I watched my groceries as they traveled down the conveyor belt and thought of what an impressive bunch of stuff it was. Greek yogurt, almond milk, feta, hummus, pita, avocados, spring mix lettuce, English cucumber, apples, butternut squash, cremini mushrooms, yasso bars, pasta, sliced ham, cheddar cheese, frozen blackberries, frozen spanakopita, dark chocolate with almonds, veggie crackers. It was all so admirable and healthy, but still accessible. There was ham, after all. And pasta. Yet, I caught myself unconsciously thinking something like: if I saw someone with a grocery order like this next to me, I would go out of my way to be their friend. I stood there laughing at myself and realized why I thought this particular grocery order represented the kind of person I would love to hang out with. It was because I picked it all, and who doesn’t love their own perspective? It’s possible someone was looking at my stuff and putting me in some negative category in their mind, like ‘weird almost-vegetarian’ or ‘non-organic vegetable purchaser’ or most likely, no one was looking at all. People are busy, and I am beginning to suspect that most people don’t have running commentary in their heads going 24/7. To them I say, I’m sorry and also, it must be nice.
Checking myself regarding the elevation of my own perspective is something I’m doing more of these days. It would be easy to put a big happy checkmark in my mind next to a like-minded person when it comes to politics, religion, or social matters, but that would exclude a lot of cool, interesting people from my life, not to mention a whole lot of challenging ideas. If I intend to grow as a person, exclusion of people or ideas is a mistake I can’t afford to make.
Similarly, the way I perceive relationships, events, or interactions is not necessarily the way they truly are or have happened, and I have to remind myself of that, too. Often my narrative gets seared into my mind before I will allow for the possibility that someone out there is seeing things very differently. I never have the whole story, though I sometimes think I do and always wish I would.
I loved this batch of groceries in part because I knew all of the great stuff I was going to do with it, and no one in the store got to know about any of that as I unloaded my cart. No one knew how I was so glad it was time again to dice and roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, and how chopping vegetables makes me feel calm, productive and nurturing, even with one less person to cook for this fall. No one knew that with the fall comes the chance to see more friends at home, and how it’s always best to have frozen spanakopita in the house in case of company. No one read my thoughts when I was musing about how happy I am that I’ve found the perfect breakfast smoothie recipe and how greek yogurt, berries, and almond milk combine to make my morning happier and healthier, without the low blood sugar issues and heart palpitations I always got when I ate cereal.
There is so much thinking, conscious and unconscious, that runs under the current of even the simplest tasks, and that’s an amazing thing to consider as we go on errands and interact with each other out there in the world. No one gets to hear what’s in my head, and I don’t get to hear what’s in yours, unless you tell me. Really, I wish you would.
So if you’re near me in a grocery store and happen to put pop-tarts or frozen dinners on the conveyor belt, you have no fear of judgment from me. I may write a story in my mind about your choices, but it will be a positive one, I promise. Only you know what you’re going to do with your stuff, and why, and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing. Everything about you already is. Let’s have butternut squash and talk all about it.
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