Zen stones on beach

My wallet was stolen last night. We were at a restaurant with a friend, and the wallet was in my purse when I entered the establishment but not when I left.

She saw me as an easy mark. She had switched seats a few times, before settling next to me. I noticed her scooting into the long booth against the wall, taking her table next to ours, as I was returning from the restroom. Our purses were next to each other, which I noted but didn’t do anything about.

I noticed the wallet was missing when it was time to pay, and I knew instinctively that I hadn’t left it on my desk or dresser. When I told the server that I think it may have been stolen in the restaurant, she nodded as if she had just solved a puzzle. “I bet it was her,” she pointed to the where the woman had been sitting. “She said she was waiting for a friend but left in a hurry after 15 minutes.”

The server was going to have the manager review the security footage and get back to me, but that really won’t make a difference in my wallet being gone.

When we got home, Ethan and I went about freezing our accounts and reporting our credit cards as stolen, which is incredibly easy. My benefits card – which includes my health savings account and pre-tax commuter funds – was the only one I couldn’t cancel on the spot, and it’s the only one she tried to use.

Other than the hassle of getting new cards and an ID, I am out a wallet that a friend gave me eight years ago before I left for the Peace Corps, gift cards to Apple and Whole Foods, and $80 in cash. I absolutely never ever have cash on me, but I took out some for the wedding and haven’t spent it yet, waiting for when I may need it. Now it’s gone.

For the last 24 hours, I’ve been thinking about what I could do differently – moved my bag to be between Ethan and I in the booth, being more aware of my surroundings, using a bag with a zipper. But all this rehashing is only a punishment, a way to scold myself and prove that I deserve these bad and unfortunate things. This is a position I have long took in my life, but with therapy, I am entertaining new narratives.

Years ago, when I was in elementary school, I got this cool peace sign shirt that I absolutely loved. It had black frills on the sleeves. I was so excited to wear it and my first opportunity came at swim lessons the next Monday. During that time, we often just put our clothes in a bag and then left them on a bench. Hey, it was a small town. When I came back to the changing area, after my lesson, the shirt was gone. Someone else decided they liked it, too. I was really upset about this – that shirt and I barely got to know each other – but my grandmother wouldn’t let me wallow. “It’s just a shirt,” she said, knowing way more about the world than my kid self did. “Besides, you don’t know. Maybe that other person needed the shirt more than you did.”

I’ve carried that anecdote with me because it’s a really nice way to look at life, a cosmic rearranging of the universe for you to help someone without really understanding why or how.

So that’s my new story. It’s not that I was careless but that maybe that woman really needed the money and sometimes we do desperate things when it comes to getting money for food or transportation or a medical bill or whatever it is she needed. I am so blessed in my life that I could lose $80 and be OK the next day. Really, the rest is just a minor inconvenience.

And besides, it could have been worse. I still have my Ventra card so I can get to work today, she didn’t get my phone, Ethan has an account that isn’t connected to me so I can live off of him for a bit, and the wallet wasn’t take by force or with weapon. It was a simple picked pocket.

Losing my wallet sucks, but it’s life and a reminder that what happens to me doesn’t matter nearly as much as my reaction to it.

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