grocery store sages

In April, I wrote about coming to understand people as processes, not fixed states. My reflections were inspired, in part, by former NYU professor Neil Postman, my favorite teacher yet on the art of perspectiving.

His lessons have been especially helpful at the grocery store the last few months. At the heavier end of my weight scale, I’ve gotten a lot of commentary about what’s in my basket. “Oh, that’s a lot of chips!” someone will exclaim. “Do you know where the greens are?” another will ask.

The first couple of times I got comments like these, I laughed aloud. I didn’t really get where these comments were coming from, but thought it was so funny that strangers thought I’d value their ill informed assessments.

The third or fourth time, I still chuckled quietly, but I was curious. What was going on, that 150-pound me got no grocery cart comments, ever, but that 200-pound me averages one a week?

Thanks to Neil Postman, the answer became clear virtually as soon as I began asking the question. These grocery store commenters were making snap judgments based on limited data. They were looking at me and seeing not a process but a fixed state; instead of seeing this moment as one frame of a very lengthy movie, they saw the moment and confused it for the movie.

After I figured this out, I kept laughing. How absurd, for these folks to think they know a person based on a frame’s data, and then to stage a mini-intervention!

Things that can be seen in a single grocery store visit: the shopper’s current weight; top layer of contents of cart

Things that cannot be seen in a single grocery store visit (non-comprehensive list): the shopper’s weight for the rest of their lifetime; the eighteen pounds of greens below the chips; grief; stress; childhood trauma that has enduring impacts into adulthood; the 30-60 minutes someone walks/does yoga/bounces on a trampoline daily; the 2-3 cups of greens eaten with virtually every meal, most of which are Paleo; the non-Paleo beer consumed for months to take the edge off pain; the 2.5 hours spent in traffic daily moving to and away from a desk job; etc.

Apart from offering me a chance to laugh, these grocery store sages have given me another gift. They’ve reminded me to remain aware of my own human propensity to confuse a frame for the entire film.

Neil Postman wrote, “You cannot avoid making judgments, but you can become more conscious of the way you make them.” I’m definitely not catching all my judgments, but I’m getting better by the day.

This was especially clear about two weeks ago, when I sat reading in a coffee shop. One particular sentence in the book I was reading, Kelly Brogan’s A Mind of Your Own, practically jumped off the page at me.

For a few months now, I’ve been looking at someone I love and assuming–with some bemusement–certain inspirations for certain behaviors. Brogan’s sentence revealed a whole different set of possible explanations, whapping me on the head with a reminder how little of that personal film I can see. From 1,000 frames, I’ve been filling in the millions I cannot see. I have not been doing so with nuance, instead using broad strokes.

As the pounds slide off me now, having set aside the beer and added meditation+, I’m sure I still have weeks to months of grocery store sage commentary ahead. I’ll keep laughing, naturally; that comes easily.

I’ll also aim to use their words as a reminder. I’m making judgments, too, and the grocery store sages’ words can be my ongoing call to not confuse my own limited perception with reality.

happier

yesterday,
my niece came bounding
around a corner.

for a moment,
barefoot and
grinning, she
looked so much
like her mom
as a little girl
that my breath
caught.

for a moment,
i was both
thirty-eight
and six,

and I
could not
have
been
happier

(for the
joy we found
then, and the
joy we layer
on top
today)

Categories: Family, Love Tags: , ,

antici … pation

that feeling when
seven of the people
you love most in the world
rolled into town
just after
midnight

and you wake up early,
knowing they are
THIS close
to you and your home,
but also far from being
awake, and you want
to call them all
RIGHT NOW
(even though
it’s 0430)
because
HUGS

but instead
you sit and try
to read, knowing
the sun will rise
soon enough, and
not long behind it,
all those people
you can’t wait
to hug

Categories: Family Tags: , ,

seeds

sometimes
people give me
seeds of wisdom
that make no sense
to me
(yet).

i (try to)
tend them
while seeking
the right place
to plant them
so they
grow
well.

usually i hold
each seed
for months,
even years,
before i know
where (and
how) to
plant
it.

last wednesday,
someone handed me
a seed, and i thought,
“huh. i think i know
what to do
with this.”

(spoiler:
nope!)

then, on friday,
only two days
later,

i found
exactly
where to
plant
that
seed,
and i was
grateful.

without that seed,
i might have
breathed fire
instead of planting
what may
someday
become
a flower

sometimes,
maybe, i ought
consider not
breathing fire,
instead
setting aside
space in my garden
until i’ve found
just the right
seed for
planting
there

roots

A work friend asked
me about something

“Hmm,” I said,
“I’m not sure
about that”
(though I
NOW
know a lot
about relatively
related things)

This must have
sounded funny to her,
because she said,
“That’s … interesting”

I paused and said,
“Okay, so it’s like this:
I was told many things
when I started this position,
but only learned them
in the shallowest way,
because I didn’t have
context to understand
fully

“The best way I’ve figured
to explain it is like this:
understanding grows
deep, like roots;
near the beginning,
the roots are so shallow
the slightest breeze can
upend the solid plant

“As I grow in
knowledge and
understanding, my
roots grow deeper,
BUT …

“Some
roots
remain
shallow;
the water
hasn’t reached
them
yet”

As deep
as some roots
grow, I still have
many roots
left
to
water

(before no
question
will ever
upend me)

Categories: Communication, Learning Tags: , ,

The meth apartment

A meth lab burned down near my sister’s house a couple of days ago. Two people died and dozens more were displaced.

Many terrible things have happened in my sister’s neighborhood, so that she’s understandably distraught. Her friends are urging her to move, which she very much wants to.

I’m sad for her, and I’m sad beyond her.

About a year ago, I came to the shocking conclusion that history is actually important. I saw that my failure to follow history or politics had left me with a lot of illusions–delusions?–about what my country has been, is, and is en route to be.

I’ve gone through four of the five stages of grief: Read more…

a little more love

A couple of years ago, I wrote in my postThe Church of Sunshine through Trees“:

If I feel compelled to visit a church, I will. I will go with that flow.

Until then, my church will be the sunlight through the trees, the wind through my hair, the prayer of thanks at 3 a.m., the sweetness of fruit bursting in my mouth, the sound of my little boys’ laughter. It will be in the “for,” not the “against,” and most of all in the love I hear resounding around me when I only

remember

to listen.

Drew Downs, an Episcopal priest who’s guest posted here twice (“Loving Joy” and “Don’t Be A Priest“), commented on my post. He wrote:

I love the sensitivity you use in describing your experience – it is so honest and generous. So many of us within the institutional boundaries need to hear you, that we can share in your experience honestly and generously. Thank you, Deborah!

As always, his words eased my heart.

A couple weeks ago, I texted my sister and husband a link to one of Drew’s posts. “I’d go to church every week if Drew lived in Long Beach!”

Soon after, I read his post on Satan (“You and I are the real devils“). I texted that link, too, and affirmed my prior statement.

I wanted to post a link here and say “I am a Christian now,” but I refrained. I was concerned people would look at all my rage-y posts of the last year and think things like: Read more…

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