet as we had driven into town but hadn’t thought much of it. In Upstate New York many storefronts are empty and people often have junk sales.

As we approached the lady who was pulling weeds from between the cracks of the sidewalk she engaged us in small talk about the town’s inability to compete with Saratoga Springs because the local government refused to learn about historical zoning and markers. She told us how she had lovingly restored seven houses in the area to their period correct beauty.

She hooked me on many levels–old houses, inept government, nineteenth century period-correctness. She was also beautiful with wavy mid-length silver hair and large and bright hazel eyes. Within a few moments she told us she was in her late seventies.

Claire bragged about the way her ass looked in the black leggings she wore quite well. She said it was due to genetics and keeping active and interested in life. With a dramatic wave of the arm she pointed to the paintings on the sidewalk and the photographs taped to the window of the storefront.

The Grieving Process

“Henry died this year,” she told us as she pointed to an obituary cut from the newspaper.

I scanned it. Henry loved dancing, old cars and the local Catholic church. The pictures showed a very handsome older man — the kind of man who possibly loved too many women at once.

Claire started stories about her time as a frumpy teacher. Stories about raising daughters alone after her second husband ran off with her best friend. About her first husband’s death in Vietnam. About her opinions on politics.

I mentioned that we didn’t have much in common politically. We both agreed that this was not a problem and that mature adults should be able to discuss ideas without having the ideas poison relationships. Since this attitude pleased us both we agreed to be friends and possibly to go to lunch and have margaritas.

“I was a frump until I met Henry,” she said wistfully. “He made me beautiful.” She pointed to one picture where she did look a bit frumpy and then another of her and Henry at some sort of garden party. In this photo she wore a form-fitting red dress and a confident expression of being loved on her face. Henry looked proud and happy too.

“So after your horrible second marriage you finally found happiness,” I said.

Her eyes clouded for a second. “No, it wasn’t always happy.” Claire looked as if lost for a moment but recovered. “So when do you want to do lunch?”

Just then the owner of the thrift store called to me from down the road. “Adrienne, you left something in here!”

I knew I hadn’t bought anything. My daughters looked equally confused. A different lady from the store came out now and called me again. Claire turned her attention to my daughters, asking them about school and such. I strolled down the street to retrieve whatever it was that I’d left behind.

“She’s crazy,” the shop-owner said. “We all loved and knew Henry, but since his death Claire has been terrible. She accosts anyone who walks by the building she and Henry own. Henry left her underwater financially. She tells everyone she’s going to run for mayor. He had her put away a few times. We knew you and the girls would be too nice to step away, but she’ll keep you for hours if you let her.”

I had noticed that her stories trailed off and circled back, but she was colorful and interesting. I thought lonely and grieving. I called to the girls, waved a good-bye to Claire as she kissed the girls as if she’d known them for years and we drove off.

I checked the time and we had indeed been talking to her for almost an hour. I’d actually enjoyed the idea of Mexican food and drink with her. I loved that she was open to discussing politics although we were diametrically opposed on most issues. But she was crazy — or so it was said and I had run off to escape it — partially to please the shop-keepers.

How can you tell if someone is mentally ill?

Okay. So she did seem a little scattered. She did consume most of the air-time in conversation but … maybe she was terribly lonely … and grieving. Maybe she was crazy and needed to be checked into a mental health facility …

I live with a girl who has been checked into mental health facilities. Should I have run from her. We jokingly say yes on some days.

What if good old Henry wasn’t perfect? What if Claire had been hurt enough times that she became unhinged every so often? What if Claire is actually right that the town doesn’t know how to manage its affairs?

Why does this lonely, creative and possibly crazy woman haunt me?

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So here’s what I’m wondering:

Would you have lunch with someone who is mentally ill?

Do you chance it?

Do you take the shopkeeper’s warning to clear out as fast as you can?

Who is responsible for befriending a woman like this?

How crazy is too crazy to hang out with?

 

Further reading:

LONELINESS AND MENTAL ILLNESS

THE DANGERS OF LONELINESS

THE LONELINESS OF LIVING WITH HIGH FUNCTIONING MENTAL ILLNESS

 

 

 

 

 

25 Comments Add yours

  1. well, she was interesting, open, friendly. Is that the goal? I think often it is. So why not?

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    1. Haha! Yes, she was all of those things. It just reminded me how much stock we put in other people’s opinions. Before the shopkeeper got involved I was totally fine with going to lunch someday with this woman who I knew was a little eccentric but obviously putting a brave front on her grieving. I was thinking she needed a few friends maybe. As soon as the “normal” people got involved (and I know they were trying to help me) I was less inclined to take the risk. Somehow it felt like I was really being a coward.

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      1. Have the coffee! However 🙂 don’t tell you where you live…………… sounds rather nice on reflection! (I live on my own and evening loneliness can be hard to deal with)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Evening loneliness is hard, btw. I hear you on that!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Isn’t funny that it’s unsettling no matter what path is chosen! We’ll see what happens next time I go to the thrift store. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very introverted with NEW people, but then again, how did I ever make friends in the first place? Must have talked with a new person…wink, wink. I think I might go to lunch with her. I would be careful with boundaries as far as my home depending on the age of my children and feeling safe. But in a public place, meeting her there? It would probably be ok! I joined a writing group at my library to get myself out of my same, safe circle of friends and it’s been good for me.

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    1. I think we’re kindred spirits. I was thinking the same thing. I mean I don’t have to bring her home with me 😉

      This haunts too because as I drove home I thought about how easily swayed by the shopkeepers I was. Maybe they are 100% correct but running from a person so obviously grieving and in distress felt cowardly.

      Some writing circles are safer than others. LOL. Glad to hear you are enjoying yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. candidkay says:

    Oh man. I wish I had words of wisdom. I guess I would err On the side of caution, but she would probably haunt me also. It’s so sad to see someone so alone and so in their own world that they’ve lost touch a bit with the current reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I rode away I thought of the good Samaritan though. ;(

      Liked by 1 person

      1. candidkay says:

        Oh, yes. I would have too!

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  4. That’s so sad. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to people, but in this case, I guess I’d err on the side of caution.

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    1. It’s a tough one. How much do we involve ourselves with suffering strangers. that Christian walk thing is hanging me up on this…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow what a fascinating thought provoking story, I’m wondering at what point within this soon to be blossoming relationship would a little voice in your head pipe and say “you know she’s crazy don’t you”. The problem with forming a close friendship with someone who is mentally ill is they can latch onto you, become a nuisance, a burden, a problem……… a dangerous problem! Like the story of a receptionist being pleasant to a delivery guy, he assumed she fancied him the ultimate consequence he became her a stalker! Ok my scenario is extreme (to the extreme) but it could be risky befriending a crazy person.

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    1. Yes, that’s true too. My cousin has a stalker. It’s been going on for YEARS!!! And the guy is scary. The police know about it but aside from the restraining order there is not much they can do.

      The little voice is already there. LOL. But it’s sad to think that these are choices we have to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lily Pierce says:

    What a sweet and amusing story, Adrienne. I say–yes, eat with the crazy person, ’cause that’s what Jesus would do–both the hanging out with crazy people and the eating a meal, haha (lots of lessons taught over meals in the Gospels). As for why this woman haunts you, I’d bet your being a writer has a lot to do with it. When you meet someone like that, it’s easy to start imagining their hypothetical backstory.

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    1. Totally have the backstory in my head. LOL. But it’s what you say about Jesus hanging out with the people others avoided that I think is causing me to keep thinking about it. 😉

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  7. cricketmuse says:

    Social responsibility, kindness on one side and common sense and self-protection on the other side. Finding a balance. Maybe that’s the real question.

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    1. An interesting way of putting it. It makes me ponder about heroes though (I’m not one of them btw). The ones who sacrifice their lives for others rarely have balanced lives. So do we live fearless and selfless existences (as Christians are called to do and look foolish to the world) or make safe decisions. Every little moment is full of these decisions or values–the spice of life I guess, Cricket.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cricketmuse says:

        Your encounter does make one wonder about keeping safe or making someone’s day a bit brighter. Thoughtful post.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. One of the most fascinating stories you’ve written, Adrienne. I can’t answer your questions but find it intriguing that you mentioned several times about being on the opposite side of politics.

    When my mom was alive and living in a residence for those with memory impairment, I had lunch frequently with “crazy” people. Sometimes they made the most astute observations.

    I have a very dear friend who’s lived in another state for decades. Her brain is deteriorating, the result of severe brain trauma after a car accident. My biggest worry for her (there are many) is that she wrote that she’s in love – with a man almost 12 years younger. She’s the kind of person who would easily fall for a scheme. And there’s nothing I can do about it except weep.

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    1. I’m always on the lookout for people who are compassionate enough to see that people with different opinions aren’t stupid or evil and that they have a lot to offer. Iron sharpens iron, or something like that. 🙂

      Crazy is of course a humorous word for something that isn’t all that funny, I know. But it’s what people say. The funny thing is I could sense that she was a little off but everything she said I agreed with. Haha. What does that say about me? I avoid lunches with less “crazy” people because I’m self-important enough to always be too busy. Maybe God’s refining process is hinting that I need to keep stretching my faith and exercising compassion. Anyway, it was a fun talk I can’t stop thinking about.

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    2. PS I get the worry you feel for your friend. We worry in the same way for our soon-to-be daughter. 😦 I’ve had many prayers answered but still have doubts about prayer. LOL.

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  9. If she’s crazy but harmless, then sure — but somewhere public and not too far from where she lives (so you don’t have to feel you have to drive her home). And, as noted above, don’t let her know where you live or give her your phone number — and best not to have your girls along. Stay safe and as much as in control as is possible, but if you can afford the time and can spare the emotional energy (because I know you do have other burdens in your life), it can’t hurt and might help Claire.

    As for the comment above about doubting prayer — I’d say that, for me, it is not that I doubt prayer, but rather that I understand that sometimes the answer is not the one I wanted. 🙂

    But blessings on you for even considering this. Because the world is so filled with hurting people, and so few people even think about helping.

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    1. I went back to the thrift shop the other day and the women there said that “Claire” sometimes suddenly flips and gets violent. So on this one i dodged a bullet by not getting too close — I agree about prayer. Sometimes you don’t get the answer you think is best. LOL. But who am I to question God? (yet I do all the time! hehe).

      Lately I’ve been anxious because I’m NOT GETTING ENOUGH DONE. I prayed about it and all day the answer was: Keep life simple. Stop trying to do everything! I know performance is one of my main idols. It keeps me from the real peace God offers.

      Thanks for your very good advice! Hope all is wel with you!

      Liked by 1 person

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