To the man my husband bumped into at Whole Foods.

To the man my husband bumped into at Whole Foods.

compassion & care, radical sincerity

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

That is him, in the framed photograph, with his grandfather — who passed away recently.


I did notice when my husband — his name is Chris — bumped into you at Whole Foods with his basket. You flinched. I think you may have been affronted. He didn’t notice.

And what you gleaned from this encounter, I don’t know. But I wanted you to know that he not only didn’t mean to bump into you, but that he also ordinarily would have noticed, when he had. He’s attentive to those sorts of things, and often when I am not. For example, I’m the one who charges into elevators without letting people out of them first. He’s the one who’s always holding me back with a little reminder that I’m not the center of the universe, which is kinder than it sounds.

He is kind.

I don’t know if you noticed, but we only had two things in our basket — both supplements from the supplement aisle. We’d made a special trip to Whole Foods for those. We were coming back from a clinic where I’d just spent an hour getting an EEG, where I was told that I had “intense wave form activity in the right hemisphere,” and why this is, we do not know; and then had fifteen vials of blood drawn for testing. We had just picked up some medications. This has been a difficult time for us, and this is why we were in the Whole Foods — because my doctor had read a medical paper about the efficacy of DHA and EPA and NAC in treating inflammation, which seems to be a cause for many of my neurological and other medical issues — we were picking up some pills, because I’ve been ill, and we are hoping that I’ll get better soon.

It’s been difficult for me, certainly, but I can’t forget that it’s hard for him, too. He would have been apologetic about bumping into you. I know this.

I try to think about all of the people that I’ve bumped into, lately, and didn’t notice. My memory’s been shot, clinically speaking, and so I am sure that I’ve done this, even though I try to pay attention.

And you — I don’t know you, or how you are. Perhaps you’re having your own rough go of it, and having a stranger bump into you at Whole Foods was just one more affront, one more sadness; perhaps you’re feeling worn and world-weary from the holiday cheer and the good spirit of everyone around you (so it seems), and going to Whole Foods was your sanctuary; perhaps you never actually buy anything, but think about what you would buy if you did have more money, or didn’t have to spend money on various other things that you’ve prioritized over Morbier cheese, which is probably only appealing because it has the storied line of ash running through the middle.

I don’t know. I will never know.

But I go through the world trying to be aware of the fact that everyone is on their own journey, and that journey is full of varying amounts of joy and triumph and devastation and grief, because that is what it is to be human, even if being in public means that we put on our public faces — which are generally public faces of mild pleasantry.

So yes. You did not go unnoticed. I thought of you on the drive home, and you see, on the morning after.

I would not presume to speak for him, and he wouldn’t presume to speak for me. There is an apology in here, but it’s not mine to give, and so I tell you this, I tell you all of this in my bumbling way, as a means to explain.

With care,





Assorted thoughts:

I neglected to mention something bright that happened to me, which was that I was awarded a writing residency at Hedgebrook for April. Hedgebrook is perhaps most famous in the online community for the piece that Orangette wrote about her sponsored stay there, which you can read about here. I’ll be working on a new book, code name TCS, which is a memoir-in-progress about living with schizoaffective disorder, the strangeness of Cotard’s delusion, and the construction of identity when mentally ill.

Jo Klima just put the final touches on my complete website redesign, which I am in ecstasy over. I so want to share a little of it with you here — perhaps in a little bit, when she sends me the PSD files. In the meantime, know that the new look for the site is quite different, but ultimately, completely and utterly me. She is magical.

I’ll soon be micro-blogging in between posts here on my Facebook page, which will also soon be revamped. Here it is — please Like it, if you feel so inclined.


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  1. lemead

    Oh, this is so lovely. First, I’m sorry about the difficult time; I hope you find some relief soon, whether from the supplements from Whole Foods or elsewhere. I’m thinking of you. And the assertion that each of our journeys is full of joy and triumph and devastation and grief … well, yes. Beautiful and perfect. Congratulations on the residency! xox

    • Your writing helps me to remember that — about the journeys, about everyone’s journeys. Please know that in my work to become a more compassionate person, reading you has been part of that. Thanks. x

  2. Charisma

    Your entry reminds me so much of what David Foster Wallace touches on in his Kenyon College speech — about being mindful, and sometimes struggling to precisely that.

    Congratulations on the residency.

  3. oh, darling.

    heh. i once bought omega-3 last year, flaxseed oil, that i’m still getting through. i think they have gelatin in them anyway, maybe, but i still just couldn’t bring myself to eat epas or dhas because i can’t stomach eating fish. sigh.


    i loved this. i used to work at a hardware store when i was 16 as a cashier. though i quit after a few months and felt totally ostracised as one of the few women of colour, i had to go through this “customer service” training that has stuck with me to this day, although my co-workers just used it as an excuse to eat free pizza and get paid for sitting in a dark room (to watch the videos).

    anyway, part of that training was to imagine that every single customer you had was having the worst day of their life. that that man who was so rude to you and treated you like crap had a spouse dying in the hospital and he was late to seeing her. that kind of thing.

    it hasn’t made me perfect about these kinds of things, either, but it has stuck with me since.

    • I love that story about the training video. I wonder how many people actually internalized the part about empathy. I think it’s a hard concept at any age, but goodness — you at 16!

  4. I sincerely hope the supplements help. Inflammation is being seen as an underlying cause of a lot of things it seems (including that it may be part of the Fibromyalgia thing too). The naturopath I saw put me on high dose turmeric supplements because it’s supposed to help inflammation. I have actually noticed a reduction in pain levels in the last couple of months which as you no doubt understand is a godsend.

    I love this letter. It’s a great reminder that we shouldn’t assume anything about another person’s situation nor actions. As you say, everyone is on their own journey.

    • Yes — the fibromyalgia symptoms (well, & the diagnosis) were one of many reasons inflammation is being suspected. That, and elevated ESR levels. Still waiting on a lot of tests! Thank you for reading, & for commenting. And reminding myself to think of other people’s differing situations/actions is something I need to do all the time. x

  5. I remember that piece that Orangette wrote. It made me want to visit Hedgebrook. Congratulations on your residency!

    I love the reminder not to assume anything. Thank you. I hope you find some relief soon.

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