Howdy! My name is Pat and I’ve been doing 28 tables behind the scenes so far. This is due to both a little procrastination on my part in signing up for the blog and then some strange technical difficulties in receiving my invite to the blog. But, nevertheless, I have been paticipating along with the rest of the folks here and can start filing updates henceforth.
My decision to participate was sudden and last minute. I had heard all about the Experiemonth concept from Beck and followed her and the other nutty (pun intended) Month in the Raw participants via their blog last month. Beck told me all about 28 tables over drinks at the Pinhook last Friday. This experiment seemed much more doable for me, but nonethless I felt non-commital about it at first. Then strangely I woke up in the middle of the night in the wee hours of last Saturday (January 31st) and felt compelled to do it. My mind was racing with ideas about how I could do this and make it meaningful for me. One of the first things that came to mind was that I wanted to try to eat dinner with my parents once a week. They moved to Morrisville, NC from Texas just before Christmas, so for the first time in 15 years, my parents live nearby. It’s a strange feeling and I find myself struggling to find ways to connect with them now that they are here, since our relationship has been long distance for nearly half my life. A few hours later, as I was drifting back to sleep after being awakened by my two cats demanding breakfast, my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and saw it was my mom. I thought it strange since she had gotten out of the habit of calling inappropriately early (it was 7:45 AM) while I was in college. She was calling from the ER at Duke Medical Center where my dad had been taken an hour earlier due to abdominal pain, nausea, and fainting. My dad is officially old (he’s 66) but he has been in good health and his youthful demeanor has people pegging him as 20 years younger than he actually is. After talking with my dad for a few minutes on the phone and having him insist that he was fine and just waiting on tests, and then talking to my mom and having her promise to call again as soon as she had any updates, I hung up the phone and decided then and there to follow through with the experiment. You never know how much time you have with the people you love, and you should cherish every minute of it. My participation in 28tables will be very much about connecting with the people in my life, whom I don’t see nearly enough of and cherish – my friends and family.
(Update on Dad for those wondering…he got home from the hospital on Monday. They kept him all weekend for observation since he had almost no medical history due to his dislike of doctors. All the tests came back negative for the bad stuff – cardiac, ulcer, gall bladder, etc and he is sheduled to go in next week for more testing. Hopefully this will be his wake up call to be better about his preventative health care.)
Some other things I hope to get out of 28 tables are the following:
– I want eating to become a communal experience again. Usually my dinners are on the futon with the telly blaring alone or with my girlfriend. I want to spend meals with her at the table talking instead, or with friends I haven’t seen, and of course my parents now that they are near. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own routine and not make the time for the important people in your life. I hope this experiment will get me in the habit of setting more dates with these people and seeing them more often.
– I want my dinner table to be my dinner table again. Usually it is just a giant repository for mail and all the other crap I set down during the course of the week. It can get so bad that you can’t see the surface of it. I’d like to use this exercise of eating meals at the table to get me in the habit of keeping that space tidier so it is more functional. That said, I am not requiring all of my meals to be at this table. I am open to meals out or at other people’s houses. But when I am eating at home, my intention will be to do it at the table when practical.
– I want to spend more of my alone time conscious and engaged. I live alone and while I plan to spend at least one of my meals with other people each day this month, I also would like to experiment with dining alone in “quiet time.” On these nights I will have a “no takeout” and “no TV” rule. The plan is to cook myself a meal I will enjoy and then consume it at the table in silence, allowing myself time to think. I also am going to make an attempt to reach out to friends in distant places either via phone call or email on those evenings after my meal is complete.
Lastly, I wanted to log some table reports for the first week of 28 tables.
Day 1 – I had a Super Bowl party at my house and invited some friends over to enjoy my new HDTV and junk food. There were too many of us to fit at the table and the TV was on during said event, but it definitely met my requirements of spending time with people and making a meal (or continuous grazing in this case) a communal experience. Plus I made a new friend in someone who tagged along that day and we are hanging out on Saturday, so that’s a bonus!
Day 2 – My girlfriend and I shared our first quiet meal at the table and had leftover wings and veggies. We had a good long conversation, the topic of which escapes me at the moment, but I remember distinctly struggling with the idea of conversing over the meal. I guess that is what years of stuffing your face in front of the telly will do. I plan to be more conscious and engaged going forward. We’ve been together less than a year, and these meals are the perfect opportunity for us to get to know each other even better.
Day 3 – I had dinner with the girlfriend again, but this time we were a little more creative with the table concept. She had come down with a nasty tummy virus and laid on the futon nibbling on saltine crackers and ginger ale while I sat next to her and ate off the coffee table. My dinner was rather scattered that night… it amounted to three crumpets from Trader Joe’s, one friend egg, and some pita chips and hummus. Not really an ideal meal, but I think my concern for my eating partner kinda distracted me from getting my act together and making a real dinner.
Day 4 – I invited my friend over to play video games and have dinner. We’ve been friends for about 11 years and went on vacation together last summer, but overall I don’t see nearly enough of her. After playing Wii for a while, we paused to have Chinese takeout (no takeout rule applies to meals alone). My girlfriend joined us at the table and consumed chicken broth and white rice, as her tummy was still giving her trouble. We ended up having wonderful conversation that extended way beyond the mealtime. I listened a lot as they other two traded stories about their childhoods and enjoyed that my old friend was getting to know my girlfriend better.
Tonight I need to get some shopping done for a baby shower I am attending this weekend, but I plan to call my mom after I post this and see if she and my dad would like to meet me out for dinner after I am done. I’ll report back how that goes later…